Thursday, 16 August 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 on Olympic Parks and Rides

Lord Sebastian Coe proclaimed of the Olympic Games in his speech at the closing ceremony, 'we did it right.' During the same ceremony a symbolic gesture of thanks was made to the army of games-makers who had volunteered their time to help make the games the success it is widely regarded to be. I'm sorry to say the protracted flashy overblown pop kitsch extravaganza restored some of my scepticism about the games. I had been engrossed in many of the sporting events and relieved that some of the transport disruption I'd expected or been lead to expect had not materialised. 

I just felt relief that the closing ceremony eventually finished and then a little sad I had no sense of a vision of the legacy after enduring the televisual spectacle to the saccharine end. Cycling was one of the sports in which Team GB excelled and I think there is hope the success will continue as more people are inspired to cycle - some of them competitively. When a modest posy of flowers was ceremonially presented to a representative of the games-makers my thoughts returned to a games-maker I met on Leyton Road earlier in the week. We had a brief conversation about provision for the games-makers who cycled to the Olympic Park.

I was really surprised to discover games-makers choosing or having to lock their bikes to a railing alongside Leyton Road opposite the Olympic park; that, if there were cycle parking facilities on site, it was more convenient to park and lock the bikes in that less secure location.

Leyton Road cycle parking during 2012 Olympics

There were traffic marshals and other Olympic staff at this location close to the corner with Liberty Bridge Road and so the cycles were probably less vulnerable to theft/damage than at similar sites away from the Olympic Park. 
In the conversation with a games-maker I was told there was a dedicated space for cycling games-makers however it was well away from many of the venues/locations and it was a hassle using that facility particularly when volunteering late. He confirmed most of the bikes probably belonged to games-makers and added that very often this make do cycle parking facility had been so much in demand, so overcrowded, he hadn't always been able to lock his bike there. 

In a another conversation with some friends who went to the Olympic park as spectators I was told about the provision of large though much underused cycle parking facilities. They were very surprised at how good and underused the Olympic cycle parking was although went on to recount the difficulties they had trying to meet up with companions who had travelled by train to the Olympic park once they had parked their bikes.

Of course this is largely anecdotal evidence that cannot be used to corroborate the sometimes tragic treatment of ordinary cyclists - even by institutions that profess to represent sport and physical well being. How right was it that volunteers to the games felt compelled to leave bicycles locked to a railing outside the Olympic Park?

Other institutional and infrastructural difficulties cyclists and pedestrians have had to compete with are finding alternative routes as a consequence of cycle and footpath closures made by the Olympics. One of the closures is of the River Lee Navigation path starting at Eastway.

Lee Navigation Path Closure, July 2012 - 

I have been cycling to work along this path by the Olympic Park for several years and seen the site develop from the time the opaque blue fence was removed. I've wondered from the first signs of the buildings what I would make of their completion. The way to this has been closed temporarily though for a surprisingly long time. I expected there would be some restrictions (enforced by the army!?) to the use of the path along this way during the games, particularly where the path meets White Post Lane which is an access point to the Olympic Park however I was surprised by the complete closure of the path and the resulting diversion which takes in Eastway and the various and very busy junctions with the A12/East Cross Route, before the sanctuary of Victoria Park (where one of the Olympic cycle parks is).

Prior to the installation of the canal-side military outpost there was an opportunity to take in the minimal splendour of the Olympic architecture and landscaping without having to pay more for the privilege. During the development, the stretch of park just inside the fence alongside the section of the canal path between Eastway and White Post Lane would allow access, I hoped, to a view of a cultivated flower meadow to mitigate the harshness and incongruity of razor wire and cctv, and the enforcement of exclusion and alienation. Alas this was not to be for just a few weeks before the beginning of the games the fertile and grassy stretch was ripped up and the trees removed and in their place a car park was quickly and efficiently installed. Who is the car park for? In some ways I'm glad they closed the path. What this development demonstrated was that if there had been a will provision might have been better for volunteers cycling to the Olympic Park.

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