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Don't drive to the Olympics

No, not Beijing: 2012 in London. The Times is reporting that the 2012 organizing committee is “adopting the most aggressive anticar policy ever applied to a major event.”

The details include an almost complete lack of parking areas around the venues (exceptions, of course, being made for “a small number of disabled people”—I wonder if public transportation will be Paralympics-friendly?) and extensive promotion of mass transit, including free all-zones travelcards for many London venues. A more disturbing note is the creation of “Zil lanes” on many motorways for transportation of the “Olympic Family.” These are reserved for athletes, officials, and media, and named for the “routes reserved for Soviet Politburo cavalcades in Moscow,” an uncomfortable allusion at best. (A commenter on the article suggested renaming them “pig lanes” after Orwell’s Animal Farm.)

On the one hand, this is fantastic; London has had four years to get used to the idea of “car exclusion zones,” and this is a massive expansion of them, encouraging people to establish new transit habits. London, at least, has an adequate rail system, unlike, say, Boston.

But the need for such buzz around a low-car Games points to England’s almost American dependence on cars. For comparison, I think of Osaka: Nagai stadium had very few nearby parking lots. Nearly all spectators arrived the way I did: by subway or light rail. (Many thousands doubtless also arrived by bicycle, since the racks I saw were jammed full every night.) One hopes the 2012 committee puts up adequate bicycle racks as well as promoting rail.

I wouldn’t have been a “Zil lane” user had there been any in Osaka, traveling as I did on the subway every day thanks to the pass which came with my media credential. (As I recall, we took light rail to the stadium in Edmonton most days as well.) If I’d stayed in one of the official media hotels, I could have caught a “media shuttle,” a bus which would whisk me to the stadium, but the subway worked fine.

In Seville, we used those buses, but on many occasions we walked. I also remember seeing David Monti riding a bicycle back and forth to the stadium; he had the foresight to send one over. I contemplated renting a bicycle in Osaka, but in hindsight I was fine without one. I dislike being dependent on another (either a bus schedule or a driver) and I like being able to “get myself there”. I wonder how I’ll get to the Bird’s Nest?

Now Playing: The Creep Out from Come Down by The Dandy Warhols

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As someone who two years ago lugged an overly-large suitcase with a bad knee through the London subway system, I can say firmly that they are decidedly not friendly to anyone with disabilities or physical limitations, or unfit enough to have difficulties with long flights of stairs. I wonder if they’re start upgrading some of their elevators and stairwells in advance of the Olympics? I sure hope so.

With Regard to Ms. F - I, too, on many occasions have navigated the tube with suitcase and bag. My experiences were not as bad as hers!

What I originally came to say was that once and only once I tried to drive in London. Absolutely the worst experience ever. I have no problem driving in England mind you. Just London. Generally I don’t have a problem with large city driving. NYC, Beantown, DC, El A, SFO, Chitown - never had problems driving in any of these places. London - I would not do it ever again.

I think that they are on the right track here.

And the tube is great. And the trains too! :-)

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