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Rethinking the Commute

With people being encouraged to get back to ‘non-essential’ work when they are

unable to work from home, this is inevitably increasing passengers on the rail network, and for Londonders, the Underground and Overground particularly.

I was asked last week by a cycling colleague whether there was an opportunity to further encourage cycling to work in London by creating radial routes from the suburbs into the centre which avoided main roads and sought out open spaces and traffic free paths. These routes being alternatives to the Blue Routes (cycle lanes along some of the radial main roads into London) so that you could cycle more leisurely, in quieter and more attractive surroundings. I thought this a good idea to explore.

I have lived most of my life in the NW quadrant of London suburbs and recently a little further out to the NW. Hence my relatively good knowledge of cycling routes in my area and essentially into London from the NW.

Hence my example of such a cycle route is in the NW arc – from Mill Hill East to South Kensington.

These start and finish points are somewhat arbitrary but useful as a demonstration of what may be possible. The complete length is 12 miles with of course the statutory hill climbing to the Hampstead Ridge. I estimate that on a typical morning /evening it should take no more than 1 hour 20 mins to complete the full route without busting a gut and allowing for the occasional traffic lights, main road crossings etc. This is just a touch longer than the time taken to take the Northern Line to Leicester Square and change on to the Pic to South Ken.

The route takes you through or by as many open spaces as possible and includes Dollis Brook in Finchley, Hampstead Heath Extension, Parliament Hill, Primrose Hill, Regents Park and Hyde Park.

I admit, the route is currently deficient for cyclists in some of the traffic free sections

which I believe are strictly for walking. To make effective for cycling there would have to be more flexibility for cyclists and perhaps now with the interest in cycling increasing at a pace, that may come soon.

Furthermore, if the idea was successful, there would need to be several radial routes from each part of London to avoid cycle congestion. Such routes could eventually be waymarked. Some already are of course such as those following close to The Thames and London’s canals and some of the inner London Sustrans routes. But the whole cycle network needs to be more joined up with an emphasis on radial routes into London which avoid the main route options. Clearly the Blue Routes are complementary and probably provide faster alternatives in and out of London but being considerably busier with traffic and the associated pollution.

I was asked about a similar route from West London. Although I am familiar with the road networks there, I do not have a detailed knowledge of the so-called back routes. There also seems to be a greater number of railway lines, main roads and focal points like Hammersmith to avoid. There is of course the Thames Path which could be used for part but this is already possibly congested and may conflict with walkers.

If any of my readers have a route which you use from West London or from any other direction into London which you would be prepared to share then please let me know.

Finally, of course, these radial routes could be easily established for other cities in the UK. Again, any existing routes that you may have would be of interest.

Meanwhile, enjoy your greater freedom now to cycle!


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