Glorious sights of the Great Wen: the Beckton Alps

In celebration of the ugliness of London, here in all their glory are the Beckton Alps, a toxic slag-heap known in the local dialect as the “Беҷтон Алпс, иннит?”…

Беҷтон Алпс, иннит?
Беҷтон Алпс, иннит? (photo: Francis Sedgemore)

This photo was taken yesterday from a foot and cycle bridge over the A13, otherwise known as the Highway to Hell. The bright blue band you can just about see running along the hard shoulder of the westbound carriageway on this virtually traffic-free, post-rush hour early evening is the famous Barclays Cycle Superhighway #3. What a lovely way to commute to and from work in your stimulating central London office environment!

Talking of the Cycle Superhighways, now that the launch period is over and I am no longer under contract to lead guided rides along CS3, I can comment without restriction.

The launch of the Cycle Superhighways was a disaster, with Transport for London failing to attract media or other attention beyond a brief photo opportunity for mayor Boris Johnson at the opening of CS7 in Clapham. In the end I led just one ride along CS3, and that with only two punters: a 13 year-old lad and big brother, both natives of Beckton, and neither of them commuters.

TfL then invoked a cancellation clause in the contract and sacked the ride marshals without compensation, instructing me and other leaders to cancel future scheduled rides if more than three participants turned up. What impeccable logic.

I subsequently presented myself on two more occasions, but like a lemon in my dayglo TfL vest I sat on a bench outside Beckton DLR station for half an hour until 07:30, with no-one wishing to be led into central London. Result? TfL cancelled the ride leader contracts, and thus saved the city a few groats in fees. The two public relations firms contracted by TfL to handle the publicity for the Cycle Superhighways – e.g., leafleting outside railway and bus stations by unenthusiastic and distinctly bored-looking non-cyclists – will no doubt be paid in full.

My earnings for the project will be £195; they would have been the best part of a grand had TfL got it right, and not cancelled the contract after I had committed the time with no hope of recouping it.

As for cycling into central London from the eastern suburbs and Essex, I would recommend avoiding CS3, which is a horrible and in part dangerous route. Cyclists should instead leave a little more time for their journey, and ride instead through Beckton Park down to the Albert Dock, and then along the Thames Path to Tower Bridge. Cycling to work should be enjoyed, not endured.