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An accidental cycling legacy?

On 1st August a cyclist, Dan Harris, was killed by a bus coming from the Olympic Park at a spot near where TfL had made alterations to the road markings for cyclists on account of the Olympics. Not only had London 2012 failed to provide simple safe routes for cyclists to enter or circumnavigate the Olympic Park during the Olympics, it closed key cycle routes like the Greenway and, just before the Olympics began, the critical towpath on the west side of the Park which was shut without warning for reasons of security forcing cyclists onto busy roads. Local protests were, of course, simply ignored.

Dan Harris’ death did not lead to action by London 2012 or TfL to improve road safety for cyclists during or after the Olympics. The towpath remained closed throughout the Games and the Greenway alongside the Park remains closed for no apparently good reason. The response at the time of Dan Harris’ death on the part of London 2012 was defensive with even Tour of France winner Bradley Wiggins declaring: "Ultimately, if you get knocked off and you don't have a helmet on, then you can't argue." So much for the solidarity of elite cyclists with those facing the everyday hazards of negotiating the streets of London. Since then Wiggins and his coach, Shane Sutton, have suffered their own collisions with vehicles.

During the Olympics London 2012 made enormous changes to road use in order to meet the demands of the IOC that the ‘Olympic family’ should be able to move around without impediment, alterations which caused considerable problems for businesses and other road users, including cyclists. In the run up to the Olympics the point was made to London 2012 and TfL that if such changes could be made for a three week event then the same could be done to make life easier for cyclists and other vulnerable users both during the Olympics and at other times. At the time no attention was paid to these arguments.

Now BoJo and TfL have announced their intention to create a Central London cycle ‘super corridor’ which will consist of twelve cycle super highways with a core West to East route along the Embankment. The accidents involving the ‘Olympic champion’ and his coach are cited as one of the reasons for introducing this programme. Garrett Emerson, TfL’s chief operating officer for streets seems to have woken up to the obvious when he said: “Potentially there are things you can do to change the road physically and the lesson from the Olympics is you can make an appreciable difference to demand by asking people to use the network differently such as changing times they travel.”

It’s an ill Olympic wind that brings no accidental legacy.

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