Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Holborn Circus plans - submit your comments now

New look Holborn Circus - no bicycles in sight?
The City of London and Camden have launched their public consultation on a new scheme for Holborn Circus and you can see the detailed scheme here.

My understanding is that the scheme may still be four to five years away from becoming reality but it's important to submit comments on the proposals now. You can submit your comments by sending an email to holborncircus@cityoflondon.gov.uk

Aside from the fact that the drawings show not a single bicycle, my own reading of the scheme is below, with thanks to a number of other people who have also fed their own thoughts.

My response to the City's Holborn Consultation

• Entries to the circus will be cut from 6 to 4, by (a) diverting St Andrews Street so that traffic can enter it from the circus but can only exit it with a left turn into New Fetter Lane and (b) creating a short one-way stretch northbound-only at the mouth of Hatton Garden. These areas are shown as “potential shared surface carriageway” (pretty granite bricks).

• At present the only actual light-controlled pedestrian crossing is across Holborn by the Sainsburys building. All four roads on the junction will get a pedestrian crossing which should, in theory be a good thing. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that each of the crossings is slightly zigzagged, which means that pedestrians may have to cross in phases instead of in one go in a straight line. This seems to me to simply make things a bit less convenient for pedestrians.

• It would be useful to have a dropped kerb on the central reservation at the mouth of new Fetter Lane, so cycles could emerge from St Andrews St, cross the road to turn right and head on to Holborn. At the moment, the scheme will not allow cycles to come out of St Andrew’s St to turn right. They will have to turn left, then perform a U-turn back on themselves and come up New Fetter Lane.

• Hatton Garden will become one-way under this scheme, which reduces permeability, especially for cyclists. This goes against the City’s own draft implementation plan (Objective 5) “to increase permeability, connectivity and accessibility in the City”. The plan states that “the highway hierarchy approach does not apply to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport such as buses. For these groups it is appropriate to increase the connectivity and permeability of the City in order to allow them the most direct and intuitive journeys possible.” This is a key parallel route to Farringdon Road and will now be blocked to southbound cyclists. People cycling into the City from Islington and Camden will be forced to use the A-Road where they currently have the option of coming southbound on Hatton Gardens. In my opinion, a way should be found for cyclists to exist Hatton Gardens into Holborn Circus.

• The proposals do very little for cyclists going either east or west on Holborn Viaduct/ Holborn. Although the relatively wide cycle feeder lane is retained heading east along High Holborn, there are no proposals to make the west bound lane from Holborn Viaduct any easier to cycle along. At peak hours, these two traffic lanes and the bus stop completely block entrance to the Circus and cyclists are forced to swerve in and out of the lanes of queuing motor vehicles. The advanced stop feeder lane should at the very least be made wider and obligatory and the bus stop on the south side moved further back from the junction to improve access to the Circus for all vehicles. In fact, according to these plans, none of the advanced stop feeder lanes on this scheme will be obligatory. They should all be made wide enough to accommodate the increasing number of bicycles using this route and be made obligatory.

• The exit from the Circus into Holborn has been considerably narrowed, in effect creating a new pinch point that will squeeze the available space for vehicles. That means that cyclists will essentially have to play chicken with impatient and faster-moving motor vehicles. There is absolutely no need to take up so much space with new paving here and greater consideration should be given to allowing cycles to exit the Circus and still leave enough room for motor vehicles to pas them safely. Furthermore, the bus lane that currently heads west along Holborn at this point appears to have been removed. I hope it will be retained.

• Shutting off the direct exit to Holborn from St Andrews St will create some secondary effects with motor traffic. There is quite a high volume of taxi and private-hire traffic from the offices of Deloittes and Goldman Sachs (indeed there is a large taxi-rank outside Goldmans in St Bride St) which will now either have to go through New St Square, which is a far less suitable road for a volume of motor traffic, or, the taxis will likely turn left into Fetter Lane, go down until the end of the reservation where the “ring of steel” chicane is, and do a U turn.

• New Fetter Lane is shown as meeting Holborn with a normal junction. For the last few years, that junction has been a shared space pavement with a cycle gap. Is the City proposing to re-open that junction to motor vehicles?

• There is no evidence of any additional cycle parking in the area. This is an area that is completely lacking in suitable cycle parking infrastructure.


  1. -zig-zag crossings are designed to stop pedestrians holding up traffic so much. But they make it impossible to get bike+trailer over safely, and increase walking journey time/costs

    You should push for zebra crossings that go all the way over, failing that direct crossings.

    -the pavement would be a great place for bike parking, otherwise it becomes a buildout for van parking

    -lack of bicycles probably implies complete lack of consideration. A pity, as camden seem fairly clued up here.

  2. Impeding the progress of pedestrians to improve the flow of traffic certainly seems to be the zeitgeist in TfL and the Cities of London and Westminster. It makes no political sense, because there are orders of magnitude more people moving around on foot than in motor vehicles across central London.

    And it makes no economic sense either, thanks to the high cost-per-hour of typical City workers, to expend more of their time hanging around at crossings to shave a little off the expended time of far fewer, generally less costly, professional drivers.

  3. @SteveL: Really good points. One thought though. You mention that 'you should push for zebra crossings'. I'm happy to push for that myself. But I'm just me. With all of these things, it seems that we need to shout as loudly as possible from as many corners as possible. Otherwise, the politicians in particular, don't get a sense that a large number of people care and they ignore us. So if you have a chance, please please take the time to ping your own thoughts directly to the email address as well (apologies if that's teaching you to suck eggs, I don't mean to!)

  4. They've taken out the bus-priority lane??!!


  5. Yes to right turn from St Andrew's Street! Otherwise what is the point of the permiability at the Ludgate Circus Street end of that road?

    Other than the permeability, these plans do at least look no worse than what's there now, and in places a little bit less bad. Which is better than most of the crap TfL comes up with.

    I think the bus lane westbound on Holborn is already gone. There are bus stops, but not a bus lane -- there are some burnt out symbols and letters on the carriageway though.

    SteveL: Holborn Circus is one of the few places in London that currently does NOT have a shortage of bike parking! There's a load of it in the central reservation just west of the circus. Of course, as numbers grow...

    It's worth nothing that a bit west of the circus, where Leather Lane meets Holborn, there are drop kerbs and a keep clear area to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross when the traffic is queuing for the lights -- it's perhaps a bit more conveniently located for pedestrians, outside the shops, near the tube station, and leading up to Leather Lane market. If that could be a zebra...

    Also, most of that buildout is already there. It's protected by a variety of attractive bollards, uncomfortable seating, and planters.

  6. oh, that said, if you look at it on Google Earth, there is a van parked on the pavement outside Sainsbury's HQ (the curved glass building).

  7. Cutting northbound access from St.Andrews st and blocking Hatton Garden southbound destroys the best North-South route linking Blackfriars to Kings cross.
    That is not acceptable.

  8. Sorry to dig up this old post, but... I see work is due to start on Holborn Circus next week. The latest I can find on this is the City of London site that suggests nothing has changed since the 2011 consultation, despite opposition to closing the north/south Hatton Garden/Shoe Lane route to cyclists by Camden Cyclists and the readers of this blog. I've used this route for years as a quiet alternative to Farringdon Road, and have introduced others to it who would otherwise have stopped cycling as they found the alternatives too intimidating. There are undoubtedly many more cyclists using this route now than in 2011. Any chance of getting an update from those involved? Thanks.

    1. Ah, just seen your tweet. I'm still confused about southbound cycling on Hatton Garden though - to get across to New Fetter Lane are we supposed to ride across the pavement and one side of Charterhouse Street to get in the (wrong side of the) ASL on the westbound side of Charterhouse Street? There are huge numbers of cyclists heading south on Hatton Garden in the morning rush hour, it seems madness to expect them to ride across a pavement that is always packed with pedestrians.