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London Olympics: No clear winners in traffic-hopping around the city

July 26, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Buses and cars stand in gridlocked traffic in central London on the eve of the start of the Olympics.
Buses and cars stand in gridlocked traffic in central London on the eve of… (Nic Bothma / EPA )

"Avoid driving in central London today."

That's the advice from GetAheadoftheGames.com Thursday, just one day before the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics in the British capital.

Indeed, the crush of visitors giddy with Olympics fever adds up to a traffic headache for anyone trying to get around the central city by car. Even London's mighty public transportation system may not be up to the task of handling the hordes. On Wednesday, taxis, the Tube, trains and even a cable car experienced delays and closures -- without the Games being in full swing.

Driving

The problem for drivers, taxis and anyone else using surface streets appears to be closures and restrictions on what's called the Olympic Route Network, which links key venues and sites with expedited lanes for athletes and officials. Though London's Guardian newspaper reports that traffic on the route's opening day Wednesday started out as being light, it has caused confusion for some who know the city well.

Fergus Bell, a Londoner who works for the Associated Press, had to call up maps on his tablet to help his taxi driver find alternate routes during what should have been a half-hour ride to central London. "I abandoned the driver to his fate," Bell wrote. "Bags and all, I jumped out at an Underground station and took a delightfully smooth 12-minute journey to my destination and learned a lesson: Stick to what you know and trust your instincts."

The Times' Bill Dwyer reported that taxi drivers were so incensed about the closure of lanes given over to Olympic vehicles only, they staged a work stoppage Monday. "The key tourist area around the Tower Bridge took an hour of passage time, where 10 minutes would be closer to the norm," Dwyer wrote.

Public transportation

Transportation woes weren't restricted to the streets either. The Circle and Hammersmith lines on the extensive London Underground, a.k.a. the Tube, were closed for a time Wednesday, shutting off access to key stops in the central city. Other lines  experienced delays too, according to the Guardian.

And a cable car strung across the Thames River in East London to shuttle folks between two Olympic venues shut down, stranding 60 people in midair for more than half an hour before it started up again.

Online tips for travelers

So what's the best way to get around? It depends where you are going to or from, and how you plan to get there. Check out options and traffic updates at these websites, which also have Twitter feeds for up-to-the-minute information:

Transport for London recommends walking or cycling to destinations around the city. The website outlines different options -- the Underground, light rail, trains, buses, river services and others -- for getting around and where there may be delays or closures.

Get Ahead of the Games gives real-time updates as well as projections on street traffic, Tube and train delays, etc. It posts a daily bulletin that lists what events are happening, what street routes to avoid and what areas of the city are likely to be busiest.

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