Cycling campaigners and influential bloggers have rightly lambasted the organisers of the Olympic Games for not caring enough about the needs of people wanting to cycle to the venues. Especially the closure of the canal footpaths in the proximity of the Olympic Park is outrageous. Getting to the Olympic Park by bike really is a demanding endeavour, as Danny William at Cyclists in the City put it:
“If you want to cycle to the Olympics, you can expect to take a detour, dismount from your bike, cross the motorway, maybe you’ll be able to get back on your bike again after that.”
However, there are alternatives, as Mark explains on his “I bike London” blog who also produced a nice guide for cycling to the Olympics.)
Despite all the justified criticism, I think cycling to the venues still is a good idea, as I found out yesterday. My wife and I had tickets for the first day of tennis at Wimbledon.
Initially, we planned to take the tube, but then found out that there was supposed to be secure, managed and free cycling parking right next to the venue. Hence, we changed our mind and took the Brommis from Highbury, north London, to Wimbledon, south-west London.
Due to the road race and the road closures, we had to take a significant detour. From door to door, it was a ride of 14 miles. It took us one hour and about 20 minutes. Despite the long ride, this was as quickly as taking the tube – and we avoided crowded trains and extremely busy tube stations.
Instead, we had a fantastic ride all across the capital. Cycling in the morning through central London on the first morning of the Olympics was a very special experience.
Finding the cycle parking at Wimbledon was easier than at the Olympic Park, where the Evening Standard’s Ross Lydall had a hard time working out where to leave his bike prior to the games.
At Wimbledon, the managed cycling parking is located a two minutes walk from the gate 5 right next to the VIP car park. (Unfortunately, it wasn’t signposted for southbound riders but nevertheless we managed to find it quickly.) The bikes are stored in a large gated area staffed by two blokes who take care that nobody with sinister intentions can access the bikes. For additional security, you can lock them to makeshift bike racks. You really don’t have to worry about theft at all.
It really feels like being in the Netherlands. If the managed cycle parking should become a legacy of the games for London, this would do such a big difference for cyclist in the city.
Unfortunately, yesterday only a fraction of the visitors at Wimbledon went for the bike option. I estimate that maybe five to ten percent of the space was actually used. Given the transport nightmare that is called TfL, this is really a shame. Tomorrow, for example, will be the busiest day on the DLR.
I can only encourage everyone who has a ticket and a bike to cycle to the venues. I’ll watch volleyball at Earl’s Court in a couple of days. Guess how I’ll get there.