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.”
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.