So with the world winding up for the Olympics, the rumblings from That London (so far as can be heard up here above the sheep baaing and the occasional tractor rumbling past) appear to be that the entire city is verging on travel panic. Towpaths are being closed off for security reasons, half the road network is being given over to VIP lanes, coachloads of athletes are wandering the city’s streets hopelessly searching for the Olympic village, motorways are crumbling into dust, train stations are being closed, and basically the authorities appear to be doing their level best to put all and sundry off from coming anywhere near the capital ever, or at least until it’s all over. As one friend put it on twitter, the only easy way to get around London will be on Google Streetview (and I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t pull the plug on that too. I mean, security hazard or what?).
All of which makes our planned visit down there look like it might be a bit … interesting. We don’t have any tickets for anything, but the road races are going almost past our friends’ house, so, back in the innocent days of June we blithely booked some train tickets down for the first weekend, arriving on the Friday that it all kicks off. And to give ourselves more options for getting about we booked our bikes on too. After all, with the road, rail and tube network predicted to be completely gridlocked for the next three weeks, having a means of getting about might actually be handy, no? All we’d have to do is wheel them off the train at Euston and ride down to Waterloo to catch the train to Hampton Wick. But that was before SouthWest trains decided to panic and ban bikes from its entire networkfor the entire duration, because lord knows, you wouldn’t want someone taking a bicycle from Yeoville to Salisbury on a Wednesday afternoon – don’t these people know THERE’S AN OLYMPICS ON? Fortunately they promptly unbanned them after a brief outcry, so we should technically be able to get our bikes on the train down after all, but the whole fiasco alerted me to the fact that things are not going to be straightforward. Given that the standard official response to a bike in any shape or form is to ban it or impede it unless told otherwise, I’m beginning to wonder whether our bikes aren’t going to be transformed from ‘handy means of getting about’ to ‘albatross around our necks’ in the time it takes for an official to say ‘it’s more than my job’s worth…’
The obvious solution, of course, is to ride them all the way, which is, after all, what they’re for. A quick glance at Cycle Streets, and some advice from Twitter (including a few generous offers to escort us), suggests that it’s about 14 miles if we take a relatively scenic and peaceful route, which is no distance at all, really. Well it’s no distance at all on quiet roads – quite what it’s going to be like in London traffic, and allowing for my actual negative sense of direction sending us confidently 20 miles out of the way. And assuming London isn’t actually under water – or under curfew – by the time we arrive and we can avoid being caught, cooked and eaten by maurauding bands of starving athletes who will have been roaming the capital in buses in search of the Olympic village for weeks by then.
Secretly I’m hoping the whole travel chaos thing has been overblown and that everyone will end up locking themselves indoors to watch the whole thing on telly. In fact, thinking about it, I wonder if that hasn’t been what the organisers have been planning all along…