Transport for London (TfL) has said it will draw lessons from Sunday’s Olympic road race test event, the London-Surrey Cycle Classic, after road closures led to traffic chaos in the capital. However, police and council leaders in Surrey have hailed the success of the event, which they said passed off without incident when it hit the county’s roads for the middle section of the race.
While claiming that it had publicised the race and the consequent disruption to traffic well in advance, TfL admitted that marshals on the route could have been briefed better, and that it will learn from Sunday’s experience ahead of the Olympic road races in less than 12 months’ time.
Having said that, official reaction is one thing and public reaction another, and it does seem from negative stories in some sections of the press quoting irate drivers who had to abandon their cars due to gridlock that the message over road closures was not communicated as widely as TfL might have hoped.
"There are major learning points and there are improvements that can be made," admitted TfL chief operating officer Garrett Emmerson, quoted on Yahoo! Sport.
"We used 18 different companies and 3,000 stewards and we can and must make sure we do better next year.
"We put a vast amount of information out saying this race was going ahead and that it would be disruptive.
"Traffic volumes were 50 per cent down on what they would normally be and we only had to move 16 cars from the entire route.
"The event was a success in logistical terms but there are things that we can learn, such as getting information to stewards, and we will double our efforts.”
He added: "This was a major test event, it's the largest and most complex event at the Olympics and the scale is several times bigger than the London Marathon.
"We required barriers down virtually the whole route, 90 miles, and over a 1,000 road closures. It was important that we were able to test it and the event went off successfully."
In Surrey, big crowds congregated in areas such as Dorking and Box Hill, although the upper parts of that climb were only accessible to those spectators who had managed to obtain wristbands due to numbers being restricted on the National Trust-owned land.
According to Surrey Police, the event passed off without incident thanks to months of preparation put in by itself and partners such as the Metropolitan Police and LOCOG, the London 2012 organising committee.
Superintendent Jerry Westerman, quoted in Redhill and Reigate Life, said: "The race was a significant challenge for the Force and was a huge event in its own right.
“However, the extensive planning by our officers and staff alongside our partner agencies ensured it ran smoothly.”
"This was a great opportunity to put our plans into practice ahead of the Olympics and we will use this experience to make improvements to our processes ahead of next summer's event.
"On the whole, the public response has been fantastic, and I would like to thank the county's residents for their co-operation and understanding, particularly anyone who was inconvenienced by the road closures implemented by the county council.”
Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for community services and the 2012 Games, Denise Saliagopoulos, commented: “The event was a great success and it was wonderful to see many thousands of people come out and enjoy an amazing experience.”
She continued: “It was an important part of our preparations to make sure the real thing goes off without a glitch and I’m delighted it went so smoothly, with all road closures lifted by around 2pm.
“Some of the world’s finest cyclists and best national teams powered their way along nearly 50 miles of Surrey’s roads and gave us a thrilling glimpse of what’s in store next year.
“The racing was spectacular and it was made even more so by the backdrop of our breathtaking countryside.”
Dr Andrew Povey, leader of Surrey County Council, was at The Mall to congratulate Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish on his victory and also presented the King of the Mountain’s prize to Rapha-Condor-Sharp’s Kristian House.
“Mark’s win was a fantastic way to top it all off and now we look forward to welcoming the world to Surrey next year,” added Councillor Saliagopoulos.
“Those Olympic races will bring Surrey huge economic, sporting and cultural benefits, and offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch history unfold on our doorstep for free.”
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.