'Islington drivers – you don't always need to overtake cyclists'

A cyclist in Islington Park Street

A cyclist in Islington Park Street - Credit: André Langlois

I’ve lived, worked and cycled in Islington for over 20 years. I started in my 20s, partly because I was out of shape from sitting at work all day and partly because my commute from the Clissold Park area to Caledonian Road tube was a mission on public transport.

Cycling slashed my commute to a reliable 20 minutes, kept me fit and saved me money. Once you start, it’s hard to go back and I’ve cycled all over London and the UK since then. 

I don’t fit the stereotype of the skinny, white, male racer. I’m a middle-aged, mixed-race woman whose preferred cycling wardrobe is skirts or dresses (tip for ladies: you can wear cycling shorts or leggings under your skirt).

Most of the time, I’m cycling within a few miles of home in the south of Islington, including around Highbury Corner, Upper Street and the Angel.

I try to avoid cycling on the main roads and intersections when I can, but it’s not always possible.

There’s no way to get to the Angel Centre and Chapel Market without travelling down a main road a short distance.

Talia Hussain

Talia Hussain from Islington - Credit: Talia Hussain

Avoiding Highbury Corner is less necessary with the new segregated lanes and I’m incredibly grateful for them whenever I go this way. My only complaint is that it’s taken 15 years or more to actually happen. 

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Cycling on a main road, you’re generally faced with one of two situations: there is a lot of slow-moving traffic, or fewer fast-moving vehicles. Personally, I find the second situation more hazardous.

It doesn’t seem to matter how fast I’m travelling, or that Islington is a 20mph borough, drivers always always think they have to get in front of you. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been aggressively passed, only to catch up with the vehicle seconds later at a light, a queue of cars or when they slow down to turn. No one needs to pass a cyclist on Islington Park Street, but they seem absolutely desperate to try. 

I find slower moving traffic on main roads easier to deal with. I often have to cross the A1 from Duncan Street into Liverpool Road, and while it may look scary, I find it’s okay. Traffic has to stop at the lights, which gives me a chance to get across to the right hand lane and move through to the front where I can turn.

By contrast, I feel like smaller, unsignaled roads like Thornhill Road have become much more dangerous as increasing numbers of vehicles – including HGVs – use them as cut throughs to avoid main roads. 

Traffic in Thornhill Road

Traffic in Thornhill Road - Credit: André Langlois

As a local resident, I’m not aiming to avoid areas like Angel, Upper Street or Highbury corner – they are often my destination. For many years I worked next to Union Chapel, and enjoy frequenting the shops, cinemas and restaurants in Angel and Upper Street.

From my previous life in a car-centric North American city, I know what I’m leaving behind. I’m not sitting in traffic, looking for parking, or choosing far-off destinations which means spending time in the car instead of enjoying being out and about. I’m car-free and care-free, and I could not recommend it more. 

Talia Hussain is chair of Islington Street Associations and a member of London Cycling Campaign.

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