Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Are cyclists allowed in the Games Lanes or not?

About the middle of last year, it was extensively reported (see for example) that the "Games Lanes", on the Olympic Route Network (ORN) in London, would be, in no uncertain terms, out-of-bounds for cyclists, transgressors facing a £200 fine, the same as for unauthorised drivers. Where these reports came from I cannot tell, for I don't see anything clearly saying this on the Transport for London website. What TfL do say, unhelpfully, is:
These lanes, which will be clearly marked, will only be open for accredited vehicles and on-call emergency vehicles. They will typically operate between 06:00 and midnight, and only be used on multi-lane roads so there will always be at least one lane for general traffic. You could receive a Penalty Charge Notice if you drive in a Games Lane if you are not an accredited vehicle.
It's so like TfL to word a statement as if the only people entitled to use the road are driving, not riding – it shows how they really think about the roads.

When, however, a recent LCC borough group newsletter went to press, with an item warning cyclists, in passing, that they would not be allowed to cycle in the Games Lanes, a council officer closely connected with the Olympic preparations contacted the group co-ordinator in question to say that this was wrong, that cyclists could use the lanes. When read out the paragraph above, that I have quoted from the TfL website, he stated that it was "misleading", and that he would ask TfL to correct it.

I have done some further study of the detailed documents on the TfL site describing the Games Lanes. There are diagrams for every borough. For example, this diagram covers part of Camden including Euston Road, and the Upper Woburn Place to Kingsway corridor. It shows clearly that the Games Lanes in Euston Road are the inside lanes, and that they are for "Official Games vehicles only". (But could a bike be an Official Games vehicle? I leave that question hanging in the air.) However, the lanes on the north-south corridor are all over the place on the road, they are very fragmentary, and the northernmost section, in Upper Woburn Place, is marked "Official Games vehicles and cycles only". Does this yellow caption bubble apply to all the bits of yellow lane down this corridor? This is unclear to me. But another fragment on Euston Road is marked similarly.

A sample section of the Games Lanes plans: complex, confusing and discontinuous, truly a classic TfL production
The thing that strikes me about these plans is that, leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the whole thing,  not only is TfL incapable of conceiving of continuous, effective bike lanes, or bus lanes, as we know from long experience, it has proved no more capable of imagining continuity when told by the IOC to create this network. How one earth are they expecting this itsy-bitsiness to work in practice? Who is going to enforce it, bearing in mind the negligible level of enforcement there is of all other painted carriageway demarcations, e.g. cycle stop boxes and hatched junction boxes? Who is going to understand this complexity, with some Games Lanes being 24 hour, some not, and some allowing cycling, some not? Is this really policeable? It looks like a classic British fudge. I wonder what the IOC will think when they see it.

I also wonder how much of the time Official Games vehicles will actually be using these lanes, and how many of them there will be. If cyclists really are to be permitted in some of these lanes, or all of them, as the council officer seems to believe, then, with the numbers of cyclists there are in London already, combined with a special upsurge for the games, combined with the fact that cyclists have few dedicated lanes of their own, maybe cyclists will prove to be the dominant users of these lanes. Maybe these lanes will provide the real "cycling superhighways" to the games, and to elsewhere, that TfL so conspicuously has not provided under its actual Cycle Superhighway programme. What will the IOC think of that?


  1. Nothing like a bit of consistency....still if they do enforce these lanes properly the sheer ambiguity of who can use them and when may mean that the resultant huge pile of fines can pay off the costs of the games that seem to have spiralled past the original allocated budget :-)

  2. hahaha the diagram is brilliant. It is so very TfL. In terms of enforcement, I would imagine that PCSO's will be deployed along the route, giving tickets to all. Whether they are enforceable or not. See the recent action at SOAS for details

  3. It would seem that, as a generalisation, Games lanes in the centre of the carriageway are for Olympic vehicles only; and that Games lanes on the kerbside lanes replacing existing bus lanes are permitted for (certain) bus lane users as well as Olympic vehicles.

  4. The TfL plans included making changes to LCN45 crossing A4 .. The proposal was to change the junction to give way, left turn only. Nevermind the fact the junction currently already is left turn only (except bicycles) and give way (if you disable the existing signal.)

    So that left me baffled about what exactly are they proposing. Best I can tell the plan is to remove the traffic signal which would make the crossing pretty much unusable for bicycles. When I pointed that out in the consultation the response was confusing at best. On one hand they're saying I've misunderstood and there's no plan to remove the signal (so that'd leave "except bicycles" through route in place) - didn't bother clarifying it of course, on the other hand later in the same document they state to be diverting cyclists to cross using Gloucester Road to east instead (so they plan to remove the through route anyway?!)

    So yes, TfL is confused & confusing as usual.

  5. What a complete load of arse. Enforcement requires 'offenders' to be reasonably aware they were not allowed to do something. TFL make cursory reference to 'drivers' here and there but provide no real explanation... There must be a hundred little alteratinos here there and everywhere on my commute in... Well done TFL on another job done badly.

  6. Surprised TfL doesn't have a "Official Games Vehicles" dismount junction, as they seem to be using the cycle lane clip art for their new routes