Monday 16 August 2010

Olympic Cycling

It's happening here, according to Waltham Forest Council. Which I guess is at least factual, if not particularly illuminating. The website then enthuses that 

"The Games present a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference to residents of this borough and the rest of East London with massive social, economic and physical regeneration of the area." 

Hackney website is similarly excited by the changes the Olympics will make to the area. I decided to cycle around the area with a great deal of optimism - what better way to celebrate the Olympics than installing world class cycling facilities? Maybe the "massive regeneration" of the area had already started, with cycle paths that would make Holland envious?

So I had a pootle to the top of the Olympic park via Homerton Road and the Eastway into Leyton.

Homerton Road, Hackney

Now clearly, as can be seen in the picture above, London's roads are far too narrow for proper cycle lanes like they have in the.. er... wide and spacious streets in Amsterdam. Clearly a road like the one pictured cannot accommodate parked cars on both sides, two way speeding traffic and cycle provision. Sometimes us cyclists just need to be realistic.

Anyway, as soon as I got the end, I realised that cycle provision had been made - my cynicism was misplaced.

Cycle lane, Homerton Road, Hackney

Not only a cycle lane (well, at least a bit of white paint on the pavement) but the obstruction caused by placing the traffic lights slap bang in the lane has been rendered safe by blocking the whole pavement with road-work signs. Clearly one would have to bunny-hop your bicycle up onto the lane whilst avoiding speeding cars squeezing between you and the traffic island, but the council can't think of everything can they?

So we turn the corner onto Eastway. This is directly opposite the Velodrome. Surely things will improve so close to the main cycling arena?

Eastway, Hackney

A cycle lane! How marvellous! This must be the start of the cycle provision.

End of Cycle Lane, Eastway

And here is the END - a few hundred metres down the road. I know it is the END as the council have helpfully painted END at the END of it. At this point one has a choice. Progress on the road with vehicles speeding past (they have had the two lane carriage-way retained during the Olympic works, with no speed cameras), or engage in the obstacle course that is the shared pathway. Starting with the slalom between the temporary traffic lights and the sign indicating a shared path, and culminating in the "adventure through poorly surfaced roadworks between narrow builders fences", below.

Shared Cycle / Pedestrian path. Eastway, Hackney

Finally, after negotiating what would appear to be a shared cycle path modelled upon an Indiana Jones movie, one reaches the end and is thrust back into the traffic speeding along the dual carriage-way.

Cycle lane. Eastway, Hackney

You will observe that the cycle-lane helpfully has no run-in lane, or dropped curb, so that cyclists are kept fully alert. After all, the potential of a tumble across a curb into speeding traffic does so concentrate the mind. And just in case there are cyclists who are oblivious even to this, then the cycle lane starts at a left turn into New Spitalfields Market, so one also has HGVs crossing at the same time. So, to sum up, the cyclist needs to swivel their head back 180 degrees to see oncoming traffic and retain control of the bicycle over the curb whilst making sure they aren't wiped out by left-turning lorries moving over the cycle lane. I have termed it "multi-tasking whilst crapping myself".

Still, if the cyclist survives this, they leave Hackney for Waltham Forest.  Waltham Forest says the following on their website

Waltham Forest Council has been one of the leading local authorities in London in its commitment to introducing cycling facilities and has won five awards over the past decade

Sounds impressive. Doesn't sound like this borough would have shared paths that can barely fit a cycle through, or dangerous cycle lanes that force the cyclist to give way to speeding traffic travelling from behind.

Ruckholt Road, Waltham Forest


Well at least this one makes sure the cyclist needs to give way to traffic before plunging back onto the road. Can't have us cyclists expecting not to have to stop every few yards to give way can we? 

I don't know what the council won the cycling provision awards for, but I will take a wild stab in the dark, and say it possibly isn't because of the provision of this nice, wide cycle path. It is so narrow that the sign-writers have had difficulty putting the little cycle sign in it, and so close to the road, that if an HGV doesn't take you out when you go back onto the road, they might knock you over with the draught as they speed inches away from you on the cycle path.

Although to be fair to Waltham Forest, they have provided shared paths before reaching this part of  Ruckholt Road.

Ruckholt Road cycle path, Waltham Forest

Like this one, where one shares the path with a traffic light and railings.

Ruckholt Road shared path, Waltham Forest

Or this one where one shares the path with a Rhododendron bush.

Anyway, as I cycled on into Leyton, I realised I had experienced the current extent of cycle provision for the Olympics. No wonder that the Olympic park only has tours on a bus.

Upon returning home, I was perusing the web to see if any cycle provision was intended for the Olympic park area. After all, I cannot imagine many people wanting to cycle with young families, or the inexperienced on the route I had just used. Not unless they wanted  them scared witless.Or dead. On my searching, I found an article on the website of the London Cycling Campaign. Interestingly the photo has the caption

The Velodrome takes shape in the Olympic Park, but will there be decent cycle routes around the area?

Well LCC, I think I can answer that one for without having to initiate an ODA review into cycle provision.

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