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Mayor invites world to ride to hire bikes Olympic Park, while Channel 4 newsreader says Games Lanes point way to better future

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has invited the world to use London’s Barclays Cycle Hire bikes to travel to the Olympic Park, although what he doesn’t mention is that there will be nowhere to leave them once you get there. Meanwhile, Transport for London has announced the closure of dozens of docking stations while the Games are on, some close to Olympic venues. Finally, one unexpected result of the opening of the Olympic Games Lanes yesterday is a drop in traffic in London, according to broadcaster Jon Snow, which he says points the way to a more liveable city in the future.

Writing a foreword to the current edition of London listings magazine Time Out in which he highlighted issues such as the British capital having a quarter the murder rate of New York and more Michelin-starred restaurants than Paris, Mr Johnson said: “If you are on the way to the Olympic Park itself, you can go by tube or bus or boat or bike – and it is one of the great features of the Barclays hire bikes that they hardly ever get stolen, unlike the hire bikes in some other EU cities that I will not embarrass by mentioning by name.”

It all sounds so simple, but with nowhere to leave the bikes once you get to the park due to branding issues – Lloyds TSB, not Barclays, is London 2012’s official banking partner – and the nearest docking station a 15 minute walk away, it’s possible that some visitors heeding Mr Johnson’s advice may face the dilemma of leaving a bike propped up against a wall and be charged a £300 non-return fee, or risk missing an event they may have travelled halfway round the world to watch.

That’s ignoring the fact that riding a bike in London may be a more challenging experience than some overseas visitors may experience in their home countries, with one of the main approaches to the Olympic Park, for example, taking them along the Barclays Cycle Superhighway to the notorious Bow Roundabout.

Things aren’t exactly straightforward within the Barclays Cycle Hire Area itself, with a number of docking stations closed during the period of the Games, many of them close to venues hosting Olympic events such as Horse Guards Parade, where the beach volleyball tournament will be played, or Hyde Park, which hosts the triathlon. The dates of suspension of the docking stations affected vary and a full list can be found on the TfL website.

Meanwhile, writing in his Snowblog on the Channel 4 website, newsreader Jon Snow, who is also president of national cyclists’ organisation the CTC, says that the unexpected effect of the much-crticised Olympic Road Network on traffic levels in London yesterday pointed the way forward to creating better cities in which to live.

“Utopia dawns,” said Snow.

“The Olympic lanes across London send a powerful signal across all Britain’s cities about the art of the possible. I set off this morning from a meeting in Highgate, north London, and cycled down to our studios in the Kings Cross area.

“This is a route with regular bottlenecks that snake traffic up every major road you can see. Today the pavements thronged with pedestrians walking to work, the streets were dominated by cyclists and what traffic there was made up of largely unoccupied taxis and small delivery vans.”

He went on to explain that factors such as businesses arranging deliveries outside peak hours and motorists choosing to leave their cars at home meant that what little traffic he observed on major trunk routes moved freely.

“Many drivers have decided not to come near central London in a car,” Snow added. “They must be encouraged to develop this habit.

“There are no votes lost in developing proper transport strategies. When Ken Livingstone researched the potential of a congestion charge, he found that fewer that 15 per cent of car journeys in central London were undertaken by people actually living in London. Hence it was possible to introduce congestion charge without electoral damage.

“The same would undoubtedly be true if the private car were heavily restricted from ever entering central London, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, at all.

His conclusion? “If our urban centres are to be saved we need to follow where the Olympic lanes lead.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

19 comments

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pjay [251 posts] 4 years ago
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Euston Road was almost empty yesterday morning. Please make these Games Lanes permanent.

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phax71 [287 posts] 4 years ago
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Joined up thinking anyone.. ?

What is with Transport Planners in this country, did they not complete their education?

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John Stevenson [255 posts] 4 years ago
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Has it occurred to Jon Snow that it's school holidays, which always empties the streets of school-running Chelsea tractors?

Streets with Games Lanes have become extremely dangerous because motorists are desperately staying out of them, which means they are not using them to safely overtake cyclists.

When someone gets killed as a result the blood will be on LOCOG's hands.

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Tony Farrelly [2871 posts] 4 years ago
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Yes, but Jon Snow has been commuting in London for probably a couple of decades so I'm sure he's aware of the effects of school holidays… He certainly doesn't seem to be in a minority in saying that the Games Lanes have improved condidtions for cyclists.

Seems to me it's a mixed picture on some of the faster Games lanes roads, like the Embankment cycling is probably more fraught because faster moving vehicles are being squeezed in to a narrower space and are terrified of going in to the Games Lane so instead are encroaching cycle lanes, but motorists simply aren't venturing in to other parts of what are usually the most clogged parts of central London after the jams of the first day the lanes went in to operation last week - that would seem to acccount for the large numbers of happy cyclists on Twitter asking for the Games lanes to be made permanent.

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step-hent [723 posts] 4 years ago
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If only they would make the games lanes in to cycle lanes once the Olympics are over...

It certainly proves that it's possible to reduce traffic in London. The issue is really whether it is sustainable - people are prepared to put up with a change in how they travel for a short, fixed period but if it were made indefinite wouldn't there be political uproar? It's one thing when people cycle to work on a lovely sunny day like today, knowing they can get back in the car in a couple of weeks. Another thing entirely to persuade them to stay on the bike through the winter.

Would love to see them try it though - it would make a huge difference to the atmosphere of the city as well as to safety.

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JohnS [198 posts] 4 years ago
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Why on earth doesn't Boris put his brain in gear before engaging his mouth?

Apart from which, he's done bugger-all to make cycling towards the Olympic Park safer (and indeed allowed one off-road route to be closed for no good reason).

All mouth and floppy hair.

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Campag_10 [153 posts] 4 years ago
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It's ironic that the population accepts and adapts to a reallocation of road space to the elite and privileged for the Olympics yet vocally opposes allocating more road space to cyclists, the most egalitarian form of independent transport ever invented.

I hope the Olympic experiment is being measured and gets analysed credibly to show what may be possible. Too many people are addicted to car use for stupidly short (and often unnecessary) journeys and it will take a big shift to break those habits.

The Olympics is an example of a large intervention that changes behaviour at the population level. Imagine what might happen if Government allocated £10 bn to shift the nation's habit towards walking and cycling more.

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fluffy_mike [102 posts] 4 years ago
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traffic evaporation ... something neither the Mayor nor Transport for London seems to have any faith in ... is happening across the whole city

countless unnecessary journeys aren't being driven, leaving bags of space on the road

now to make this permanent

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Bigcog [21 posts] 4 years ago
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Campag_10 wrote:

It's ironic that the population accepts and adapts to a reallocation of road space to the elite and privileged for the Olympics yet vocally opposes allocating more road space to cyclists, the most egalitarian form of independent transport ever invented.

I hope the Olympic experiment is being measured and gets analysed credibly to show what may be possible. Too many people are addicted to car use for stupidly short (and often unnecessary) journeys and it will take a big shift to break those habits.

The Olympics is an example of a large intervention that changes behaviour at the population level. Imagine what might happen if Government allocated £10 bn to shift the nation's habit towards walking and cycling more.

Hear, hear!

The problem with the lanes is that cars are not allowing enough room when passing cyclists for fear of falling foul of the games lane ban.. not a healthy result.

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Coleman [335 posts] 4 years ago
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Mr Snow. You're a capable television presenter but would you consider running for mayor? Please do, Boris is buffoon.

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step-hent [723 posts] 4 years ago
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Any news on the move to allow cyclists in the games lanes? Seem to remember that some MPs were putting forward a motion on it but I haven't seen a result of it anywhere.

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bikeandy61 [538 posts] 4 years ago
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So the future of inner city living peace is less motorised traffic on the roads. Thank the Lord for the £40bn we spent on the Olympics then. No one had ever had that idea.

The reality is how would it be done for more than 4 weeks?

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Cauld Lubter [135 posts] 4 years ago
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I don't know why the traffic planners couldn't have made a simple announcement to the effect that it would be perfectly fine for drivers to encroach on the Sacred Lane in order to pass a cyclist - after all, such a trespass is only temporary and fleeting.
But no, no wit, no imagination, no buggerall, really.

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Matt_S [281 posts] 4 years ago
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I couldn't believe how quiet the roads were on my way in this morning.

Apart from a couple of hotspots around King's Cross (soooo many taxies), and Gower Street (due to the diversions around Russel Square probably), things were eerily quiet.

Still, yesterday some woman in a Chrysler Voyager ran me into the curb as she squeezed past me in a bus lane (before the 7pm restriction was lifted). She even had the gall to stop, get out and confront me for slapping the side of her car, and then tell me she "always looks out for cyclists".

So it's not keeping all the wankers off the road.

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alotronic [487 posts] 4 years ago
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On a related note TFL are CLOSING 30 BBikes docking stations near venues for the duration of the games.

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/18088.aspx

I mean, seriously...

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Simon_MacMichael [2467 posts] 4 years ago
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alotronic wrote:

On a related note TFL are CLOSING 30 BBikes docking stations near venues for the duration of the games.

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/18088.aspx

I mean, seriously...

Indeed. We even mentioned it in the article  3

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A V Lowe [593 posts] 4 years ago
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There are substantial temporary cycle parks - in Central London - TfL website has map & list.

If major tidal flows Boris system fails as vans cannot collect and redistribute fast enough.

Still a few Bromptons available with SWT at Waterloo & Richmond (manual hire) and automated unit now operating at Ealing Broadway.

I'm surprised no major uptake from Parkatmyhouse websites fro local 'legacy' benefit. Might also find local residents offering secure bike parking perhaps?

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thereverent [432 posts] 4 years ago
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My commute into the City from Clapham has been better this week than normal.

The school holidays will have helped, but people seem to have actually taken the advice not to drive into central London. Now if people can rememeber this instead of going back to old habits, London will be so much nicer.

The bets part of the effect of the Zil lanes has been that the Embankment doesn't have parking on it for coaches. So nice without them (and space for wide segregated lanes).

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Paul M [360 posts] 4 years ago
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I don't think it is the Games Lanes per se thaht have improved conditions, but the general reaction to the inroduction of the lanes and the highly publicised predictions of increased congestion, which have discouraged traffic from coming into town.

Yesterday I made two trips - by taxi - across a wide stretch of London, from the City to the western end of the Kings Road the first time, and to Grosvenor Place (behind Buck Palace Gardens) the second. (Before you ask, I was (a) with colleagues and (b) in a business suit, and it was a hot day, and the people I was visiting woudl not have appreciated me arriving sweaty and ponging).

On both occasions we had to take a rather roundabout route due to the games lanes on the embankment and the closure of the Mall, but on both occasions the traffic moved more freely than usual, and the journeys were shorter than usual.

Why? On the first trip, I amused myself by counting the cars I saw on the road. By cars on the road I mean not taxis, not TfL minicabs, and not parked cars,just purely private cars actually driving. On the entire return trip I counted three (sic). I couldn't honestly say that the numbers of vans, buses, HGVs etc looked much different from normal.

Wouldn't it be grand if the games lanes remained permenanently, but made over to cyclists after the event, and car drivers continued to respond like this?