Were you planning to cycle to the Olympic Park next summer? Sustainable Games, and all that - the green option. Good news, thousands of bike parking spaces are being provided, and the London 2012 planners have been busy finding recommended routes for you to get there. Bad news, these recommended routes don't seem entirely optimal.
London 2012 have produced maps for every Olympic venue showing all the multifarious travel options, including coach pick-up points, walking routes and "recommended cycle routes". I'm going to concentrate on the map I live on, that for the Olympic Park, and investigate cycle routes to the Southern Spectator Transport Mall. It's the obvious place to head if you're approaching from the south or east of the Park - to this large entrance piazza on Stratford High Street alongside the Greenway.
You might think that the obvious way to approach by bike was along Stratford High Street. It's a big wide road, recently given a massive upgrade for Olympic traffic and Westfield shoppers. But no, look on the 2012 map and there's no dashed green line here for cyclists. Cycle Superhighway 2 never got as far as Stratford High Street - its TfL-inspired blue strip conflicted with Newham's existing plans, so cycle stalemate ensued and no bike-friendly plans were drawn. A damned stupid place for a gap in the network, but there you have it. Cyclists can always ride along Stratford High Street at their own risk, of course, but London 2012 must advise you to divert elsewhere.
Direct (non-recommended) route: Along Bow Road (CS2), over the Bow flyover (danger), along Stratford High Street (no cycle lane, Olympic lanes in operation) = 1 mile Dashed line (recommended) route 1: Along Bow Road (CS2), down to the Bow Flyover roundabout (via this appallingly-designed cycle lane), halfway round the roundabout (via segregated lane), up onto the pavement (where you should dismount) (yeah, like that's ever going to happen), down the new ramp to the Bow Floating Towpath, safely under the Bow Flyover, south along the towpath to Tesco (first wide, then rather narrower), up the slope, over the River Lea at the narrow bridge (around the barrier), through the Three Mills site, back north again alongside Three Mills Green (through a gate), across the Prescott Channel, right into Bisson Road (a quiet road), left into Riverside Road (another quiet road), right into Gay Road, right into Abbey Lane, under the Greenway, left into Rick Roberts Way (a busier road), turn left into the Transport Mall, park bike = 1¾ miles Dashed line (recommended) route 2: Along Bow Road (CS2), turn right at the lights down Campbell Road (no bike lane, lots of parked cars), somehow get across the DLR even though there isn't a bridge (it's hard to work out what's going on here because this bit's hidden beneath the scale on the map, but I'm sure there's no possible direct route), along Bruce Road (no, I have no idea how we got here either), turn right into St Leonard's Street, head to one of the subways (it's not clear which) (maybe the one opposite Tesco, but that involves cycling the wrong way down a one-way street, and then the nearest entrance is steps not a ramp) (or maybe the one by Bromley-by-Bow station, except that has no ramp on the far side so you'll be forced to lug your bike up the steps) to pass underneath the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road, then past Tesco (hang on, now we're going the wrong way down a one-way street) and turn right down Three Mills Lane, over the River Lea at the narrow bridge (around the barrier)... then follow route 1 as described above... yadda yadda = 2¼ miles (probably)
Given these two perverse alternatives, the direct route along Stratford High Street does sound very tempting. Dangerous, maybe, but far easier to follow than the twisty turny recommended routes. Indeed I'd venture that the second dotted line has been drawn on the map by a planner who's never attempted to cycle it in real life, so doesn't realise it combines inefficient, impractical and downright impossible. Hopefully this particular route will be wiped from the map, and from the travel-planning database, before hundreds of gullible non-local cyclists attempt to ride this way next summer.
Dire though all this sounds for cyclists from Bow, there is a solution which is to totally ignore the Southern Transport Mall and head instead to the West, to the substantial bike parking area in Victoria Park. It's not a straight-forward route, indeed there's one nasty narrow busy stretch on Parnell Road - but it's still hugely more sensible than recommended route 2.
And I haven't even dared mention the recommended approach to the Olympic Park from Stratford, first round the busy central gyratory, then another lengthy detour through numerous backstreets. Hope you've got a damned good map, or a satnav, or someone erects lots of signs all along the way, else you're likely to get very lost.
Were you planning to cycle to the Olympic Park next summer? Sustainable Games, and all that - the green option. Well, good luck. Because unless the London 2012 planners can come up with some simpler, safer routes for cyclists, and better ways of explaining them, then you might find it better to leave your bike at home.
What's on this weekend? Spring Into Summer Saturday 30 & Sunday 31 May
40 free guided London walks. Purley Festival Friday 29 - Sunday 5 June
Bunting week, below Croydon. E17 Art Trail Sat 30th May - Sun 14th June
250 arty Walthamstow things.