12 August 2012

Cycling to the Olympics

Tower bridge - Olympic style
Over the past few weeks, Olympic fever has truly gripped London, Alberto and I included. Cycling has  had an important role to play in this, especially because of Team GB's fantastic success both on the road and on the track. 

Last Sunday I went to Richmond Park to watch the women's road race, staking out roughly the same spot that we had at last year's London-Surrey Cycle Classic. Although it wasn't technically allowed, I managed to bring my bike with me on the Overground train so that I was able to cycle to Richmond from the station as I normally do. As I had hoped, it was slightly quieter on the side of the road than the men's race the day before, so I was able to get a good spot. It was still a fantastic atmosphere as we watched the peloton leave London to head into the Surrey Hills. There were plenty of cyclsts out to watch, and ready to take advantage of the closed roads as soon as the riders made it through. 

Awaiting the peloton in Richmond Park
I was all ready to relax in the park and pootle around until they came back through on their return to the finish, but almost as soon as the peloton had passed it started to rain steadily. I took shelter under some trees and waited for a while, but eventually decided to head home and catch the end of the race from the comfort of my living room! 

A few days later, Alberto and I had tickets to the women's basketball quarterfinals at the olympic park. We had heard a lot about the cycle parking infrastructure that had been put in place, and equally as much about the terrible queues to leave the Olympic park and get on the train back to central, so we decided to cycle there. 

We met up outside Alberto's work and headed to Regent's Canal which was pleasantly quiet at just before 5pm on a Tuesday. The Canal took us all the way to Victoria Park, where the cycle parking lot was located. We had heard that it was being under-utilised and definitely found that to be the case when we were there! The cycle parking is about a ten minute walk from the entrance to the olympic park and on our way there, we passed many bicycles parked to the railings closer to the entrance. Understandable that people wouldn't want to walk all that way, but we were glad that ours were safe and sound behind security. 

Cycle parking facilities in Victoria Park
After enjoying a walk around the park and some great women's basketball matches (Russia vs. Turkey and France vs. Czech Republic), we watched tens of thousands of people head towards the tube station while we took a different exit and headed back to our bikes, feeling very smug that we had beaten the queues! 

Outside the olympic stadium
The velodrome
It hasn't all been rosy -- London's critical mass ride coincided with the night of the opening ceremony and resulted in hundreds of arrests, and a cyclist was killed by an olympic bus near the park, underscoring the fact that while cycling may be increasing in popularity in London, the infrastructure is not being improved to match. 

Sill, it's been great being in the host city of the Olympics, even though we were initially skeptical that it would have a negative effect on our ability to cycle. Actually, the roads have been very quiet so if anything, cycling has been better than normal. If only we could convince all the cars to stay away from London permanently!

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