Cycling has unmistakably taken off in the UK, fuelled by many catalysts. In London it was cemented by Boris Johnson’s Cycling Vision 2020, which aimed to double the number of journeys made by bike each day, bringing huge health and lifestyle benefits, not just to cyclists but – thanks to reduced emissions, less traffic and greener public spaces – to every London resident and visitor.
The Vision is working, as in March 2016 TFL stated, “In zone 1, during the morning rush hour, 32% of all vehicles on the roads are now bicycles” and they anticipate that the number of commuters by bike “will overtake the number commuting by car in three years”. This is a massive shift toward pedal power, yet we’ve only just started, for in Amsterdam and The Hague up to 70% of all journeys are by bike.
So where will all these new cyclists park? Cycle parking is space hungry: a problem to local authorities that try to de-clutter streets and improve the public realm. A few token Sheffield-type stands may be installed but these do nothing to deter theft. The ONS recorded 327,000 bike thefts in the UK from April 2015 to March 2016.
So who’s providing cycle parking? Each planning authority sets the ratio of bikes required within new buildings. In central London the London Plan requires 1 cycle space per 90 sq m for office premises whereas in Cambridge three times as many spaces must be installed.
The London Plan’s parking ratio equates to around 13% of occupants in new office buildings having access to a space, therefore London could never grow to Cambridge’s cycling level: many older buildings don’t have any capacity and vacant car spaces have already been converted.
Planning dictates the numbers of bikes provided in new development, yet how many spaces are available to the public? Due to security concerns, only occupants of buildings can access the cycle parking, with only a few stands at the entrance solely for visitors.
Perhaps the railways are providing sufficient cycle parking? The Dutch ensure that all their stations are ‘mixed-modal’ and provide thousands of cycling spaces at larger stations.
In the UK we tend to look at current take-up of cycle parking at stations to assess future demand: a significant problem that holds back cycle growth. For instance, we’re led to understand that once rebuilt, Twickenham station will provide just 100 cycle spaces, which equates to just 1.2% of passengers able to park a bike at the station.
There needs to be a step change in cycle parking provision and authorities must start looking at parking on a qualitative basis. An undercover station cycle hub does nothing to encourage people to utilize it (especially if there’s a charge), as theft is still a deterrent and how do you know whether a space is available?
Fortunately Eco Cycle, an automated cycle parking system, provides a solution. The base system stores 204 bikes, either below or above ground, and it takes just 13 seconds to retrieve a bike. With its small footprint it can be a discreet addition to the public realm or be integrated into new buildings, offering access to the public. You can safely leave helmets and bags on the bike and on an app can see the availability of spaces.
The Eco Cycle in Action
The solution to the cycling revolution lies with smart infrastructure to inspire cycle growth. Government policy will need to change to ensure adequate parking is provided, as it’s inseparable from cycling.
Nick is the Managing Director of Eco Cycle, a business that is passionate about mass storage solutions.