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Uproar as towpath billed as primary walking and cycling Olympic route suddenly fenced off

16:35 11 July 2012

Open Our Towpath protest on Sunday July 8, photo credit Lucy Pearce

Open Our Towpath protest on Sunday July 8, photo credit Lucy Pearce

Archant

A well-used towpath billed on maps as one of the primary walking and cycling routes to the Olympic Park, was suddenly shut last week, 23 days before the Games begin.

Over 50 people came together at the weekend to protest against the sudden closure on July 3 of the two-mile stretch along the River Lea, which links Homerton Road to Bow roundabout in Tower Hamlets.

The path is blocked by barriers and will not reopen until September 10 for unspecified “security reasons.”

Now cyclists wanting to make the journey face a treacherous diversion.

While the towpath route is “smooth, direct and traffic free,” according to the London Cycling Campaign, the diversion which is over a mile longer “has over 40 turnings, including a left and right turn on Bow Road and the horrendous Hackney Wick motorway junction.”

A group set up on social networking site Facebook called Protest the Lea Towpath Closure now has over 200 members who are demanding the route is re-opened immediately.

Junior doctor and co-organiser of the protest, Ruth-Anna Macqueen, who uses the towpath to commute said: “The route that TfL are suggesting I take instead includes the notorious Bow Roundabout where two cyclists were killed at the end of 2011 and it isn’t something I am looking forward to negotiating.”

Riverside Close resident Pedro Rayna, who uses the path to access Victoria Park with his son, said taking children to the playground has “become extremely dangerous.”

“Those who drive don’t even have the alternative to drive there because of massive parking restrictions in the area,” he said.

“No benefit, no legacy, no real enhancement for the local people, and what is more these Games continue to relay a loss of amenity at the expense of local communities,” he added.

A police spokesman said the move was taken because of “the specific geography of the area” and its proximity to the Olympic Park.

“We recognise that these restrictions will impact on users of the towpath, and we have worked to find a solution that will minimise disruptions as well as ensure the safety and security of the Games,” he said.

A LOCOG spokesman said the decision was made after discussion with the Metropolitan Police, Home Office, and British Waterways.

“LOCOG is continuing to advise cyclists to arrive at Victoria Park to access the Olympic Park during the Games and this is unaffected by the security closure. We apologise for any inconvenience that may be caused,” he said.

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