Posted by: Ian | August 4, 2012

Cycling in London during the Olympics

Before the Olympics even began the logistics of cycling were redefined. My first experience of this was unwelcome: changes to the algorithm controlling the traffic lights at the Regent’s Park Mosque seemed designed to retard the flow of cars and bikes. This is a real P.I.T.A. for us cyclists who regularly do loops around the park, and it’s so mindlessly done.

Other than that, all the changes have been fantastic. On the weekend before the opening ceremony Paula came to London for a triathlon training day. I rode with her from Notting Hill to Richmond Park and then had a wonderful day cycling around London and watching Bradley sew up the Tour at the Rapha Cafe before returning to Richmond Park to escort Paula back. There were markedly fewer cars on the road than usual and it was a blast to zip around. It was also, inexplicably, the first time that I’ve looped round Richmond Park. I can see why it’s so popular and will make more of an effort to get over there occasionally if we don’t run out of fine Summer evenings.

The same factor has made loops round Regent’s Park less convenient and riding to Richmond Park easier: a privileging of traffic flow along the East <-> West axis to facilitate access to and from the Olympic centre. I’ve used the same dynamic to my own advantage on commute rides. I ordinarily avoid the Embankment but these past couple of weeks it’s been a treat. Last Thursday I found myself belting over to Westminster and up to Buckingham Palace and Constitution Hill on empty roads with crowds pressing on heavily-policed barriers at the kerbside. Under sun and blue skies I was averaging 22 mph through central London at rush hour. It was like being a participant in the road race, a once in a lifetime commute.

This week it occurred to me that I could cycle over towards Hampton Court and watch the Time Trials. When the weather turned out to be holding up, Emily took an even more impromptu decision to come with me. The ride was again beautiful and we parked up at Kingston, just in time to see the first women coming through. We stationed ourselves at the top of the High Street and watched all of the women and then all of the men. The time passed surprisingly quickly. All of the riders got a good cheer, and there was a huge roar for all the Brits.

Chris Froome shown here got the best reception. Until Sir Bradley came. I had to remind myself that I’ve never seen Brad before in real life: he seems so familiar from watching him on TV.

For all of this, I’ve been riding on my Condor Tempo. It’s the perfect bike for London and even more fun on the quieter roads. If only it could continue.

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