Pioneers Post

Paralympic blog: day 9, changing fundamental habits

8 September 2012
photo of London 2012 futuristic buildings

Social enterprise transport leader Anna Whitty is having the time of her life at London 2012 – convinced that it is possible to change people’s travel habits

As the week goes by, the feel-good factor in London increases.

The way that London has embraced the Paralympics has set a benchmark for future Paralympic Games. I know that everyone that I have been working closely with never really did see any difference between the two events and certainly from an organisational point of view they were always seen as Games Time, one big event. And I am having the time of my life, but struggling to convince my family that I am still “working”.

I am determined not to forget our teams, who really ARE delivering our services on the ground, no matter how remotely.

Today I headed out to Woolwich Arsenal, from where we are operating Accessible Shuttles to the Royal Artillery Barracks, home of Archery and Shooting. The public transport option involves local buses and some walking.

The venue does feel like it is in the middle of nowhere and the buildings glistened against the gorgeous blue skies. Our load zone area is in the blue-badge car park next door. This venue has been one with the least operational issues for us. The load zones at either end were deemed acceptable early on in the planning process. Yet to our amusement, a local resident dog walker, a bit of a character, has been espousing on a daily basis his opinion about the positioning of our zone nearer to the venue entrance. Why is it so far away? Why can’t it be closer? Health and Safety gone mad! You know that sort of thing. He certainly had a point.

We just enjoyed the squirming by local officials. Every day, the planners told us that the blue badge parking was going to be busy. “Fully booked”, they said. Every day we looked at the space in the car park and thought to ourselves, “no it isn’t”. Though to be fair, the disparity was within the assumptions of how long people would stay.

We also came across a handful of disabled spectators who came more than once and as soon as they realised that there was an accessible alternative within public transport, they were very happy to leave their cars at home.

The messages here are simple. We can change people’s travel habits. If there is a suitable alternative, people will use it. Secondly, there is no better experience than first-hand on-the-ground experience particularly by those with responsibility who will have the opportunity to influence planning in the future.