diamond geezer

 Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Now that Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is properly open, how properly open is it?

The legacy corporation may have promised to "knit the park into the community", but some threads are clearly better sewn than others. I've been round the edge to see precisely which pedestrian links have been made, and which haven't quite bedded in yet. That's in an anti-clockwise direction, starting from Westfield.

1) Across the bridge from Westfield: Of course this is open, it's the main way in. The mall's developers wanted you to walk past two dozen restaurants and lots of shops before you got to the Park (and, more importantly, again on your way back). For an alternative entrance, and to visit the east bank of the Waterworks River, descend via steps from outside the Aquatics Centre (although the main staircase is mysteriously fenced off at present)
2) From Carpenters Road: There are lots of ways in here, both at river level and up to the overbridge. The best QEOP map I've yet seen has been posted on a board at the foot of the slope on the western side (none of this namby-pamby simplified visitor-friendly stuff).
3) From Waterden Road: There are also lots of ways in here, because this is the main way into the North Park. Watch out for the narrow steps on either side of the pedestrian crossing - these take you straight down to river level.
4) From Waterden Road: There appears to be a footpath down from the road bridge to the eastern bank of the river, but it's not accessible from the road, and it's barriered off inside the park. That's a shame, because there's one of those half-a-phonebox sculptures we loved during the Games at the bottom of the slope.
5) From the East Village: This is new, and rather lovely. The wetlands in the corner of the North Park have opened up as the Waterglades, a larger area than was open during the Games, now with bubbling pools and additional pond-side access. It's a shame the developers' maps displayed round the edge focus on the housing estate rather than the rest of the Park. But don't let the residents of the Athletes Village have this lush jogging space all to themselves.
6) Round the back of the Timber Lodge: There's no longer any need to traipse the long way from Westfield to get to the cafe and playground in the North Park, you can enter round (but not yet through) the East Village.
7) Beside the Velodrome: If you like walking round the back of a building site, you can enter this way.

8) From Temple Mills Lane: This feels most odd. A fresh footpath leads into the park from below the elevated A12, rising across a volcanic-looking landscape of man-made mounds. The lumps and bumps are part of the Lee Valley Velopark mountain bike circuit, which may one day be green and verdant but currently feels bleak and almost lunar. I found it hard to tell whether the handful of cyclists juddering by had paid up or were merely chancers enjoying the unsupervised track.
9) From Temple Mills Lane: The underpass below the arterial road has been decorated with striking orange and red swirls in an artwork called Underwhirl - worth a look.
10) Via the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre: Sorry mate, not open until June. But pedestrians can slip in via Temple Mills Lane (9) to view the empty outdoor courts, a couple of vibrant hockey pitches, Eton Manor's relocated war memorials and a very empty car park. Alas, as yet there's no access to the remainder of the park.
11) From Ruckholt Road: I don't get why this isn't open yet, but the path from the A106 and the footbridge from Hackney Marshes remain barriered off. [we think this is now open]
12) From the Eastway: There is, at present, zero access to QEOP from the northern edge of the park.

13) From Waterden Road: There's easy pedestrian access to the North Park from here, and has been for months. But I'm disappointed to see metal railings being erected along the perimeter, with gaps only in certain select locations. Presumably this is to keep the plebs out if festivals are held here in the summer.
14) Across Wallis Bridge: One of the true legacy connections, linking Hackney Wick directly to the park past the Copper Box. There's even a lift for added accessibility.
15) From White Post Lane: This has been open for months too, but now forks two ways and has its own bus service thanks to a diversion of the 339.
16) Across Monier Bridge: There may be a bridge here across the Lea from Fish Island, but as yet it doesn't lead anywhere.
17) From the Lea towpath: A whole new waterside greenspace is being created called the Canal Park. I'm sure it'll be very pretty, but it's not scheduled for completion until this time next year and at present resembles a building site. A connecting path awaits around the back of the Big Breakfast cottage, but for the time being there's no access from the Lea to the Great British Garden.
18) From the Greenway: In the summer of 2012 this was the Victoria Gate, which almost nobody used to enter the Olympic Park. The path's still there, and seemingly ready to open, but as yet nobody's tugged the barriers aside to allow pedestrians through. It might be a year before they do (or it might be imminent).
19) From the View Tube: After years of the Greenway being the closest the public could get to the Olympic Stadium, now suddenly there's a long ramp down from the Greenway into the park proper. It's the quickest way in from Pudding Mill Lane DLR (but not quick).

20) From Stratford High Street via Marshgate Lane: One day you'll be able to drive in, and walk in, under the railway. The path is ready, but not yet accessible, and the road is used only by construction traffic.
21) From Stratford High Street via the Greenway: Again, a path is ready, but Crossrail have a heck of a lot of work to do buiding new railway tracks for at least the next twelve months, so (alas) there's not getting in this way anytime soon.
22) From Stratford High Street via Blaker Road: Still no sign of them opening up the gloomy tunnel beneath the Greenway, alas, but I think it'll come eventually.
23) From Stratford High Street via the Waterworks River: Nope, nor this one yet either. But there is a signpost pointing down it, and there are barriers across the path, so I live in hope.
24) From the Loop Road: Yes, you can enter the south of the park (very easily) from the Loop Road. It's just not especially easy, or convenient, getting onto the Loop Road in the first place.
25) From the Warton Road roundabout: If you're the planner who designed this roundabout, well before the Games, I'd like to give you a good shake. In reconfiguring the roadway under the railway line you shrank one of the pavements to below minimum acceptable width. Then some health and safety bod came along and fenced off that footpath because it was "too narrow", forcing everyone to cross to the opposite side. This brings pedestrians round the wrong side of the roundabout for the park, requiring another crossing of a road often choked with Westfield traffic. And then the corner of the park is several feet above the level of the road, with an earthy slope inbetween and no attempt whatsoever at steps. There were people attempting to leave the park on Saturday staring at this layout going "surely nobody could be quite so stupid/paranoid as to have built this?" But they were, and they did, and it's rubbish.
26) From Stratford High Street via Carpenters Road: Very blocked off, very dark, very unimproved-since-2007. Buses are due to start running this way next month, but it's not looking hopeful. We'll see.
27) Across the Aquatics Centre bridge: That's the bridge to the south of the swimming pool, a wide pedestrian span that'll one day carry traffic to a housing estate. If you can get here, it's a jolly good way in, but not yet quite well connected enough to make that straightforward.

(Or at least that's how things looked on Saturday. If they've changed since, do let me know)

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