One-Way Streets: what does the London Cycling Campaign think?

Rachel Aldred and David Arditti, of LCC’s Policy Forum, explain

One of the policy motions passed at the London Cycling Campaign’s 2015 AGM was on one-way streets. This motion, binding on local groups, is in line with the broad approach developed by the Policy Forum over the past year.

The result is that LCC is not for or against streets being one-way for motor traffic: we will apply a case by case approach and support whichever option ensures people cycling and walking can do so safely and conveniently.

LCC seeks to enable safer, more inviting conditions for cyclists, and all Londoners. Our streets should be planned to facilitate active travel (nearly always in both directions). How motor traffic is accommodated should flow from wider network planning for motor vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and public transport.

In recent years, London’s authorities have started removing huge “gyratory” systems, many built in the 1960s with the aim of speeding up through motor traffic. Often these were serious barriers to pedestrian and cyclist movement.

There may often be good reasons for removing one-way systems. And we welcome the removal of any barrier for pedestrians and cyclists, as long as space for cycling is delivered as part of the removal. But simply making a road system two-way for motor vehicles does not in itself necessarily improve conditions for cycling. Motor capacity and traffic levels may be maintained, or even increase.

Where major road changes are being made – including gyratory removal - space for cycling must be made part of this for LCC to support a scheme. Most of London’s one-way systems carry more than 2,000 PCUs (Passenger Car Units) per day. A change from one-way to two-way working often won’t reduce vehicle traffic to below that threshold. So, as per existing policy, we must push for protected space as well.

Beyond that, there may even be cases where we actively push for one-way motor vehicle working. The one-way street is a tool of planning that has often been used badly in the UK in the past, to turn streets into hostile motor corridors, but it is a tool that can also be used well, to reduce private motor traffic and create more space for cycling, walking and public transport. On the Continent and increasingly in London, we can find streets where the decision to restrict motor flow to one direction has enabled high-quality environments for both pedestrians and cyclists.

Camden's Tavistock Place trial has removed the westbound motor traffic lane to double space available for cycle tracks (Image of Tavistock Place: Camden Cyclists)


The Royal College Street cycle tracks were also enabled by the road being one-way for motors. Similarly in residential streets, one-way working with traffic calming and contraflows can, if done well, create pleasant places for walking and cycling. This is often used in Continental countries, where sections of opposed one-way working are used alongside other “Home Zone” treatments to create people-friendly residential streets with very low motor traffic levels. This has an effect similar to “cells” of modal filters, and sometimes can have advantages (such as eliminating problems from cars turning in restricted spaces, easing emergency access).

Whenever we opt to support a new scheme, one-way or both for motor vehicles, we still also need to consider the conditions for pedestrians that result from any scheme. We should push for any new one-ways to be designed with slow speeds and easy crossings.

LCC’s one-way working policy underlines our goal as a cycle campaign is high quality space for cycling, whether it’s protected tracks on busy roads, streets with very little motor traffic, or greenway routes.

The full text of the AGM motion can be viewed here.