As we are being endlessly reminded, the Olympic Games are being held in London. Joys abound. And now, some three weeks out from the Games’ commencement, huge pink signs are being plastered all over stations in the assumption that potential spectators will think to look up at the roof for directions, and chirpy staff are handing out travelcard wallets containing advice on travel during London 2012.
Or rather, they’re handing out what is masquerading as advice, because it’s actually about as helpful as an arts graduate at an explanation of Higgs Boson.
The little booklet, urging us to “Get Ahead of the Games”, is full of singularly pointless inanities. It tells us that it will be exceptionally busy across the transport network. No shit, Sherlock. I assumed it would be a BREEZE to get around – after all, London’s transport infrastructure is so timely and reliable on every other day of the year.
Walking is a quick and easy way to make short journeys around central London. Not when you’re stuck behind a cretinous tourist pointing their iPhone at every passing red bus, it isn’t.
By cycling, you can avoid travel congestion. I could. I might also die. Cycling deaths were up 21% in 2011, and whilst that is – admittedly – from a low base, I don’t want to be one of those fatalities, or one of the hundreds more who suffer a serious injury. I’ve not regularly cycled anywhere since I was living in Tanzania where the most likely road hazard would be a cow coming the other way, and I think it would be more dangerous for me – and those around me – to start now.
Travel at different times, it merrily advises – avoid [travelling] 7 – 10am and 4 – 8pm. You are quite honestly making this stuff up now, right, Transport for London? As someone who quite frankly would rather the Olympics would sod off and screw up someone else’s city (ideally one that CAN cope with it, rather than London, where the timing on traffic lights had to be fiddled for the visit of the Committee), to be told that I should try not to travel to and from work inside any sort of reasonable timeframe is just insulting. I live and work here, I pay my taxes and I pay my tube fares: surely my ability – and that of millions of others – to get to work, and y’know, keep the already-fragile economy in its state of intensive care should take priority over the spectators to a sporting event? Or is someone from LOCOG going to clear it with my agency and our American counterparts and my fee-paying clients that I’m able to work from 11am – 3pm for the six weeks of the Games? And don’t give me the ‘working from home’ crap. If an entire agency working from home was the most efficient means of Getting Shit Done, we’d do it already. It isn’t, so we don’t.
Take a different route… if you travel through a station that will be in a hotspot area. And get to work how, exactly? My office is located smack bang between two of the ‘hotspot’ stations. Taking a different route would involve changing my destination, and that’s not really the point of the exercise of travel, is it?
Avoid unnecessary journeys, it says. Well colour me astonished: I’d not thought of that. Sometimes, I like to spend a Sunday just riding around London on the tube, taking in the sights of empty food wrappers and mice and the walls of the tunnels, and the smell of last night’s drunken vomit. Trust us, TfL: people don’t take the tube for a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. If we’re on the Northern Line, it’s already pretty bloody necessary.
In which I return to the small things.
5 hours ago