CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Cyclists say claim they are racing along Euston Road is ‘taxi propaganda’

Fitness-tracking app Strava shows that thousands commute on dangerous road, say riders

09 August, 2018 — By William McLennan

Council plans reignite debate over city planning (Photo: Garry Knight)

CYCLISTS have hit out at allegations that they are racing along one of London’s busiest roads, describing it as “taxi propaganda”.

It had been suggested that thousands of cyclists were attempting to beat their best times along Euston Road using the fitness-tracking app Strava.

But cyclists this week said that the vast majority were merely commuting to work.

A black cab union, speaking in objection to plans to close Judd Street to cars and lorries, had said that cyclists “pitted their wits” along a 550-metre stretch of road, known on the app as “Euston Rocket Launch”.

Justin McKie, chair of Regent’s Park Cyclists, said: “Strava is really more about the social side of cycling, to see how far you are riding year in year out. To see how long it takes to get to work. It’s wrong to say that anyone but the odd few are trying to beat times. That isn’t the case for 99 per cent of journeys logged on Strava.”

More than 95,000 rides have been logged by 11,798 cyclists on the 550-metre stretch of Euston Road, according to Strava. More than 99 per cent recorded a time of 20mph or below. Of the handful of cyclists that exceeded 25mph, none broke the 30mph speed limit. The fastest rider travelled at an average of 27mph.

Rather than being used as “cabby union propaganda”, data from Strava should be used to help city planners keep commuters safe, he said.

Mr McKie, who lives in Belsize Park, said the data for the “Euston Rocket Launch” section should be “drawing our attention to a very busy road that’s used by thousands of cyclists and it’s extremely dangerous”.

Eugene Regis, who cycles to work in the city from his home in West Hampstead, said: “I have seen this plenty of times before. Whenever cycle super highways or cycle paths are planned, opponents pick up Strava segments and then say cyclists are racing through the streets.

“Strava is not about racing. What it does show, with thousands of cyclists using this intersection everyday, is the sheer demand there is for safer infrastructure to ferry them across the city without incident.”

Plans to close off Judd Street to all traffic apart from cyclists has proved divisive and reignited an increasingly fraught debate about city planning. One one side are taxi drivers attempting to protect their livelihoods. On the other are cyclists trying to save their lives.

Ray Allesson, an RMT trade union officer representing the black cab trade, said access to Judd Street was “vitally important” because taxi drivers often ferry people between Bloomsbury’s hospitals, and the Royal National Institute for the Blind.

He said that accidents could be cut with “warning signs or reduce speed signs for motorists and cyclists”.

One cab driver, responding to the proposals on Twitter, said that it would lead to congestion and chaos, adding: “Are we going to pander again to cyclists who use it as a thoroughfare in the rush hours only?”

It has also split opinion among residents. Many in Bloomsbury fear it will simply displace traffic, and the resulting pollution, into their area. Others living in the immediate vicinity believe it will drastically improve air quality.

Camden Council said the “key reason” for the changes was to improve safety for pedestrians crossing the road. Raised cycle lanes will also be installed along Midland Road, the council said.

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