17 September 2009

Bike Monopoly 8: Euston Rd

Stretching a mile from Regent's Park to King's Cross station, Euston Road vies with Old Kent Road as the most unpleasant Monopoly street to bike along. Like a speeding driver uncertain whether to answer their mobile phone, finish eating their cheesburger, or change the CD first, Euston Road hasn't quite decided whether it's a fast, no-stopping dual carriageway, or a town street with shops and pedestrian crossings and traffic lights. We've had a few unpleasant run-ins with impatient buses and taxis here.

A notable feature of Euston Road is the underpass (right), which dives under the top end of Tottenham Court Road. It's one of those you hesitate to cycle into for fear you'll emerge, computer-game-like, somewhere else completely, such as Blackwall Tunnel or the planet Gliese 581d or Cumbernauld.

The underpass has a half-baked cycle path by-pass on the south side (right): one of those that, however clearly marked as a CYCLE PATH, proves irresistible to pedestrians with iPods.

There's a sort-of alternative for cyclists: a couple of hundred metres south, a separated bike path runs roughly parallel to Euston Rd, along streets such as Torrington Plane and Tavistock Place, though it's the usual messy, make-do confection of fudge and jam. (I've blogged about its shortcomings before, and it doesn't bode well for the promised Cycle Superhighways coming our way in 2010-12.)

Euston Road has a rash of rail stations - Euston, St Pancras, and King's Cross - as well as the Wellcome Collection (right) and the British Library (below right), both underrated visitor attractions. The Wellcome provides parking for a handful of bikes, while the BL's is rather better, perhaps exemplary: hundreds of covered and uncovered places right on the main piazza.

At the BL you can see on permanent display, for free, hundreds of original documents and papers of staggering rarity and value. These range from Shakespeare's credit card statements to Beatles lyrics sketched on exercise-books. There are also two copies of Magna Carta, the iconic 1215 document which embodied for the first time the principle of habeas velonem, or freedom to park a bicycle: "(23) No man shall have his bicycle removed from railings, fences or trees, or be liable for socage, scutage, ullage or wantage thereby".

Monopoly's Euston Rd costs £100. What could this buy you there? A reader's pass at the British Library is free; cycling there is free; you can then consult pretty much any book ever published in Britain or Ireland for free; and use their free wi-fi access. So, on a coffee'n'cake budget of a fiver a day, you could spend four whole working weeks there 'researching your next book' - a BL technical term meaning 'Twittering, emailing your friends, looking at the Beatles lyrics in the Ritblat Gallery, and eyeing up that tasty student with the laptop'.


  1. I love the cycle momopoly...........great blog

  2. You're forgetting one important feature just off the Euston Road; University College London! This first year student is perhaps foolishly planning to commute by bike from halls on the Camden Road to classes and lectures on and around Gower Street (just by the Wellcome Collection). Gulp.

  3. I was in London last week and watched in horror as a cyclist almost got killed by a car driver backing out without looking onto the separated bike lane at Torrington place. Fortunately the cyclist had his London head on and managed to get out of the way, the twat driver (in a convertible, wouldn't you know, so absolutely no excuse for not seeing) hadn't even turned his head...

  4. is the wifi really free at the BL? last time I thought it wasn't.

  5. @Milady... yes, wifi is currently free. Has been since about October last year. Only problem is finding somewhere to sit - the comfy chairs with the laptop-width armrest in front of the King's Library on the first floor are always full about five seconds after opening time with students updating their Facebook page.

  6. @Townmouse... yes, I've seen a few near-misses on Torrington Place too. Main problem I guess is that drivers simply don't expect there to be cyclist priority. We have a long way to go to the Dutch situation, where bike paths routinely have right-of-way across junctions, and car drivers expect it.

  7. @Imogen... not foolish to bike-commute at all! Excellent decision! You'll love it I promise. Money back if not completely satisfied.

    The only drawback with bike commuting to Uni, as I found out during my degree at Goldsmiths in 2003-06, is that you arrive enveloped in your own steamy, jungle, rainforest microclimate. Great for getting a seat by yourself in lectures, though.

  8. Even if it is clearly marked as a "CYCLE PATH" in most cases pedestrians have every right to use it and they are often built to be just as convenient to pedestrians as cyclists.

  9. @Anonymous... I've often done it while walking myself - realised that the long, straight, handy, smooth, attractively-coloured path I've unconsciously chosen is a cycle path. But the point with this one is its irresistibility.

    And the fact that, every time I've ever cycled it, there's been someone with a pushchair or standing making a phone call in it, and I've had to do the ting-ting, scuse me, hi, ting-ting, hello, can I just get past, hello, buenos dias, ting-ting-ting, dobry den, ni hao, can you hear me, oh sod it then I'll get off and walk around you.

    I'm glad to see you standing up for pedestrian rights and freedoms, and indeed many of my best friends are pedestrians and I have often had pedestrian tendencies myself, but I'll stick up for my rights and freedoms to complain about the inconsiderate ones!

  10. Hi all you great, decent, careful cyclists out there.

    I'm a pedestrian, not a cyclist. Many cyclists treat us with contempt. They ignore red lights, nearly mow us down at crossings, and cycle on pavements as if they had a right to be there.

    My question is this: since you know that's wrong, and you know it gives cyclists in general a bad name, why don't the good cyclists have the courage to challenge the bad ones and ask them to change their behaviour?

  11. Anonymous - how do you know that good cyclists don't challenge bad cycists?

    No, thought so - you don't.