As London makes final preparations for the XXX Olympiad this week, I predict web hits to the mayor’s cycle scheme are probably escalating.
With an extra one million passengers predicted to join the city’s already overcrowded underground network this summer, most Londoners are currently absorbed in seeking out alternative transport arrangements.
We have all heard about the power of “nudge.” The arrival of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle is nudging Londoners in two interesting ways.
First, it is nudging Londoners to be more self-propelled. With thousands more visitors in an already busy city, we all fear not being able to get anywhere over the next two weeks unless under our own steam. Walking maps are being handed out at train stations, stout shoes are being purchased and bikes are multiplying by the day.
There is an irony here. When London won the Games in 2005, the aspiration was encourage thousands more people into participative sport. The Olympic Games were going to be Great Britain’s passport to health and well being. It hasn’t quite turned out like this – last week an international survey cited the British as one of the most inactive nations on earth. Yet, somewhat belatedly, the Games is getting many millions of Londoners moving – out on their cycles and pounding the streets. The number of bikes and walkers on London streets has already multiplied in recent years due to factors such as rising transport costs. The Olympics is providing another strong nudge forward for this trend.
Another potential nudge is the prospect of the Games leading to more remote working in the city. With dire warnings in place for transport overload, the London Organising Committee and mayor’s office has suggested to London offices that if staff can work from home they should.
Some commentators are heralding this as the potential dawn of a new revolution in home working for parts of the UK economy. Again the jury is out as to whether this will be a substantive change but has certainly led many to examine their working and commuting habits.
The Games organisers talk of the London 2012 legacy in terms of dynamic new urban communities, inspirational green spaces and more young people in sport. The reality – as Londoners hit the cycle lanes and kit out their home offices – is that the Olympic legacy for London will probably turn out to be a more varied and surprising affair. Nudges can happen in the most interesting ways.