More cycling and walking needed in Olympic transport plan says Sustrans in response to GLA report

Cycling forecast to account for just 1 per cent of trips to Olympic Park

by Simon_MacMichael   April 18, 2011  

london olympics.jpg

Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, has welcomed a report entitled Clearing The Hurdles from the Greater London Authority (GLA) regarding the provision of transport during next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, reinforcing that forecasting of demand for transport during the events needs to be improved, and that walking and cycling should take a more central role.

The latter should include a greater focus on finishing planned Olympic greenways cycling and walking routes, says Sustrans, and ensuring that those are connected to local communities both to facilitate travel during the Games, and to provide a lasting legacy afterwards.

Eleanor Besley, Sustrans policy advisor, commented: “Current projections suggest that the number of trips made in London during the Games could be higher than originally expected, which means walking and cycling will become necessary means of travelling rather than simply offering an enjoyable alternative to bus or train.”

Currently, travel by bicycle is forecast to make up just 1 per cent of journeys to the Olympic Park, which Sustrans says is “well below the current proportion of cycle trips in this area of London, and since levels of cycling are increasing year on year across most of London, by 2012 a 1 per cent cycle share of journeys to the Olympic Park would be a significant under-estimation.”

One potential deterrent to travelling to the area by bike is that while the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme is due to be expanded eastwards in time for the Games, the bicycles themselves will not be allowed on site due to Olympic sponsorship regulations – Lloyds TSB, not Barclays, is the partner bank of London 2012 – which also means no docking stations there.

Sustrans says that it backs the recommendations of the Active Travel Advisory Group (ATAG), which maintains that “significantly more ambitious targets for active travel methods to the London venues should be adopted,” and that “a more appropriate target would be for walking and cycling to account for around 5 per cent of journeys.”

Ms Besley adds: “Current plans also disincentivise active travel to the Games by including a travel card in the price of a ticket. It’s a commendable attempt to ensure maximum use of public transport during London 2012, but it is important that ways to encourage walking and cycling are considered too, either through ticket pricing or other incentives.

“Additionally, continued encouragement for Londoners to walk and cycle more in the build-up to London 2012 will be an important part of ‘leading by example’ when visitors arrive for the Games.”

Moreover, she says that the issues coming to the fore now ahead of the Games provide evidence that long-term solutions need to be found to issues surrounding transport in the capital, rather than a quick fix ahead of next Summer.

“Recent concerns around congestion during the Games offers a glimpse into London’s future and underline why the Mayor should take action now to prevent a worsening of air quality,” she explains.

“In 2007, Sustrans outlined the need for a foot and cycle bridge across the River Thames between the Isle of Dogs and the Rotherhithe Peninsula, but this has not been not taken forward. These plans would help to ease the traffic, improve air quality and help to tackle the growing obesity problem in London.”

In a short video that accompanies the publication of the report – similarities to the spoof BBC comedy Twenty Twelve, well worth watching on iPlayer, are presumably unintentional – Assembly Member Val Shawcross, Chair of the Transport Committee, underlines some of the issues addressed by the report.

Chief among those is the concern that existing plans will not be able to cope with the estimated 5 million additional journeys in the capital that are expected to be made while the Olympics and Paralympics are taking place, as well as the controversial VIP lanes designed to whisk dignitaries in their limos to and from events.