Cycling to the London 2012 Olympic Games

We're not just all about the joys of cycling for transport here at i b i k e l o n d on - sports cycling does occasionally get a look in too!
The London 2012 Olympic Park is taking shape just down the road from where I live, so I thought I'd check it out on my bike over the past weekend. The velodrome, which the games organising committee claim will be the fastest ever built, is rapidly taking shape. Due for completion in January 2011 it will be the first of the large stadia to be completed, allowing the maximum time in advance for the British cycling team to practise in the venue. Built on the site of a former rubbish tip it will seat 6000 spectators whilst outside a 'velopark' will host the BMX events during the games.

Interestingly, the only structure from the 1948 London Olympic Games still being used for it's original purpose is London's only other velodrome, in Herne Hill, south of the river. Somewhat tatty with age these days (first built in 1891!) but much loved by the community that surrounds and uses it, the two facilities really are worlds apart.

The organising committee of the 2012 Games have set the ambitious target of 100% of spectators arriving at the Olympic Park by public transport, cycling or walking. There will be no provision for spectators to arrive or park at the site by private car, a move which I think is pretty bold and exciting for such a large project. Surrounded by canals and waterways the Olympic Park is easy to reach from Central London using a bike on traffic-free routes - the Greenway cycling track cuts across the south of the park close to the main stadium. It's currently being made wider, re-landscaped and improved with better signage and rest points along the way - it also offers a fantastic view of the Olympic Stadium as it's construction advances; they are currently putting it's roof into place, and a glimpse of architect Zaha Hadid's wave-like rood for the new aquatic centre.  The Games organisers have promised that there will be provision for 1000s of cycling spectators within the park come 2012.

Here on the Greenway you will also find the 'View Tube' a community cafe and educational resource centre offering the best views of the construction site to visitors. Tower Hamlet's cycling initiative BikeWorks offer group cycle hire and tours from the building, which is made from recycled shipping containers.

I'm excited by all this because it's happening so close to where I live, and I've watched as the area has changed over the past few years. If you live in London and haven't been up to the Greenway to see the park already you should make the trip - it's a great cycling route along the Regents and Hertford Union Canal to the Lea Valley from central London and doesn't take long at all. What's more you'll get to see the construction 'in progress' of the venues where Chris Hoy will aim to claim gold, and where in less than a thousand days time the Olympic flame will be lit - it's not every day that happens in your own back yard is it?


Anne said...

No private car parking! That IS a bold move. Very exciting.

julian said...

No car parking for spectators? Parking for approximately 5,000 cars will be available at Westfield Shopping Centre and Stratford Mall also has a multi-storey car park. There will be a multi-storey car park attached to the media centre for journalists, etc, and all the stadiums have car parking facilities for officials. Olympic family members will use cars, which will have reserved lanes in streets all over London, possibly even the Blackwall Tunnel, imagine the chaos of restricting lanes! There are two large coach parks, one of which will involve tarmacking over the East Marsh parkland. So there are going to be plenty of cars plus the restrictions of reserved lanes. On the sport front the Olympics caused the closure of the Eastway Cycle track which had to move to Redbridge. The Velodrome will be indeed situated on a 'former rubbish tip' which was the site of the Eastway Cycle Track. It was actually a very beautiful open space. This former rubbish tip was also the site of the Clays Lane estate and the Manor Gardens allotments also demolished for the Olympics. Dismissing a piece of land as a rubbish tip makes it all sound just so undesirable!

ibikelondon said...

Hi Julian, of course the Olympics are always going to dissect opinion. I am fully aware that there will be cars provided for athletes and officials and that they will travel around the city on a dedicated network - I think this is fairly standard practice for most Olympics these days - but giving free public transport tickets and spending millions on upgrading the cycling and walking paths in the area to ensure that spectators can get to the site without using cars is a pretty bold move. It could have been a lot worse - imagine if they'd built enough car parking to accommodate the Olympic stadium alone (seats 85 000 people) - there would be no open park land or space by the end of it at all. As I pointed out in my post, t is an easy and pleasent cycle journey from central London along the canals and I am sure a lot of people will arrive this way.

I'm also aware of the rehabilitation of the residents of Clays Lane and the Manor Gardens Allotment saga is well publicized already for those who are interested. It was not my intent to cause offense to describe the area as a former rubbish tip, which it has been in one of it's many previous incarnations. Some parts of the Wick still look like a tip, some parts are beautiful - some parts will be improved by the Olympics, some will be spoilt. I think these are the costs involved in creating Europe's biggest building site.

All this aside, the point of my post was to point out a new cycling facility that will have mass exposure and will surely encourage others to get on their bikes which is being built in our city, and what I perceive to be an exciting transportation plan for such a big event.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your comments.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Great blog on a topic that really interests me (though you need to sort out your it's and its!!).

Earlier this year, possibly February (it was very cold!) I tried cycling from west London over to the Olympic park, and got completely lost in some of the vast housing estates off East India Dock Road - they're real mazes with seemingly only one way in or out.

Anyway, although I got quite close (braving heavy traffic on the A12) and could just see the main stadium, the detours sapped my strength so I gave up and returned home via Mile End Park.

I'm determined to try again before long but will need to find a more bike friendly route to get there!

ibikelondon said...

Sorry about the it's, its and its' - grammar was never my strong point!

It sounds like you got totally and utterly lost trying to get to the Olympic Park when in fact it is really easy and you can cycle there traffic free all the way from West London...

Join the Regent's Canal (Little Venice, London Zoo - that canal) and head east - follow it past Islington, Dalston, Hackney and Victoria Park. When you get past Victoria Park you'll follow the tow path up over another canal which branches off to your left (the Regent's Canal continues straight to Mile End Park) Take the left turn canal (the Hertford Union) and follow it all the way to it's end, where it meets the Lea Navigation. From here you'll see the Olympic Stadium on your right, but you have to turn left to go up over the Lea Navigation at White Post Lane. Then follow the LN south past the lock and the old Big Breakfast TV studio to a bridge - follow the canal under the bridge and directly after on your left is the access ramp to the Greenway where the ViewTube and cafe are. Easy peasy and totally traffic and dodgy housing estate free! (except where you have to go up over the tunnel at Islington, 'cos there's no tow path - this diversion is fairly well signposted)

Good luck and hope this helps!


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