Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Olympics boss: main traffic-free cycle route to Olympics will be shut during the Games. Another Olympic boss: cycling parking in new homes at Olympic Park is 'PC'.

Cycling to the Olympics along these nice
green routes. Or not....
Pictured left, is TfL's map of the cycle routes to the Olympics. In the bottom of the picture is the roundabout at Bow where two people were killed on their bikes late last year.

One way to cycle to the Olympics will be along that same Cycle Super Highway marked in blue. Last November, a TfL director actually told the BBC that cyclists should avoid using this route. At the time, I pointed out how unbelievable it is that TfL could build a bike route to the Olympics - a route that it considers so dangerous it advises people not to use it.

To be fair, TfL has committed to installing safer cycle infrastructure into this roundabout and will have built that in time for the Olympics. That still won't make the rest of the blue paint route particularly safe, let alone pleasant, though.

So, your other option might be to use the quiet route marked on this map in green, along the river and nip under the roundabout and the motorways for safe, easy access to the Olympics. There's even a brand new floating towpath along the river so you can cycle uninterrupted and away from the traffic. Last year, Leon Daniels, the man responsible for London's roads, told cyclists on his blog that the towpath would be an excellent route to cycle to the Olympics park.  From the south, he said, 'us[e] the access ramp onto the floating towpath in the north-west corner of the roundabout [and] head back under the flyover/roundabout using the new floating towpath.' The towpath route is a brilliant new asset to people who want to cycle north to south without having to cycle along, err, a six lane motorway. It's a great leisure route and it's a fabulous thing, provided you're cycling during daylight.

The thing is, it's going to be shut during the Olympics.

Yesterday, at the Olympic Transport committee in the London Assembly. So the man responsible for London's road, Leon Daniels, was wrong to say cyclists should cycle along the floating towpath because it's not going to be an option.

This emerged yesterday at a Transport committee meeting of the London Assembly when Green mayoral candidate Jenny Jones asked Hugh Sumner, Director of Transport Olympic Delivery Authority:

"Jenny Jones: I'm glad you've mentioned the Greenway because you've actually made life much much harder for cyclists to get there by closing  - apparently the underpass, the canal underpass under Bow roundabout is being closed May to September which is fairly drastic isn't it when you imagine a lot of cyclists would use it and you've also closed the Greenway route from Wick Lane 

Now those two things mean that cyclists are going to have to use the Bow Roundabout which will not be at its best - it certainly won't be to the level of safety that we've all discussed. You're actually forcing cyclists off of Greenways onto dangerous roundabouts.

Hugh Sumner. Errm I don't agree with that......... "

There's plenty more that you can watch in his response on cycling issues here on the London Assembly video (watch out for the unbelievably clunky video) from minute 56 onwards. 

I don't think matters are quite as apocalyptic as Jenny Jones makes out. You'll still be able to get to the Olympic park from the south but I imagine you'll have to detour and cross the six lane motorway also known as Stratford High Street. But Jenny Jones does have a point.

New towpath link to Olympics. Will be shut during the Games
Image courtesy London Cycling Campaign
I don't know the people behind the Olympic organising team. But they really don't seem to 'get' that cycling is a legitimate form of urban mobility. Back in February, at another London Assembly Committee, Kathryn Frith, who is the Chief of Design for the Olympic Park Legacy Company (ie this is the woman responsible for a master plan for the Olympic Park to cover the next 20 years) described bike parking as 'PC'. PC?! This is a 20 year master plan. Does she expect London will be full of even more cars by then?

I'm glad that Transport for London is implementing a new scheme to make it safer for people to cycle east to west across Bow roundabout. But I think it's tragic that even the one tiny piece of cycling infrastructure that was put in place for the Olympics is actually not for the Olympics at all. It's only going to be useful after the event. As usual, if you want to cycle to the Olympics, you can expect to take a detour, dismount from your bike, cross the motorway, may be you'll be able to get back on your bike again after that.

But I find it profoundly depressing how we're completely failing to build cycling into this massive scheme. Here was a one-off chance to get cycling right. Brand new urban environment, real opportunity to build cycling as a sensible, safe urban mobility option for everyone. And what's happened? A bit of a tow path, a bit of a greenway, a bit of retro-fitted infrastructure on a killer roundabout but only after thousands of people protested.

I managed to buy tickets for the Olympics. I'm quite excited. And I'd like to cycle there. But I'm not going to bother cycling. It seems like too much hassle, frankly. I'll take the tube. Or I might drive instead. Because the Mayor of London is letting people make London a city for driving in. The thing is, the Mayor also wants to make London less congested. He knows there are more and more people and they can't all drive their cars all the places they want to without the whole thing coming to a halt. At some point he needs to lead his cycling revolution from the front. And that means telling people in the various Olympic authorities that they're not up to scratch just as much as it means he can't get away with just slapping blue paint around the place.