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Streatham One-Way System

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Streatham One-Way System
Location Map ( geo)
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Streatham, South London
Highway Authority
Transport for London
Junction Type
Roads Joined
A23, A214, A216, B242
Junctions related to the A214

One of the shining examples of the type of traffic control you only really encounter in South London, where streets and back alleys are tortured and mauled until they form a monstrous Frankenstein's monster of a junction. Streatham One-Way System is, in fact, an excellent summary of everything that is so frustrating and tedious about motoring in this part of the world.

It is mostly a gyratory system, with existing residential streets of Victorian terraces press-ganged into service as a one-way loop. However, it has the additional features of a two-way road through the middle and another two-way road forming its eastern side, adding many unusual and fascinating traffic flow conflicts into the equation that wouldn't otherwise be there. It should be added, however, that while there are additional conflicts that wouldn't be present if this were a straightforward gyratory system, they have been introduced because the gyratory would not be able to cope with certain traffic flows directed around it, and for that reason the two major routes pass through the middle.

Most of the system is orchestrated by a number of separate signalised junctions, of which the largest and most fearsome is that outside St Leonard's Church where the A216 Mitcham Road and A23 Streatham High Road meet in a grim battle to the death. This five-way junction (complete with many obscure banned turns, splitter islands and a bus gate) is the most congested point on the system and regularly causes queues in all directions well outside the normal peak times.

Looking north from the A216 towards the collision with A23

The problems of this junction are further compounded by the fact that the A23 Streatham High Road is, for most of its time in Streatham, a two or three-lane dual carriageway, making it one of the better roads in this part of London. The dual carriageway is interrupted for a short section of much older S4 (and at one point, S2) through the heart of Streatham itself and it is on this slow section that the Streatham One-Way System is to be found. It almost goes without saying that the northbound confluence of A216 and A23 sees all traffic from both roads fed straight into the S2 section of the High Road, thereby providing the maximum possible potential for congestion.

On the west side of the junction, Ambleside Avenue carries traffic northbound that is headed for the A214, B242 or the A23. It carried three lanes of traffic until about 2005 when Transport for London carried out improvement works, narrowing it to one lane of traffic and introducing parking bays on both sides of the road. Ambleside Avenue is famous as the home of Cynthia Payne, the subject of a very high-profile court case in the 1980s in which she was accused of running a brothel. The Police reports of undercover investigations of "parties" held at her Ambleside Avenue home made the newspapers day after day, and made Payne a household name.

Typical journeys through this junction

To truly appreciate the joy of this interchange, try a journey through it.

From A23 northbound to A214 westbound

A left turn, entirely on the primary route network, and one taken by anyone following the A214 through Streatham, as it multiplexes with the A23 for a short distance here.

  1. U-turn sharp left into the minor residential street Gleneagle Road, signposted Clapham Junction, Wimbledon, Tooting A214.
  2. Turn sharp right into Ambleside Avenue. There are no signs here.
  3. At the crossroads go straight ahead. Both lanes can go forward here but there is only one lane at the other side of the junction.
  4. Follow the street around to the right, with parked cars on both sides.
  5. Move into the left lane and at the next signals turn left onto Tooting Bec Road. You've made it!

From A216 northbound to A23 southbound

Not usually carried out by anyone who has the local knowledge to avoid it. May be necessary on a journey from, say, parts of Tooting to Crystal Palace.

  1. Turn left into Ambleside Avenue at the traffic lights, signposted Clapham Junction, Wimbledon and Balham.
  2. At the next junction get into the right hand lane, now signposted Croydon and Streatham. Turn right at the lights.
  3. Spend ten minutes queueing on Tooting Bec Gardens, a street whose name sounds much nicer than the reality of a congested one-way primary route.
  4. Get into the - wait for it - left hand lane. This is for both directions on the A23; the right hand lane is only for the A216 (back where you came from) and will be empty. There are no road signs to explain this in advance. Eventually the left lane opens out to two lanes.
  5. At the next signals, turn left initially and then hard right down Streatham High Road. Both lanes of traffic will be attempting this maneouvre. Merge in turn as you join the single-lane A23 southbound.


Route To Notes


Central London, Brixton


Brighton, Gatwick Airport, Croydon


Clapham Junction, Tooting





Streatham One-Way System
Related Pictures
View gallery (1)
Mitcham Lane, approaching the junction with Streatham High Road - Geograph - 1398898.jpg
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