London cyclists face being slapped with £200 fines if they ride in lanes reserved for VIPs zipping around the city when it hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games next year, which will affect key routes including the A40, Victoria Embankment and Marylebone Road.
Officially, the 108 miles of roads affected are known as the Olympic Route Network, and are being put in place at a cost of £25 million, reports the London Evening Standard.
Informally, they are known as ‘Games Lanes,’ but a less flattering nickname is being used by politicians including the Green Party’s Jenny Jones – ‘Zil Lanes,’ a nod to the roads given over to the limousines once used to whisk Politburo members around Moscow without fear of being held up by the proletariat.
The Olympic Route Network will be in place from late July until after the Paralympics end in September, and are likely to cause huge disruption during their hours of operation, which are between 6am and 12pm.
They will result in the suspension of pedestrian crossings and bus lanes, right-turns being banned and the phasing of traffic lights to allow 82,000 competitors, officials and members of the world’s media to be ferried around the city as smoothly as possible.
Jim Walker, chairman of the London 2012 active travel advisory group, warned that the existence of the lanes might discourage people from walking or cycling to venues.
“As a walker or cyclist, you want that route to be as pleasant and safe an experience as possible," he explained.
The Evening Standard added that taxi drivers, who also face being barred from the lanes, are thinking about staging a blockade to reinforce their opposition to the plans.
A spokesman for Transport for London told the newspaper: "The network and associated traffic measures will cover around one per cent of London's roads and only operate when absolutely necessary."
That one per cent of the capital’s streets though is focused on some of its busiest routes, however.
The spokesman added that most of the lanes given over to Olympic traffic would be in the middle of the road, meaning that cyclists could carry on riding alongside the pavement.
That sounds to us like a polite way of saying that you’ll have to ride in the gutter, while being squeezed off the road by drivers frustrated with the inevitable delays that the VIP lanes will create.
It also seems like an accident waiting to happen. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out that way during what should after all be a period of celebration for the city.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.