Cycling to the Olympics? It’s easy, and delightful, and all demographics are doing it.

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Almost a year ago I wrote about the opening of a new 5 mile cycle track, linking Dorchester and Weymouth, built alongside the busy main road that links Weymouth, and the Olympic sailing events, to Dorchester and the wider world. It was not bad — with the exception of rail trails like the Bristol to Bath Path, perhaps it’s the best inter-urban cycleway in the country. Not that this can be considered very great praise.

I thought I’d take a look and see how it’s working out for Weymouth, and I put a little of what I found in the couple of hours I spent in town in this flickr set.

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Well it was built and they have started to come. If you live in Weymouth, poking out into the English Channel, there are not many directions you can go if you want to go to somewhere on land. Conversely, if you live in Dorchester, there are no other big towns except Weymouth for some distance around. The cycle track therefore has the potential to serve quite a high proportion of the journeys that people in each town take. But it crosses a big chalk hill with a steep scarp into Weymouth. And looking around Weymouth, it’s obvious that at least one person has become very rich in the past year by selling electric bicycles.

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There was some sort of boat race going on today. Dunno what that was all about.

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And a lot of the roads in the centre of the town had restricted access, becoming bus/games staff/bicycle roads, including the esplanade road, usually something for Weymouth to be ashamed off with its trunk road-style design running through such an important part of town.

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So with the push of closed roads and threats of Olympic Traffic Chaos (© All Newspapers), and the great pull of traffic-free cycling, the paths and streets today were filled with cyclists to an extent which would have been inconceivable until recently. A lot of them looked like supermarket bicycle-shaped objects, perhaps dug out from sheds just while the traffic blocks are in place.

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But there were also dozens of pretty and handsome quality machines, and vintage pieces. There were even proper Dutch bikes, ridden by proper Dutch fans of boat races.

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But most importantly, in a noticeable contrast to most of this country — and, by all accounts, to the Olympic venues in London — there was a great variety of people, from toddlers to pensioners, and with equal representation of men and women throughout.

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I wonder how much of it is the temporary effect of the road closures, and how much a longer-lasting product of the network of cycle paths and tracks?

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7 responses to “Cycling to the Olympics? It’s easy, and delightful, and all demographics are doing it.

  1. It was a fairly similar story with the road race, when I first started out it was just like any other weekend – the only other riders I saw where “club” style riders, in their full cycle kit on road bikes. But as I got closer to the route and the roads where shut there was suddenly an explosion and riding down the closed off section of the A24 reminded me of the Sky Rides (albeit with slightly less riders and a LOT more room!) as bikes of all shapes and sizes with a variety of riders to match materialized :-)

  2. Lovely blog post! (Found you via twitter- Wifealiciousnes!) I also cycled to the Olympics- 11 miles each way to Dorney for the rowing and also found squillions of people doing the same. We arrived at the “second” entrance (the one that wasn’t advertised), and by the time we left I estimated there were over 1,000 bikes there- big and small. *happy face*

  3. There’s a spangly new cycle bridge too: http://www.dorsetforyou.com/newsteadbridge

  4. bicycle-shaped objects

    I’m a little disappointed in you for using this phrase, Joe. I almost exclusively encounter it being used in a dismissive fashion, and don’t think that being patronising to anyone is a good way to promote cycling. Yes, I know that cheap bicycles may be of poor quality. But if it has a frame, two wheels, a seat, pedals, handlebars and brakes, it’s a bicycle. Those people who own one, regardless of how much it cost, should be congratulated for being on two wheels, and if they’ve retrieved it from a shed, they should be encouraged to keep it out and use it more often.

    Maybe they couldn’t afford something better; maybe they didn’t know that cheap bikes aren’t good; maybe they were intimidated by the prospect of going into their local bike shop with its huge range of bikes of all different shapes, styles and sizes. But dismissing their bike in terms like “bicycle-shaped object” will only serve to make these people feel like there’s a cycling clique they’re not in, and maybe that cheap bike will just end up back in the shed to gently rust while making a nice home for a spider.

  5. The (almost) traffic free Esplanade and the secure, supervised bike parking lots were a joy.

    If this is part of the ‘legacy’ that the Olympics leave behind then brilliant. Maybe not what the Government / LOCOG originally envisaged but a real lasting legacy nonetheless.

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