Get ready to ride during the Olympics - a survival guide!

Unless you've been living under a rock it won't have escaped your notice that in just a few short days the Games of the XXX Olympiad will take place right here in London.

With so many thousands of visitors in town, and with athletes and officials being ferried around in special "Games Lanes", moving around will take a little extra planning.  All road and transport users are going to be affected, and cyclists are no exception, so our survival guide will help you to make the most of the fact that despite some hurdles (see what we did there?) riding a bike will still be the most fun and reliable way of getting around during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Plan! Plan! Plan!

The way we move about will not just be effected from Friday's opening ceremony onwards.  Over the past weekend the white line painters have been out in force across London adding the finishing touches to the Olympic Route Network, which "goes live" on Wednesday.  Roads which you may be used to riding on may now look very different.

The Olympic Route Network, or ORN, is open to all road users but will be exceptionally busy as designated routes for Olympic vehicles travelling between competition venues, hotels and media hubs.

Separate to the ORN, "Games Lanes" - of which there are approximately 30km on main roads in London - are heavily restricted.  They are identifiable by the Olympic rings which have been painted inside them.  Nearside (by the curb) Games Lanes can be used by cyclists however 95% of Games Lanes will be offside (the centre lanes of the road) and not available for use by cyclists or any other public road users.  This means that all other vehicles (lorries, buses, taxis, cars) will be sharing the nearside lane with you.   It's also worth remembering that many of the drivers for the Olympic family vehicles are volunteers who may not be used to driving in central London or around people on bikes - my advice is to check your route in advance and keep well clear of these main roads if you can.

Do you know the difference between the ORN and a Games Lane? You do now!

The Olympic torch arrived over the weekend and the relay will be running around London up to the opening ceremony on Friday and necessitates rolling road closures.  During the Games themselves a series of on-road events will take place such as the marathon, and of course the cycling road race and time trials, which will lead to extensive road closures - once again it is important to find out what will be closed and when and to plan ahead.

If you're still not sure on where you can and can't ride the above video may be helpful.  The Get Ahead of the Games website is stuffed with information about road closures, maps predicting demand on your local routes, the Olympic torch relay and the Olympic road events.

Dizzee Rascal carried the Olympic torch through Shoreditch on Saturday

Earn! Earn! Earn!

Now for the fun part!  70% of London's road network will be unaffected by the ORN and Games Lanes.  Better still, road works are banned throughout the entire Olympic and Paralympic Games Period.  Whilst the Tube will be veritably creaking under the inevitable extra traffic and motor traffic will in places come groaning to a halt, the adaptability of the bicycle will win through.  Roads will undoubtedly be busy but with a little patience (and a preparedness to sometimes just get off and push!) the humble bike is still going to be the best way to get about.

We will all have to take extra care, but Transport for London and the Olympic organisers are so keen for us all the walk and cycle more during the Games (even if it is just a stage of our journey) that there are now two apps which will reward you for persevering with your bicycle.

The Samsung Hope Relay is free to download and uses GPS to track your journeys - just click "start" when you set off on foot or by bike and "stop" when you reach your destination.  For every mile that you've travelled under your own steam, Samsung will give a Great British Pound to charities such as Kid's Company.  You can download the Samsung Hope Relay App here and the donation pledge is valid for every mile you cover between now and August 12th.

Re:Route from Recycle Bank allows you to clock points for miles travelled sustainably which can then be exchanged for rewards such as spa and hotel discounts and Marks & Spencer vouchers (a bit like a Do Gooder's Nectar Points scheme).  So now not only do you save cash instead of spending it on pricey transport, and arrive at your destination fitter and faster, you get rewarded for it too.  No wonder people think we cyclist are a smug bunch - who can blame us?  Check out the Re:Route website here, once you've downloaded the app if you pledge to travel sustainably during the Games using their Facebook page you'll receive 50 points straight away.

Time your journey to work to co-incide with the road race or the torch relay and thousands will line the streets to cheer you on!

Take care - of yourself and each other:

With any luck lots of people will be tentatively taking their first steps towards becoming fully fledged London cyclists over the Games period as they seek to avoid the inevitable public transport network meltdown.  If you see someone pulled over on their bike looking lost, or staring forlornly at their first puncture why don't you be nice and ask if you can help?  And it won't hurt to give your bike a quick once over during the next few days - remember that your local bike shop staff may also struggle to get to work during the Games or to have parts delivered if something goes wrong with your machine. 

Likewise it's imperative that with so many new vulnerable road users out on our streets that we all set a good example by keeping well clear of Heavy Goods Vehicles.  They often can't see us and and are the single biggest cause of cyclist's fatalities.  Even though cycle lanes might take you down the side of an HGV to the "bike box" at the front of the traffic lights it is actually best just to wait at the back of HGVs and allow them to clear the junction ahead of you, most especially if they are indicating to turn.  Don't be in a rush to get in to danger.  For more information on cycling around HGVs safely see this page from the London Cycling Campaign.

Critical Mass

And finally... a quick note about Critical Mass.  This slightly crazy free-form bike ride takes place on the last Friday of the month in cities around the world, and this Friday is no exception.  However, with no official leader, marshall or route the ride really can go wherever whoever happens to be at the front of the ride wants it to go.  With every professional protester in town looking for something to do and this Friday's Critical Mass clashing with the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics I'd say there's a very strong chance of the ride attracting a fairly radical element.  With 1000s of troops deployed in London, not to mention Police from out of town and a platoon of private hire beef-cake goons armed with high vis vests and a belief in their own self importance I'm personally questioning whether it might not be best to give Critical Mass a miss this time around?  It is, of course, totally up to you as to whether going on a Critical Mass bike ride when over 100 heads of state are being transported around town (not to mention the associated media) is a good idea of not.

Personally I'd rather be watching the Opening Ceremony on television with friends and a few beers, ready to be up to watch Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and World Champion Mark Cavendish scream along the streets of West London (for free!) bright and early on Saturday morning.  Tune in later this week for ibikelondon's tips on cycling to the Olympic Games and the road events!

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liz said...

Excellent post - the roads are already noticeably busier along my commute from Waterloo to Bloomsbury. A couple of things to add:

There will be lots of coaches, so make sure you're safe and pass them with a wide berth.

People are liable to step out from between parked vehicles and walk in bike lanes, and tourists often look the wrong way when they're crossing the road. If you don't have a bike bell, now might be a good time to get one!

New cyclists are wobbly. Give them space and be nice. We were all beginners once!

You may have to walk through some of the worst congestion or to avoid diversions/road closures. Drivers seem to ignore lights, ped crossings and yellow boxes when the congestion gets bad, so walking can be easier than trying to weave through!

ibikelondon said...

Great points Liz, especially about the bike bell and people crossing the road not used to looking out for cyclists.

Thanks for adding your suggestions!

Mark S said...

I do like the idea behind the Samsunh Hope Relay and Re:Route I just wish they would allow upload from a normal bike GPS rather then requiring a battery hammering app to run on the phone!

+1 to pretty much all the points, stay well clear of HGV's and PLEASE don't just queue up the inside of ANY left indicating vehicles! If I catch you on my helmet camera you will find yourself on Youtube!

Paul M said...

Weren't you spot on about CM though?

I was otherwise engaged - Paolo Nutini, Duran Duran (!), Stereophonics and Snow Patrol in Hyde Park - but wouldn't have gone anywhere near it, and when I read this morning in the Guardian about the CM website (??) issuing advice from the organisers (???) about behaviour on its predetermined (??????) route to Stratford, that would most definitely have been a turn-off!

Herbert Wells said...

Actually I'm very excited when Olympics comes because I start collecting different photos form different sports using my favorite sports camera and I also take some good moments from players who won the Olympics.