King’s Cross road system – Two way is radical, what we need is a total transformation

We asked for ideas, suggestions and proposals to contribute to developing the initial design being consulted on by Transport for London (TfL). Here we reproduce Tom Harrison’s proposal.

For over thirty years local residents here have campaigned for removal of the one way system – the gyratory. We were told over and over again this would never happen because York Way could not be made two way. Apparently the left turn from York Way into Pentonville Road was just too tight and the Macdonald’s building could not be removed. Well, TfL has bravely come up with their initial design to remove the gyratory without knocking down the Macdonald’s on the corner and for that they deserve praise.

Now we need to act with a real vision for the future of King’s Cross taking into account the high pollution levels we suffer, the dangers of road traffic accidents, lack of adequate walking and cycling routes, lack of quiet enjoyment of our homes and lack of decent public realm which blights our sense of being a community.

Tom Harrison has started a stunning, detailed piece of work to produce just that. As Tom says, it’s not complete – there are hurdles that would need to be overcome to stop rat running and so on. But as a starting point, this is inspiring. In addition to the article here please do look at Tom’s Google map where he goes into a great deal more technical detail (click on the elements in the side bar of the Google map to see more detail).

Tom writes:

“Making Kings Cross work for locals, pedestrians, people cycling, and public transport users. A genuine transformation is possible, and worth asking for.

  • TfL’s aims in tackling Kings Cross are to be welcomed.
  • Accommodate planned growth and support anticipated increase in footfall
  • Improve safety for all road users, particularly pedestrians and cyclists
  • Better balance the impact of traffic with the need to create an improved place to live, work and visit
  • Improve cycling facilities throughout the area and support new cycle routes developed as part of the Mayor of London’s Vision for Cycling
  • Make it easier for pedestrians to move through the area and access public transport
  • Provide appropriate facilities for taxis, private hire vehicles, coaches and freight
  • Maintain high quality bus routes in the area while balancing overall traffic demand
  • Improve local air quality and street environment

It is deeply disappointing that this has slipped into thinking only about turning one way roads two way for motor traffic.

In rethinking King’s Cross’ roads, TfL must start with how to best accommodate these three groups, rather than think how they can fit around a network of two way motor traffic. And of course, we must ensure the changes put an end to the excessive ring-road traffic on the streets that really should be residential, including Wharfdale Rd, Acton St and Swinton St.

Almost 20 years ago, Transport for London’s predecessor, London Regional Transport, commissioned a study on how to improve conditions for pedestrians, cyclists, and bus users while reducing the dominance of motor traffic. The findings were conclusive and remain relevant today:

“well-designed and well-implemented schemes to reallocate roadspace away from general traffic can help to improve conditions for pedestrians, cyclists or public transport users, without significantly increasing congestion or other related problems”

TfL should follow this advice now. In what follows I will try to summarise exactly how they could do this.


Starting with cycling routes, TfL must recognise that people will cycle along direct routes, and to and from destinations on main roads. They therefore need to make these key desire lines safe with physically protected cycle lanes. By reallocating road space, high quality lanes can be build East-West on Pentonville Road and Euston Road, and North-South on Grays Inn Road and York Way. To fit the cycle route in, you would need to find someone else for buses to park. Kings Cross Rd could be a good choice. In my view, this cycle provision is essential as without it, people’s health and safety are put at risk, either from collisions, or by being prevented from realising the health benefits of cycling.


Good bus routes are also vital for such an important international train station. These could be prioritised more by making certain roads, bus only, including the northern end of Grays Inn Road, and the southern end of York Way. Euston Road could also be significantly improved with wide crossings to enable easier interchange between buses on either side of the road.

Kings Cross gyratory system redesign by Tom Harrison in response to Transport for London March 2016 consultation


For pedestrians, Grays Inn Road and York Way would be significantly improved with reduced noise and air pollution from no through motor traffic. And the same can be achieved for Wharfedale Road, Swinton St, and Acton St. Pavements could also be widened on Cally Rd.

Through motor traffic

That leaves through motor traffic going along Pentonville – Euston Rd and Cally Rd – Kings Cross Rd or Penton Rise. There would need to be a set of well placed banned turns or “modal filters” (sometime called road closures) to make sure through traffic stuck to these routes and prevent further rat running on Britannia St, Rodney St and elsewhere.

To explain it visually, take a look at the three maps of the proposals. The first depicting bus movements, and the second, that of through motor traffic. I’ve also made a third, interactive map which you can click through to see road widths, how I suggest space should be allocated, and where traffic restrictions are likely to be needed.”

Kings Cross gyratory system redesign by Tom Harrison in response to Transport for London March 2016 consultation

King’s Cross Development Forum is hosting a meeting at Camden Town Hall on Wednesday 16 March at 6.30pm about TfL’s proposals, all are welcome.

About Sophie Talbot

Sophie runs a small business designing websites for small businesses and community groups. She also manages King's Cross Community Projects
This entry was posted in Bad Gyrations KX Campaign, Gyratory consultation 2016, New, Road Safety in Kings Cross and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to King’s Cross road system – Two way is radical, what we need is a total transformation

  1. alchemista says:

    This looks very interesting – I will have to have a proper look later. I’m currently writing a proposal for TfL on behalf of the Cally South group. It’s nowhere near as comprehensive as Tom’s, in that it focuses only on the ‘Cally South’ area. We will be proposing that Wharfdale Road is made available for access and cyclists only, and that there should be no traffic lights at the junction with Wharfdale and Caledonian Roads. We will be responding individually regarding the wider area.

  2. Looks good to me, though I’d like to see more details about cycle routes, and dedicated cycle lanes. There also needs to be some consideration for parking. Yes, we want to discourage private vehicles form using the roads in central London, but with such a concentration of rail stations in this area, it is inevitable that people will use cars, both private and cabs to access rail transport, and if there is not to be congestion with the reduced road area for traffic as proposed, there will have to be clear provision for short and long term parking.

  3. I am glad to see you have Judd St labelled access only for motor vehicles. Camden & TFL are currently consulting on a plan for Midland Road & Judd Street where they cross Euston Rd, and one of the options (Option 1 in the consultation) does have Judd St as access only. The other option (2) allows motor traffic from Midland to cross into Judd. That would make Judd a rat run for taxis & other motor traffic.
    This is important because neither plan has segregated bike lanes on Judd, and it’s a key link in the N-S cycle superhighway, and also from the north to the Tavistock bike lane. If motor traffic is allowed through, these important routes would be nowhere near the 8 – 80 (year old) routes they could be. The consultation ends 20th March. Please respond to the consultation (it’s very short), ticking Option 1.

    • Sophie Talbot says:

      Agreed, wonder what your thoughts are on the issues raised by having a major bike route pass the RNIB building? How could any issues raised be resolved for all?

      • Good question. I think the RNIB building on Judd St falls outside of the current consultation, so this isn’t on the drawings. Looking at it now on Google streetview there’s no pedestrian priority crossing of Judd St in that block – though there’s a pelican crossing a bit closer to Euston Rd. I think the key thing in that setting would be not to assume that without through motor traffic one could rely on vague ‘shared space’, and to have plenty of clearly marked crossings with pedestrian priority.

  4. Stuart Cottis says:

    This looks interesting. The revised bus routes are imaginative and excellent.

    I am sympathetic to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists (performing both of these roles myself).

    However, the turning of major A roads into “access only” is quite frankly bonkers. London is the capital city of the UK. Road traffic needs to flow smoothly. How is it proposed to link Grays Inn Road into Kings Cross in this plan? All traffic seems to be herded down Kings Cross Road – does this mean Calthorpe Street will become the new Acton Street/Swinton Street with double the amount of traffic on those?

    • “Traffic needs to flow smoothly”. But if traffic expands to fill the space available – and there is quite a bit of evidence that it does – then when do you stop increasing road capacity? And, can you ever go into reverse, and cut off through traffic on some of the distributor roads that have been appropriated for use as highways?
      Many cities around the world are doing more to reduce traffic than London is. The fact that it’s the country’s capital has what bearing, really? Do members of parliament arrive in HGVs?
      Reducing road traffic – for cleaner air, reduced energy consumption, a safer pedestrian/cycle environment, better bus service, and healthier local retail – is something TFL should be attending to on a metropolitan basis. But their starting point is, precisely, to keep motor traffic flowing, and they need pushback from communities. So let’s push.

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