No Rides for London

2/8/15

Richmond – Kingston – Return

I live in a capital city and I really love it. I do understand that there are regularly going to be events, some of which close roads. I’m in favour. Even if I don’t go to the celebration, or protest or whatever it is, I like that they happen. They help make this great city what it is.

Except today.

Today was the Prudential Ride for London, a 100 mile bike ride for thousands of people from Central London, out to Surrey and back again.

I knew I wanted to travel, and I knew the ride was on, so I tried planning ahead. I checked the TfL website and googled my little heart out. The best information I could get was “some services may be disrupted or terminate early.” No sh*t Sherlock! A little detail might have helped.

Undaunted I set out to the first bus stop where there was an encouraging queue. This usually means a bus is due any minute. Unusually, in fact for the first time, there was another wheelchair in the queue and we were going to the same place. It looked like I’d need to wait for the second bus.

So we waited…

and waited…

and out came the phones. The QR Code failed miserably. Apparently lots of people want to use mobile data in Richmond on a Sunday morning. Step back one generation of technology and revert to txt message. Quicker than you can say “Confounded Peddle Pushers” the answer came back that nothing was expected for 30 minutes. Even the routes that went nowhere near the Ride route were ‘delayed’. Of course ‘nothing expected for 30 minutes’ translates, in common parlance, to ‘everything’s cancelled’.

Shank’s Wheels it was, as we all set off towards town to find a bus stop which actually had a bus.

I had planned to catch a train to avoid the roads, but by the time I’d got the bus to the station (which was very straight forward) the train was long gone. To the bus it was, which arrived almost immediately. Sadly the driver let all the other passengers on before putting the ramp out which made for a intricate sliding block puzzle like movement of people as they made room for me after the fact.

The journey was jerky, as they so often are, but the inconvenience really started when it terminated early, leaving me to cross Kingston, a centre of largely closed roads.

Many of the closed roads were great in that I could use them, and roads are always smoother and more comfortable than pavements, but my first problem was getting trapped on the cycle course, on the wrong side of the barriers. It’s quite hard to jump fencing in a wheelchair, take it from someone who knows. Once I got back on the correct side of the barriers the challenge then became crossing the road through a stream of bikes and closed off drop kerbs. I eventually managed it, but only with the help of two very weary looking marshals.

Returning was easier. The roads were still closed, but the cycles absent. This is how I most like London. Vehicle free and in the sunshine you can actually hold a conversation as you walk without raising your voice or chocking on the modern smog of traffic particulates.

To cap the day nicely the guard of the train I was after very generously delayed his departure by a minute or two to give me time to get on board, and the communication worked so that I was met at Richmond.

I discovered later that traffic in Hammersmith had been gridlocked for most of the day. It seems I escaped lightly. Yes, lets hold these events, but maybe next time try a bit harder with transport planning.

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About Alan

I'm an Economist, Geek, Campaigner & wheelchair user who's been using all forms of public transport for 20+ years.
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