Sean O'Grady: Olympic 'Zil' lanes leave Londoners feeling like neglected step children, not members of the Olympic family

 

Driving around London on the first day of what might be termed a ‘roads lockdown’ gave me an excellent impression of that it might be like to live in a once-proud city that had suddenly come under the heel of a foreign invader, or perhaps some home-grown unelected, unaccountable political elite that had chosen to arrogate such power unto itself that ordinary citizens were no longer able to use the roads that they have bought and paid for with their taxes.

Oh sorry, that’ll be Locog, and it is precisely what has happened with the Olympics Roads network and the detestable “Games Lanes”. These have been established so that members of the “Olympic Family” – bureaucrats and even the most hopeless of no-chance competitors – can get to the games on time, and sod the rest of us.

Not for nothing do they remind us of the old Soviet Union and its Zil lanes reserved for senior Communist Party apparatchiks. The traffic enforcement officials I encountered on my journey were polite and helpful, but I couldn’t help seeing them as Quislings, there to do the bidding of the people who won't even let a local flower shop use the Olympics symbol to drum up a bit of business. So much for the economic boost we have been promised.

I leave aside any questions of why so much of the accommodation and other facilities have been sited in central and west London whereas the Olympic park is in east London, and thus why we had to have these special lanes in the first place. Sufficient to say that as someone who lives and works in the capital I did not feel a member of the Olympic family, more a neglected kid.

As it happens because The Independent's test route was more or less that used by the Olympics elite the run was actually quite fast – I made it about 47 minutes all in. Most of the traffic lights that usually hold one up along the main east-west arteries were suspended, as were many of the turns in and out of the lanes. The Olympic lanes were, of course, pretty empty, but maybe they will fill up when things get going. The people I really felt sorry for were the poor pedestrians; their crossings have also been closed off and rows and rows of bollards and metal grilles fencing off central reservations mean that if you live the east End you will not be able to cross any major road for the foreseeable future. Bad news if you want to nip out for some milk.

Off the Olympics route it is another, slower, story. Because the traffic lights and turnings have all been altered to accommodate the needs of the “Olympic Family” (just love that doublespeak) it is virtually impossible to cross the river, for example, and all the side roads around the route will be horrendously congested, as I have found on my journey back home. This took rather longer than it might have in normal conditions.

The Honda Civic I drove in was smooth running, well engineered, reliable, understated and economical:  everything the London Olympics are not. I never thought that driving in London could get much worse until Lord Coe came along. Of course we can’t have the games without the special lanes, but for those of us who see the Olympics as an overblown running race, that is no great comfort as we sit in jams, missing appointments, and being made late for work in this gold-medal traffic tragedy.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...