Cycling to the London 2012 Olympic games - the where, what and why
London will welcome the world with its spectacular opening ceremony tomorrow night and I for one am pretty excited. (Good luck to the handful of readers and London cyclists who I know are performing or volunteering tomorrow!) And the event which raises the curtain on Olympic sporting action on Saturday morning is, of course, the men's road race, and there will be plenty more on that later. But first...
"How do I get to the Games by bike?"
One of the best kept secret of this summer's Games is the availability of free guided cycle rides to ticketed sessions at Olympic venues. Those good people at Sustrans have been commissioned to help guide us to unfamiliar venues. Trained volunteers are on hand to meet you at a London landmark and take you to your event safely on carefully planned routes which are manageable for all abilities. To check if there's a guided ride to match your event and to book your place "on board", check out the BikeBuddies2012 website from Sustrans.
Getting to the Olympic park under your own steam requires slightly more forward planning. Official travel guides and Transport for London will plot out torturous routes through Bow roundabout and Stratford High Street to reach the park - not impossible but possibly mildly masochistic. But it doesn't have to be this way...
For those coming from north London pick up the river Lea and head south to Hackney marshes, hopping over the canal at Eton Manor where a massive bike park forms part of the "transport hub" (do look out for coaches parking here!)
For those coming from east of the East End try to pick up the Beckton Greenway to Stratford where a cycle park and access gate awaits (see map below)
As I mentioned, coming from the west or centre of London to Stratford need not necessarily involve going for a spin round the infamous Bow roundabout. Ignore all invitations to peruse Cycle Superhighway Two along the Mile End Road and instead head towards the lovely corner of East London that is Victoria Park. (For those especially timid of the roads the Regents Canal will take you all the way to Victoria Park from central London but prepare to take it very slowly, to give two rings of your bell before passing through narrow bridges and remember that pedestrians always take absolute priority. I hardly need mention that the canal will be extremely busy though not impossible to use.) Once at the park a 5,000-cycle capacity guarded bike park awaits you next to the Victoria Park Live Site where big screens will relay all of the action. It's a ten minute walk from there to Victoria Gate (aka White Horse Lane) to enter the Olympic park proper - comparable to the time you're likely to have to wait to get on a train at Stratford station - plus you get the added bonus of walking through Hackney Wick and seeing what East London looked like before the Olympics arrived(!). The area is safe and will be populated with volunteers during the Games but you should of course exercise caution late at night (as you would in any corner of the city you are unfamiliar with after dark) and avoid cycling along the canal late at night if only because it's dark down there and you don't want to get wet. Check out this Google map from London Cycling Campaign outlining route closures and proposing good journeys to make in the area. Remember, there are no Boris Bike stations near to the Olympic Park itself.
You can check how busy roads are going to be in your local area using this 'heat map' from Get Ahead of the Games.
Lock It Up!
If like me you've failed to secure your front-seat Velodrome tickets, do not despair. London is stuffed with opportunities to see lots of Olympic action for free. Parts of the courses for the road races, time trials, marathon, triathlon, marathon swim and race walk are open to the general public. Following Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish's incredible performance on the Champs Elysees last weekend, one of the first medals of the Games will be in their sites on Saturday when the Road Race sets off at 10AM.
Heading out past Buckingham Palace, Constitution Hill, Brompton Road, Putney Bridge, through Richmond Park, past Hampton Court and out in through the Surrey countryside for a few laps of Box Hill before heading back again to finish on the Mall around 3.35PM - it promises to be a great race. You can download a PDF map of the course here from Cycling Weekly which has arrival times marked on it.
Wednesday 1 August: Men's and Women's Road Cycling Time Trial
Tuesday 7 August: Men's Triathlon
Saturday 4 August: Women's Triathlon
Saturday 4 August: Men's 20km Race Walk
Saturday 11 August: Men's 50km Race Walk
Saturday 11 August: Women's 20km Race Walk
Sunday 5 August: Women's Marathon
Sunday 12 August: Men's Marathon
Get on your bike, have a great Games, and come on Team GB!
Sustainable Cities Collective