Thinking of taking your bike on a train to see the Olympics? Well, the basic advice from the South's train operating companies is: don't. At least, not a bike that doesn't fold.
There's been a raft of 'emergency' restrictions involving the carriage of cycles from a number of different train operators over the past few months. South West are the latest company to report their restrictions, and they have the most draconian of any firm so far. Basically, they're not allowing non-folding bikes on any of their trains from Friday 27 July to Sunday 12 August and Wednesday 29 August to Sunday 9 September. That's any train at all, not just ones that you might get on to go to an Olympic event. So if you normally commute with your bike from Bracknell to Reading or you're on holiday with your bike on the Isle of Wight, the trains are off limits for the whole of the Games.
It seems the train companies' stock response to any possible conflict is to remove the conflict by removing the bikes. That way they can shoehorn more paying passengers in, we guess; what all the people who would normally commute part by bike using these routes are supposed to do isn't clear. Presumably they'll end up adding to the overcrowding on the tube and bus services in the capital.
"It is ironic that the Olympics, the point of which in part is to inspire physical activity, has resulted in people having to reduce their cycling," say the CTC on their website. "The temporary closure of public spaces in London and elsewhere is having similar effects. CTC is dismayed at the proposals, which will greatly undermine the potential for people to cycle to see the races and other events. We are in talks with train operating companies to try and improve the situation."
Sustrans aren't happy either. "The Olympic Games presents an excellent opportunity to get people active, but decisions such as these are contradicting the advice that we want to see more people cycling in London during the games," said German Dector-Vega, London Director of the charity. "There’s real concern about what happens after the games. Will South West Trains decide that taking bikes is just too much hassle and ban them altogether? It’s not too late for South West Trains to reverse their policy and allow people to book reserved spaces for their bikes for their trip to the Games."
Cycle campaigner Dave Holladay has also been in touch, and told us, "I've already dealt with a CTC member in Kent who has made advance booking for rail travel (using South East Trains & First Great Western) with bike reservations, to which South East's response was basically, 'Well, tough: we've changed the rules now.' I think there are a number of others, and it would be a supreme irony if cycling sport events where riders are taking bikes on the train were harmed by the effects of the Olympics bike bans."
Here's a round-up of the other restrictions in place.
Southern trains have effectively banned non-folding bikes on any route that might prove useful to get to an Olympic event. From Friday 27 July to Sunday 12 August and Wednesday 29 August to Sunday 9 September non fully folded bikes will not be allowed on any Southern or Gatwick Express train on the following routes:
- Any Gatwick Express service
- Mainline services between London Bridge/London Victoria and Gatwick (including via Redhill)
- Metro routes
- West London Route between Watford Junction and East Croydon
They're also banning bikes on the Road Race weekend to stations serving the route. From start of service on 28th July to close of service on 29th July, non fully folding bikes will not be permitted on trains between London Bridge/London Victoria and Box Hill & Westhumble on routes via Mitcham Junction, West Croydon, Sutton, Epsom and Horsham.
South Eastern are banning all non-folding bikes on services in and out of London during the Olympic and Paralympic periods. The cycle policy also applies to joint Southeastern and First Capital Connect services operating south of London Blackfriars (between London and Kent). That means that you can't take your bike on services terminating in London even if you're not going there with your bike.
FGW run services from Reading to Gatwick passing through Dorking, but non-folded bikes won't be accepted on those services on the Road Race weekend of 28-29 July. We're not aware of any further restrictions on services from the West into London on FGW trains; the inter-city services have separate bike storage which isn't really useful for anything else.
Cycles will not be accepted on any service between Westbury and Weymouth during the Olympic Sailing events either, 29 July - 11 August inclusive.
If you're thinking of taking your bike to the Mountain Biking at Hadleigh Farm then you won't be using the train. c2c have banned all bikes from the Leigh-on-Sea to London service during the MTB weekend, 11-12 August.
Cycles may not be carried on days when a major event is taking place at the Millennium Stadium. For dates of events refer to the website or call Customer Relations Department on 0845 6061 660.
No ordinary (i.e. non-folding) cycles will be accepted on Heathrow Express services throughout the duration of the Games (from 13 July to 14 Sept).
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.