Monday, 15 January 2018

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands - Part Thirteen: Utrecht to Nijmegen via Veenendaal, Ede and Arnhem

I cycled from Nijmegen to Utrecht in 2016 and so, almost exactly a year later, I decided to cycle in the opposite direction, from Utrecht to Nijmegen. Obviously I wanted to take a different route and chose to go through Veenendaal, which I'd previously read about on Mark Treasures blog, and also use the fast cycle route from Arnhem to Nijmegen. This would be a long ride and so I scheduled it for Wednesday, knowing that I wouldn't have any other rides between cities left after this. Accommodation for these trips is booked months in advance and so the dates are fixed as to when I ride, which means I ride whatever the weather. Had I done this trip a week earlier, as I was originally planning to do, then I would have been cycling through very high temperatures as the Netherlands was experiencing a European wide heatwave. Every time I told anyone in Utrecht I was planning to cycle to Nijmegen the following day they responded that I would get caught up in thunderstorms. Thankfully after getting wet on the ride from Nijmegen last year I had come back equipped with waterproof overalls.

I began my journey out of Utrecht along Voorstraat, a street I had already had a bad experience on during my time in the City. This time was no different as I and others had to pause whilst a bus drove on the cycleway. I continued along Biltstraat with light rain beginning, not heavy enough for me to get my waterproofs out but it was for others. I cycled under the large roundabout where it met the ring road and came out on the other side of the road, as I exited Utrecht.

 I could also see from here there was another bidirectional cycle track on the opposite side of the road as well, and it was being well used, despite the rain and the frequent buses along here. The cycle track continued behind a petrol station, briefly becoming a service road for houses alongside afterwards, but then reverting back to a cycle track. I passed by a bus stop, with ample bicycle parking spaces provided for local residents in this rural area cycling to the bus from their homes. I cycled through an underpass as I passed under the N412, and thanks to google maps I can travel back in time to see before this was built and cyclists had to wait at the lights to cross, rather than the much more convenient grade separation that exists today. 

The cycle track ended after here to become a service road alongside the main road, although I noticed that a cycle track continued on the opposite side of the carriageway. Whilst the road continued straight ahead to go into Zeist the N237 made a left turn here to bypass he town, as did I. I continued along a bidirectional cycle track alongside the road, with light rain continuing but not heavy enough for me to get my waterproofs out of my bag. I took the first right, bypassing the traffic lights, to cycle along Panweg towards Zeist. As I passed over the A27 motorway I couldn't help be impressed by the gigantic sound barrier that existed here and stretched well into the distance to protect the residents of this town from the noise of the motorway. 

As I entered Zeist I came to a roundabout with a bidirectional cycle track running around it. I was to turn left here and did so by going the "correct way" around 75% of it, rather than just turning left - I still can't quite get used to going the "wrong way" around a roundabout! A used a bidirectional cycle track alongside the road for a short while before I turned right where it lead me onto a minor road. At the end this joined up with a cycle track running along the N224, which cars could use for a short while to access a couple of properties before a barrier stopped them going any furtherThis route would continue for the next ten kilometres, a very pleasant route with a smooth, well maintained cycle track with a busy road on one side and forest on the other

The rain soon stopped and I thought about how lucky I was that I had managed to escape the promised thunderstorms, in the end it was just a light shower from Utrecht to here that simply kept me cool and didn't get me too wet. As I arrived on the edge of the town of Woudenberg, my planned route was to continue south along the N224 but I decided to head into the town to have a quick look instead. For the first time in the Netherlands I used British style "staggered" crossings with barriers, but for bikes, rather than for pedestrians. I was now on the most direct road running through the middle of Woudenberg, and what presumably would have been the main road for many years, before the N224 was built to bypass the town to the South. The first section of this road had wide cycle tracks alongside both sides and then a "fietsstraat" sign to indicate cars were guests as I reached the centre of the town, with a traffic calming layout. As I came to the centre of the town and the junction with the N226, the main route north / south of the town, only people cycling or walking could continue across it. 

I turned right here on to a tiled cycle track, which then became a service road and crossed over the road onto another service road which took me out of the town. Turning left I used a series of country lanes to serve a small amount of houses and farms, before it became a cycle track which ran alongside the railway and then joining up with another country lane. At the end of this road I came to a T junction and turned right onto another country lane but with a narrow bidirectional cycle track running alongside it. I stopped for a spot of lunch at a bench alongside here, right next to where the A12 motorway passed ahead and as I sat there I was impressed by how many teenagers were out cycling along this road, a constant stream of small groups of them, presumably heading to or from college in Veenendaal, which was still a few miles away. After I had finished my food I set off again behind three teenage boys cycling ahead of me, we all turned left after a short while to cycle along a road, turning right onto another road and then left onto a cycle track. I was now on the outskirts of Veenendaal and the route took me through residential areas on quiet residential streets that were not through routes for motor vehicles but were for people on bike or foot, and also along cycle tracks, direct and separate from the road network. 

At this point I was still, by pure coincidence, following the same three boys that I had first cycled behind over three miles away but decided to head south as I reached a main road in the town, just to have a look at the suburbs, and cycled along some cycle streets and roads with cycle tracks. I then took a direct cycle route into the centre of the city and onto the main shopping street, open only to those walking, cycling or vehicles loading at the shops. I briefly headed into a shopping centre at this point to grab a coffee and emerged to the street where the promised thunderstorms had suddenly appeared. Exceptionally heavy rain was pounding the streets outside 

Barely anyone was cycling but barely anyone was walking either, as we all huddled under the canopy by the entrance to the shopping centre to escape the torrential downpour. After around 20 minutes the rain eased slightly (but it was still raining hard) and I put my waterproofs on and set off again down the main shopping street. As it was raining so hard I didn't take my camera out too much for the rest of the journey. I turned left at a terrible junction with ASL and a cycle lane in the middle. I cycled along a tiled cycle track, which then became a smooth bidirectional cycle track before it peeled away from the main road and turned south. It then became a road leading to some residential properties and then turned left, as I exited Veenendaal. I headed east along some country lanes, a pretty unpleasant ride but more to do with the constant rain. I then reached the outskirts of Ede and took shelter under a bridge at a large motorway intersection. Whilst my waterproofs were keeping most of me dry my trainers, socks and feet were soaked through and I just needed a rest from the constants rain pounding my face. After a while I carried on and cycled over the A12 motorway on a cycling bridge alongside the N781. The original plan was to spend an hour or so exploring Ede but as the rain was heavy and the streets were so empty it seemed best just to push on towards Nijmegen. I cycled through Ede on a combination of cycle streets and cycle tracks and a fairly long section on a stepped cycle track, which is a rare sight in the Netherlands, just a shame it was too wet to get any decent pictures of it! I passed by De Fietser, a gigantic bicycle warehouse showroom where you can go to try and buy all sorts of bikes. I had intended to go in and have a look but due to the weather I'll have to make do with looking at the inside of it on streetview instead. I cycled alongside the railway out of Ede and then onto a path through the forests. 

Now, this was an excellent route and would have been a fun ride but at this point it once again started to pour down with torrential rain, so I couldn't enjoy it as much as I should have done. The route continued like this for the next ten kilometres, a really pleasant route through the forests but the rain was constant here so I didn't enjoy my surroundings as much as I'd have liked to. The path was puddle free though, despite the terrible conditions and so cycling through the forest was pleasant and not like your typical British National cycle route! 

As I approached the town of Oosterbeek the cycle track went onto a road, but so wet was it I couldn't even risk getting my camera out so here is a streetview link of the location instead. I soon arrived in Arnhem, where there was little appetite from me to explore the city in this weather, and so I crossed over the railway tracks and soon found my way onto the fast cycle route to Nijmegen. Once out of Arnhem the rain thankfully stopped and I was able to enjoy the ride again, although with a very wet bike and feet! 

I soon arrived in Nijmegen and was happy to have both ended my ride and also to be be back in this great city, which is always a pleasure to cycle through

Distance: Approx 86km / 55 miles
Time: Approx seven and a half hours
Photos taken: 470
Map of the route
Gallery:  70 photos here

An analysis of this trip by Jitensha Oni coming soon.

Previous Posts:

Part One - Hook of Holland to Rotterdam / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Two - Rotterdam to Gouda via Delft / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Three - Gouda to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Four - Utrecht to Amsterdam / Photo Gallery of this journey
Part Five - Amsterdam to Hook of Holland via The Hague / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Six - Hook of Holland to Breda / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Seven - Breda to Eindhoven via Tilburg / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Eight: Eindhoven to 's-Hertogenbosch / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Nine: 's-Hertogenbosch to Nijmegen / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Ten: Nijmegen to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Eleven: Hook of Holland to Gouda via Delft and Zoetermeer / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Twelve: Gouda to Utrecht, via a different route / Photo gallery of this journey

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands - Part Twelve: Gouda to Utrecht, via a different route

I've cycled from Gouda to Utrecht before, back in 2015, a journey that was mostly along a cycle track beside the N228, just south of the A12 motorway. This time around I decided to plot a different course running north of the A12 motorway, which would turn out to be a much more interesting and pleasant route. Before departing I spent the first part of Monday morning cycling around Gouda, taking pictures of people cycling before returning back to my hotel on the edge of the city to post about the school run I had just witnessed. After checking out of the hotel I was able to immediately cycle on a cycle track, which ran directly behind the hotel and led me under the A12 motorway and N451 road. I turned right to cycle alongside the A12 motorway but was shielded from it by a row of trees 

I crossed over a road, where the school / college run was still taking place and then continued alongside the motorway, safely separated from the lorries using it. 

This route would proceed along the A12 for the next few miles, with a few other people using it to get about their daily business, dressed in their daily getting about kind of clothesAs I approached the town oBodegraven the cycle track gradually moved closer to the N459 road and as I briefly stopped to take pictures of a house on the outskirts of the town with an array of decorations, a man dressed in lycra on a road bike looked towards where I was taking pictures and stopped to whip out his mobile to take a few snaps as well. The bidirectional cycle track continued into the town and I then turned right onto another bidirectional cycle track alongside a road heading east through an industrial area in the southern part of the town. There were a lot of lorries using this road, so I was glad to be separated from them. As the road turned north along the edge of the residential part of the town I couldn't help notice that you could access several residential roads from here by bike but not by car. Direct routes for those on bike or on foot, whilst those driving have to go the long way round. I passed under the railway line and then turned right as I approached the Oude Rijn river to cycle along a narrow path along it. 

This route would continue for around the next five miles, nestled between the houses and the river, a very nice and relaxing ride. After briefly stopping at a bench to eat a sandwich I continued on to the village of Nieuwerbrug, where the riverside path was restricted to pedestrians only and so I joined the road through the village before rejoining the path, which was being used by more people fishing than it was cycling. 

As I approached Woerden I once again left the path to join the road, a road which had no cycling infrastructure on it and it felt very British, before I turned left to where a tiled cycle track was available. I turned right, onto painted cycle lanes and cycled behind a teenager carrying some long piping, before turning left to use one of the few crossings of the circular moat/canal to get into the very centre of the city. I could have bypassed the centre altogether of course but thought it was worth a look whilst I was in the area. Once in the centre I cycled around a section of the inner ring road, which was one way (anticlockwise) for motor traffic but two way for cycling. 

A bit of an odd arrangement and I didn't think much of the painted cycle lane for those cycling anticlockwise, who had to share the road with buses. I then cycled south down Rijnstraat, a shopping street accessible by people walking and cycling only. I then used a small section of the inner ring road again to access a walking and cycling only bridge over the moat and out of the centre. The cycle track directly passed outside the railway station before looping under itself and leading me to a bidirectional cycle track alongside one of the main roads East out of the city. 

There were a couple of secondary schools located alongside this road and so naturally there were students cycling along the cycle track all the way out into the countryside. As the road turned north the cycle track turned into a narrow access only lane and continued alongside the railway line. 

I then turned left to cycle over the filtered lane that I had just used. From here I cycled on a road for a short while before being directed onto a narrow, unmarked bidirectional cycle track on the other side of the road. It soon switched to the other side of the road and became a marked, tiled cycle track. Crossing over the next T-junction I turned right onto a bidirectional cycle track, which narrowed before a left turn onto a road with painted lanes at each side, although this was being used by a family of cyclists.

The countryside suddenly gave way to housing as I reached the outskirts of Utrecht and after navigating a large roundabout I used a cycle track which became a service road. I then crossed over the road onto a wide cycle track which ran between the main road and the housing alongside. As the main road elevated over a road, the cycle track stayed at ground level, giving way to the next road along but then climbing back up to run alongside the main road again. 

I turned left at a cycle crossroads and passed under the road and railway line to cycle alongside Utrecht Terwijde railway station, although I'm not sure why I did this as to continue directly along the lovely wide cycle track would have been the most direct and more pleasant route. I soon turned right to go back under the railway line and road and then left to rejoin the cycle track. 

As the track lifted up past Utrecht Leidsche Rijn Railway station I looked to my right to see construction of this new neighbourhood underway, completely unaware that I was also passing over the A2 motorway, which had been buried underground in this spot between 2007 and 2012 to make way for this new development. As I looked down at the building work I could see people cycling through the construction sites; clearly they had built the cycling routes long before they had built the shops and houses that will one day be here. I passed over the canal and a long descent down from the bridge, past a wide, main road that will soon cease to exist and into the centre of Utrecht. 

Distance: Approx 40km /  25 miles
Time: Approx three hours
Photos taken: 380
Map of the route
Gallery:  62 photos here

An analysis of this trip by Jitensha Oni:

Previous Posts:

Part One - Hook of Holland to Rotterdam / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Two - Rotterdam to Gouda via Delft / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Three - Gouda to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Four - Utrecht to Amsterdam / Photo Gallery of this journey
Part Five - Amsterdam to Hook of Holland via The Hague / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Six - Hook of Holland to Breda / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Seven - Breda to Eindhoven via Tilburg / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Eight: Eindhoven to 's-Hertogenbosch / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Nine: 's-Hertogenbosch to Nijmegen / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Ten: Nijmegen to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Eleven: Hook of Holland to Gouda via Delft and ZoetermeerPhoto gallery of this journey

Monday, 8 January 2018

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands - Part Eleven: Hook of Holland to Gouda via Delft and Zoetermeer

For the third summer in a row I arrived into Hook of Holland, via an overnight ferry from Harwich, to spend a week cycling around the Netherlands. My previous two visits to the country had started by cycling into the small town to buy some breakfast from a local bakery, however this time I gave into the constant PA announcements and ate a buffet breakfast on the ferry itself. It wasn't a particularly satisfying meal and was considerably more expensive, therefore I expect to return to buying my breakfast from one of the local bakeries on my next trip to the country. However, choosing to eat on the ferry meant that as well as skipping a visit into the town I could use a cycle track for the first time; one which runs directly from the ferry terminal to the N223, alongside the railway line. To get to it I crossed what used to be the railway line but had been completely ripped up to be transformed into a metro line. The cycle track here is not particularly wide or even that well maintained, with some obvious temporary carriageway repairs, but as it is just a short route to and from the ferry port it isprobably only going to be used by tourists like me a couple of times a day. Still, it is nice to be able to use a cycle track almost as soon as you pass through passport control!
At the end of this cycle track I reached the N223 where instead of continuing along the water towards Maassluis as I had the last two times, I turned left to head north out of Hook of Holland via a bidirectional cycle track alongside the road. I crossed over the road, passing a couple of people on road bikes, enjoying an early Sunday morning ride on the same smooth cycle track as I was using on my heavy, luggage loaded Dutch bike. I soon turned right onto a track through fields 

and couldn't help notice that the barriers had been removed as I reached a road, something I would soon get used to on this trip as this seems to be recent common policy in the Netherlands. The cycle track continued alongside what seemed like a very quiet country lane before I turned left onto a narrow path along the waterway

I turned right into a newly created underpass, built out of what used to be a road when the junction was upgraded. Whilst some may criticise the Dutch for building new roads and junctions to increase capacity for motor traffic outside of their cities they do at least always upgrade their cycling infrastructure at the same time to improve journeys by bicycle also. This allowed a smooth, pleasant and safe journey through this junction, without interacting with motor traffic for me and others. Crossing over the road I used an old tiled cycle track, these are never as pleasant as the newer smooth asphalt cycle tracks but do still allow safe cycle journeys for those young and old

I passed alongside, but not under, another new looking bicycle underpass (this time with the barrier removed) and then turned right onto a cycle track between greenhouses, running parallel to the road on the other side of the greenhouse. I climbed up and over the "De Snelbinder" cycling viaduct, which you can read about on the Bicycle Dutch blog here, a very thorough explanation of why I had passed under and over recently reconstructed roads in this area. I briefly stopped to admire another cycle track from above before a hooped descent back down to ground level and then rejoining a narrow road alongside the water. There were a few houses and businesses located along here but no cars to be seen, only other cyclists and geese. The road bent away from the water as I continued my journey past numerous greenhouses and associated farmhouses, before a left turn led me onto a cycle track through fields

this was being used by people rollerblading, cycling and walking. I cycled underneath the N223 and then alongside it for the next mile and a half, safely separated from lorries alongside, before crossing over the A4 motorway into Delft.

I had visited Delft before, when I cycled from Rotterdam to Gouda back in 2015. I enjoyed my time there and vowed to come back one day and so spent the next hour exploring new developments on the edge of the city
I then cycled into the historic centre of the city to eat some lunch, passing by a supermarket which Mark Treasure writes about here, admiring the upgraded cycle infrastructure as I approached the centre; it really is remarkable and very impressive at how the Dutch continually improve their streets

Following lunch I continued on towards Gouda. I had made the same trip by bike between these two cities two years earlier and so took the opportunity to travel via a different route and to visit the city of Zoetermeer along the way. I began my journey out of the city alongside the new railway station, behind a family cycling. I turned right and cycled along a canal, over a filtered bridge and then down a residential road, also filtered to motor traffic at the end. This then became a pleasant path alongside the water

through woods and then past a large lake, which many people had come to enjoy via bike. The path continued with woods to my right and housing on the other side of the water to my left and was good enough to be used by all kinds of people on bikes . I crossed over a small bridge and then turned right (with another wide, pleasant cycle track continuing straight on to head south)

To my right, in the far distance, I could see other people cycling in small groups of ones or twos along another cycle track through the open countryside, running parallel and just under a kilometre away from the track I had just used. It really is exceptional to see how the Dutch have this wonderful dense network of cycle tracks criss-crossing through their rural areas, far more extensive than their motorway or railway network is. I turned left onto yet another cycle track

and then through a cycling crossroads and under the road the other cycle track I'd just given way to ran alongside. I passed through another similar looking underpass, this time under a railway, crossed over a road and then continued on through countryside and woods, with the cycle track being used by all kinds of people. A very pleasant part of the journey. As I reached the outskirts of Zoetermeer I could see on my map that a cycle & walking bridge existed over the A12 very close by and so took a short detour to go and have a look. Whilst pedestrians had a direct flight of stairs to the bridge those of us on two wheels had to take a long uphill route, turning three times to get there, and so soon started to regret my detour. The bridge wasn't particularly noteworthy but offered a view down to the cycle track which ran alongside the motorway underneath

Turning back the way I came I didn't have to go all the way back down to where I had started as another cycle track joined up halfway down, which led me through a not particularity pretty residential area. However it did provide safe conditions to cycle both alongside the roads and through housing developments and the greenery which surrounded them. As I came to yet another cycling and walking only bridge I remember thinking how amazing it was that people cycling have such a wide variety of direct, safe and obstruction free routes before remembering that this is really exactly how it should be. I then went through a business park, a very odd route for the fietsersbond route planner to choose but at least I was getting plenty of variety. I continued for a short section along a bidirectional cycle track beside a road and then turned left at a crossroads, although it was only a crossroads for people cycling, who had priority here

This was a quiet residential road with painted cycle lanes, which then became a cycle track under the railway line and A12 motorway. I turned right to travel along a cycle track beside the motorway, but with sound barriers present to reduce the noise of traffic. I also passed over other cycle tracks which were also running beneath the motorway and railway line

From this point the quickest and shortest way to get to Gouda would have been to continue along this cycle track alongside the motorway, which would have taken me directly into Gouda. However to my north lay Oosterheem, a new residential area of Zoetermeer and having been impressed by the cycling provisions of the new residential developments in Delft earlier in the day I felt it would only be sensible to detour at this point to go and take a look. I turned north and headed through a residential area and onto a bicycle road, the closure of the route to motor traffic under the road bridge making this safe for parents to cycle with their children, rather than the cycle marking "quietway" nonsense you get in London. I briefly stopped off at McDonalds, something I never do at home but the free wifi and decent toilets make this an attractive stop for coffee when I'm on long cycle journeys in the Netherlands. The cycle parking was well used and as many people seemed to be coming and going by bike as they were by car. 

Oosterheem was as great to cycle around as I was expecting it to be. A network of cycle routes separated from the road network crossing each other, with several cycling and walking only bridges, far more than existed for people in cars. These all linked up with each other, leading directly to residential properties and local amenities such as shops and the railway station, with ample bicycle parking. The main school and nursery alongside had a wide continuous cycle track right past it, whereas the road was access only for motor vehicles and could not be used as a through route. Meanwhile back in the UK and Sadiq Khan plans to tear down cycling and walking only routes in the Olympic Park to create new roads for motor traffic right past schools and homes! It began to lightly rain as I headed out of Zoetermeer towards the A12 motorway and then alongside it.

This was all very familiar as it was the route I had taken two years earlier, although as I approached Gouda the roadworks that were there had been completed and a fresh cycle track had been relaid

The same spot in 2015 and 2017

Turns out that these roadworks I had seen back in 2015 were the beginnings of a brand new road, now completed, which lead me through unfamiliar territory before seamlessly joining up with a more familiar route which took me into the centre of Gouda.

Distance: Approx 60km /  37 miles
Time: Approx  seven hours (several of those were spent cycling around Delft and Zoetermeer in circles)
Photos taken: 880
Map of the route
Gallery:  78 photos here

Ann analysis of this trip by Jitensha Oni:

Previous Posts:

Part One - Hook of Holland to Rotterdam / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Two - Rotterdam to Gouda via Delft / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Three - Gouda to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Four - Utrecht to Amsterdam / Photo Gallery of this journey
Part Five - Amsterdam to Hook of Holland via The Hague / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Six - Hook of Holland to Breda / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Seven - Breda to Eindhoven via Tilburg / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Eight: Eindhoven to 's-Hertogenbosch / Photo gallery of this journey

Part Nine: 's-Hertogenbosch to Nijmegen / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Ten: Nijmegen to UtrechtPhoto gallery of this journey

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Olympic Park in 2017, Part Five: The Stadium, Marshgate Wharf and Pudding Mill

The Olympic Stadium the London Stadium lies on an island between the River Lea and the City Mill River, where premier league football team West Ham now play. It was the centre piece of the games back in 2012 (obviously) and where the Pudding Mill river and Marshgate Lane Industrial Estate could be found before that. Over the other side of the City Mill River is the central spine of this area of the park; this was the main pedestrian route linking the two halves of the park during the 2012 games, now containing playgrounds and pretty greenery, but still a vital route for those of us living West of the park. South of here is the ArcelorMittal Orbit and the South Lawn, all former railway sidings and in the future Marshgate Wharf. Then on the other side of Waterworks River from here sits the Aquatics Centre and what will become Stratford Waterfront but was the Water Polo Arena in 2012 and fridge mountain before Olympic Park construction began. The main railway lines into and out of Stratford, Including the DLR and the crossrail tunnel exits, are south of here with the land between there and Stratford High Street due to become Pudding Mill

Long before the Olympics came along the area around the lower Lea Valley was marshes, these were drained to allow a series of factories to be built and that then became the Marshgate Lane Industrial Estate. I cycled this way shortly after London was announced as the winning bid to host the 2012 games, taking my camera with me

Forman's smoked salmon factory on Marshgate Lane, now situated on Fish Island
Where Forman's stood is now roughly where the goal in front of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand is

P.A. Finlay & Company LTD, now the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand
A side road containing the Mercedes service centre, now roughly the centre circle of the pitch 
The Pudding Mill River in 2007, a few weeks before this area was sealed off for construction works to begin. The river was filled in and the West stand of the stadium is now situated here

The entrance to Pudding Mill River prior to the Olympics above and the same spot alongside the West stand in 2016 below

Following construction of the Stadium I unfortunately did not manage to obtain tickets for any events during the 2012 games and then it, along with the island it sat on, was closed off for a further four years until West Ham United were ready to move in. During the games the central spine of the southern half of the park was a very busy thoroughfare for pedestrians, below is a picture I took during the Olympics in 2012

and the same spot today

It has mostly been replaced with a large amount of gardens, along with a small playground. It's a pleasant area to both walk and cycle and this is the route I will most often take if I'm visiting Westfield. The main route along the eastern edge is normally fine to cycle through but can get busy on some occasions, especially when it is sunny or on match days

The path along the western edge is far too narrow to mix people walking and cycling most of the time

What a delight it was on the first date that West Ham played at home to finally be able to cycle on the stadium island for the first time since I'd last been here back when it was the Marshgate Lane Industrial Estate ten years earlier.
Despite the pre-match crowds there was far more space available here to allow people to walk and cycle within the same space than there is in the central section alongside. However, I was particularly annoyed the following day to come back to find it all locked up again. The opening of Stadium Island ahead of every home game, and then closing it again shortly afterwards, continued for several months. Finally the gates were permanently pulled down making it possible to cycle along here at all times

During the anniversary games this summer temporary fences were erected on all bridges leading onto Stadium Island and these remain in place at all times as they have concluded it is quicker to search members of the public before they get onto the island, rather than before they get into the stadium. You can still cycle through these barriers on non-match days to use the stadium island as a more direct route but probably cannot on match days. I just hope they don't decide to construct permanent barriers on the stadium bridges that restrict people cycling from using it.

I took a ride around the stadium on the build up to West Hams first home game of last season and the cycle parking alongside where sweetwater will be was well used

By the time I got back round to it after circumventing the stadium it was completely over used with 3-4 bikes using every stand and others locked up to the fence alongside.

This is clearly going to be the most well used cycle parking location, it being the closest to the stadium on the same side as the canal towpath and main route from Victoria Park, a route many will choose to cycle here. Within days a sign had been erected onto the fence alongside

The usual ignorant attitude from the LLDC. I have never seen a single bike use this facility at any other time apart from when there is an event on in the stadium when it is always full.Why on earth would you park your bike here at any other time? There is nothing here! There is acres of space for the cycle parking to be increased to provide cycle parking for those who choose to cycle to events at the stadium.

The cycle parking on the South side of the stadium, alongside the loop road is also well used, as it is located right alongside the Greenway, which provides a traffic free route all the way from West Ham and beyond.

Here is the cycle parking during a match next to the South Lawn, south of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, quite a distance from the stadium, or indeed anything of interest at all. Ideally this cycle parking should be relocated closer to the stadium, ideally where it is over subscribed on the other side!

Meanwhile if you decide to cycle here using Transport for Londons cycle hire scheme then that is not possible as it is suspended for every game as there are not enough docking spaces to meet demand.

A lot of people drive to the stadium and have no trouble doing so with the A12 providing a direct and fast route from Essex. Waterden Road is backed up hours before every home game as drivers queue to park in the 4,500 capacity Westfield car park. Or they can park in the "state of the art" 850 multi-storey Stratford International train station car park and there is also the huge multi-storey car park next to Here East as well of course. However my trip round the stadium on the first day of the season last year I discovered drivers going to great lengths to be able to park their car for free

Cars parked at the back of the stadium (this area has since been fenced off)

Fish Island, in particular, suffers badly from this with every available bit of space taken up by parked cars on match days

The queues to exit Fish Island at the end of every game are ridiculous, yet the LLDC and Sadiq Khan want to build even more through roads for cars here! I also see crowds of people in West Ham tops walking back through the residential streets of Hackney, as parking for the games spreads out far from the stadium into neighbouring boroughs.

"Deal of the Century" was how West Hams move to the Olympic stadium was described, as the club pay £2.5m per year in rent (for contrast their yearly wage bill to players per year is £95m). London taxpayers footed the bill both to build and then to convert the stadium and continue to pay £20m per year (or £55,000 per day) to subsidise the losses the stadium makes. There has been all kinds of allegations of corruption with regards to this deal but clearly something has gone badly wrong and I predict this is not the last we'll hear of it.

Above: Marshgate Lane in late 2007 with demolition of the trading estate underway, taken from the Greenway bridge above. Below: the same view from the bridge today

Why such a huge space for a simple T junction with single carriageway roads on all approaches?
These days Marshgate Lane runs from Loop road under the Greenway to Pudding Mill Lane, close to it's junction with Stratford High Street. The Loop road runs to Carpenters Road from the right of this picture via a new bridge over the Waterworks River, built in 2009/10. Although closed to motor vehicles at present whilst the secondary school Booby Moore Academy is constructed it will reopen, with it's narrow lanes and inadequate cycle lanes

Marshgate Road runs under the Greenway but it did used to be  closed to motor vehicles with Pudding Mill Lane being the main road continuing onto Stratford High Street

Marshgate Lane in 2007 and 2017
In 2007 Marshgate Lane was fenced off under the bridge, with Pudding Mill Lane the main road from the Industrial Estate to Stratford High Street, behind the fence in the picture above. In 2017 Marshgate Lane is open to motor traffic and has been lowered. Pudding Mill Lane has been raised and is now open to pedestrians and cyclists only as a shared path (although there is no indication of this cycling route from the road on either side) 

The same road ten years apart
There have been an awful lot of changes to this area in the past ten years and the easiest way for me to explain those changes is via Google Earth

Pudding Mill prior to construction of the Olympic Park in 2007. Marshgate Lane is the blue dotted line, open to traffic as far as the Greenway bridge. Pudding Mill Lane in red is the main road from Stratford High Street to Marshgate Lane Industrial Estate. Barbers Road is in Black, a minor road with various businesses located on it. Pudding Mill Lane DLR station is highlighted in yellow

Pudding Mill in 2010, at the height of Olympic Park construction works. This is one of the main entrances to the park for construction vehicles and Olympic Park admin offices are also based here.  Marshgate Lane has been removed entirely, save for a small section at Pudding Mill Lane. Pudding Mill Lane remains open but is a dead end at Pudding Mill Lane DLR station. Barbers Road is still there but all the businesses gone and Pudding Mill Lane station remains open with a footpath leading to the Greenway. It is now a busy station used by many construction workers.
Pudding Mill in 2012, during the Olympics. It is now one of the routes for vehicles into the park and the various tents are where the Army search vehicles before they enter the park. The top end of Marshgate Lane has returned, as has Pudding Mill Lane, both routes into and out of the park via a one way system. Barbers Road has been reconstructed slightly further south. Pudding Mill Lane DLR is highlighted in yellow, it remained open up until just before the Olympics began. South of it the future DLR station is under construction (in orange), along with viaducts the tracks will sit on, as part of crossrail works.

Pudding Mill in 2013, a year after the Olympics. Both Pudding Mill Lane and Marshgate Lane end and are closed to traffic, although the top half of Marshgate Lane exists as a route into the park for construction vehicles from the large car park / work site area. Barbers Lane has now been removed entirely as the new DLR station construction takes place where it used to be. The older DLR station is still open and pedestrians (and cyclists) can access it from the Greenway via a series of long boarded footpaths through the construction site. I used to travel this route often with my daughter to head to Mudchute Farm, with various workmen employed purely to safely assist cyclists and pedestrian across the former Marshgate Lane by halting any construction traffic

Pudding Mill in 2015 with the New DLR station open. Marshgate Lane is now open to motor traffic as a through route into the park for the first time in many years with the former Pudding Mill Lane now a shared walk / cycle route under the Greenway. 

Pudding Mill in 2017. Marshgate Lane is open. Pudding Mill Lane is also back open but terminates at the new Pudding Mill Lane DLR station. Barbers Road has been rebuilt south of its original position. Where the former DLR station was is now the tunnel exits for crossrail.

Barbers Road in 2008, as captured by the Google Streetview car, with the entrance to Pudding Mill Lane DLR on the right. This is where the Southbound platform of Pudding Mill Lane DLR station now sits. 

Barbers Road under construction in early 2017, taken from one of the fenced off pedestrian routes into the new Pudding Mill Lane DLR station. It had been part of the worksite so reconstructed from scratch

The completed Barbers Road, taken from the DLR station. Clearly no space for protected cycle tracks here! 
When the new Pudding Mill Lane opened access was via various walkways through the construction site surrounding it. The cycle parking was located inside the station itself, at the bottom of the stairs to the platforms and it was quite fun to cycle into the station, past the ticket machines, to use it

The New Pudding Mill Lane DLR station bicycle parking, with the old DLR station visible in the background, via Diamond Geezer on flickr 
Earlier this year, as Barbers Road reopened a new large square was also opened in front of the station

With the bicycle parking also relocated from the station to the far end of the square

Which is pretty inconvenient. A shame it could not have been relocated closer to the station and, with all the space available, more parking added.

Cycle parking at a train station in Zoetermeer. See this location on google street view 
Once the crossrail tunnel exits were built then a new walking and cycling route was built under them and the other spans of the railways here.

It is very wide and links up nicely with the route on top of what was Pudding Mill Lane under the greenway but is again a shared path and no way to access it from the road

A shame that a cycle track and separate footway were not constructed, to reduce the risk of conflict

A walking and cycling tunnel under train tracks in Rotterdam, via the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain 
This cycle track could have continued under the Greenway and alongside the Loop Road, connecting Hackney Wick and Fish Island with the protected cycle tracks of cycle superhighway 2, along Stratford High Street

The Loop Road in 2012 and 2017
Another missed opportunity to create a safe and continuous cycle route that future generations who live in the area could use to get to the new schools being built.

Then there is the reconstruction of Pudding Mill Lane this year, which is terrible. A road with wide junctions designed for high speed motor traffic and pedestrians have to go out of their way to be able to cross it

Another blank slate, another missed opportunity.

Back in the Olympic Park and whilst the Aquatics Centre is not fun to cycle to via Carpenters Road

Most will cycle along the river on the other side and there is ample bicycle parking, which is always well used by families going for a swim

Although there is also bike parking located in the car park alongside, which is never used. It would make sense to relocate it to the location above, where there is plenty of room to do so. The route along the water is well used by people of all ages on bikes

This has been the location of the urban beach for the last three summers

Where the LLDC again provided no bicycle parking at the entrance and put up anti cycling signs for no reason whatsoever

But one day this will be Stratford Waterfront with residential buildings, V&A East, Sadler's Wells east and  active and UAL's London College of Fashion, promising a waterfront of calm spaces, providing s a direct connection to the river where there will be shops, bars and restaurants alongside staff, student and public entrances to the buildings. Which sounds nice, I just hope that a proper cycle route is also constructed on what will always be a very busy route to the swimming pool.

Could something such as this be constructed?

And there ends my tour of the Olympic Park in 2017. It has some fantastic features; the swimming pool is excellent and I use it often. Copper Box is also a great venue and has allowed my daughter to spend time at sports clubs during the school holidays. The parklands areas of the park are excellent and a really nice place to relax. It is excellent to access as a driver as well, with plenty of roads and more to come. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for cycling on the parks roadways which is mostly unpleasant. However it is possible to fix this; Sweetwater has not yet been built. East Wick has not yet been built. Stratford Waterfront has not yet been built. Pudding Mill has not yet been built. There is a real opportunity to create some fantastic cycle route in these new neighbourhoods over the coming years and, eventually, sort out some of the poor ones built in recent years, to create a truly liveable neighbourhood.

Previous Posts:
Part one - East Wick
Part two - East Village and Chobham Manor
Part Three: Westfield Stratford City
Part Four: Sweetwater and Fish Island