Why cycle storage matters...





Any barrier to cycling is a bad thing - and there are many psychological barriers that can build up to such a level that you never end up using your bicycle at all ("It's too cold, I'm too tired, I can't be arsed to carry my bike down five flights of stairs....")  It might seem ridiculous, but in order for there to be a massive increase in cycling rates in this country cycling needs to be made easier.  One way to do this is to ensure that those people who live in inner-city and high density areas (those, who I think it is fair to presume have the most potential for increasing their cycle trips) have somewhere to store their bikes easily and securely.

Cycle theft in London has been a growing phenomenon recently.  Nobody wants to have to carry two or three different kinds of lock around with them, but sadly it's often a necessity here (that, or resorting to using a Brompton and taking it everywhere with you, as oppose to leaving it in the street.)  But, if you don't feel safe locking your bike up outside, or if there is nowhere suitable to lock it - and you can't afford a Brompton -  you don't want to have to carry your bicycle up and down into your home twice a day.  (The stairs up to my flat are Amsterdam-esque in their narrowness - it takes two of us to carry a bicycle indoors and work it up to our pad)  You want to be able to know that your chosen mode of transport is going to be there for you when you need it, not sprirted away to the bottom of the local canal...



(Bike frame on the Regent's Canal at Victoria Park.  Photo via Velo Runner blog, with thanks)

Consider the motor car and think how easy it is to use.  It's pretty secure in itself with it's central locking and immobilising systems, can be left on the street and isn't easy to steal.  To open it you just have to press a button, turn a key and away you go.  We need to make bicycles as easy to use as that!

It's great that there is more bike parking in the city centre these days (though we do need more), and I've already written about the woeful inadequecies of cycle parking at central London stations, but how about some joined up thinking from our Borough leaders and planners on ensuring that there is somewhere to park your bike at home too?  The planning standards of my home borough, Tower Hamets, dictate that new residential developments only need provide one cycle parking place for every three flats (bearing in mind that developers usually count one Sheffield stand as parking for two bikes), and one 'secure place' for every new house.  For motor vehicle parking all new residential buildings must have one car parking space per dwelling (plus one visitor space for every 10 dwellings!) - hardly the kind of far-sitedness needed to bring about substantial change in a Borough that is a spit from Central London and is stuffed with Tube lines, buses, London Overground and the Docklands Light Railway.  The Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington on the other side of town is slightly better, mandating for "Space suitable for the convenient, safe and secure storage of at least 1 bicycle per dwelling unit."

Of course, developers are driven by their bottom line and will not be keen to give over too much of their expensive valuable land to cycle parking, especially when car parking spaces might seem more desirable (though there have been recent moves to the contrary according to London's estate agents), but with a modicum of imagination, good quality cycle parking can be provided on street and include traffic calming measures at the same time (see the Beech Croft Road experiment over at Roadwitch)  Well-maintained and used cycle parking also has the added beneficial psychological effect of demonstrating to other residents how many cyclists there are on their street, and might help them consider getting back on their bikes themselves.

What is the cycle provision in your local community like?  Are there bike stands on your street? How many locks do you carry?  Do you even dare leave your bicycle outside at home at night?  I'm keen to hear your thoughts!

13 comments:

Cait said...

I very rarely leave my bike outdoors but then I'm very lucky in that most of my journeys are to and from indoor locations (work has a secure basement where all bikes are stored). I do always carry two locks and one of those long wires with me though, just in case. I've always found that a) not buying a posh bike and b) keeping my non-posh looking bike fairy scruffy helps.

I was reading today about the initiative to buy a whole slew of laptops and provide broadband for a bunch of disadvantaged kids across Britain, and that is admirable, but it has also struck me for some time that the health benefits (and green benefits) of cycling are so huge, there almost ought to be an 'entry level' bicycle & maintenance kit/DVD available which, like the OLPC product, can be bought insanely cheaply, or more to the point, be bought in order to give it away. If everyone had bikes, would the resale value go down, and make bike theft almost pointless?
An entry level bike initiative would also provide jobs and training for bunches of people to open bike workshops, and the effects on public health would be fantastic.

All of which has nothing to do with bike storage! We do have a teeny back garden, luckily, and ended up buying a sort of zip up tent thing to store the bike that doesn't take up much space, but I do long at some point for a place with a garage - the irony is not lost. And for many who might find an 'entry level' bike scheme most beneficial, there's absolutely nowhere for people to park safely.

anna said...

I have a U-Lock and and an additional cable lock (since I use quick fasteners). Bicycle parking can be a problem -- not only theft, also vandalism. There are far too few bike racks in Vienna, but in the winter it's ok. I only leave the bike outside if I really have no other option. On the other hand: nobody stole my bike for 13 years now and my flatmate had his bike for more than a year before it got stolen (he NEVER used any lock!!!). I think if one has a good lock and locks the bike properly (not just a wheel or so) than it's not such a big problem. At least in Vienna it's a myth that so many bikes get stolen. But a lot of people still use this as a cheap excuse for not cycling.

Hope the situation in London will improve and that you will soon also be able to enjoy biking everywhere and anytime.

Mark said...

@Anna The idea of not locking your bike AT ALL is entirely foreign here - sadly, enough bikes are stolen in urban areas in order for most people to use two or three different types of lock. I agree it's always a good thing to have more good strong bike stands to lock your bicycle up too.

@Cait - the idea of a free bicycle programme is fantastic! Of course, as you say, those who are probably most in need of bicycles in urban areas probably wouldn't have somewhere to put them. Still, a 'sure sart' bicycle scheme wouldn't be a bad thing at all...

Anne said...

I keep my bike in my living room, and it's an entirely unsatisfactory arrangement! I've thought of concreting in a bike-parking staple (I think similar to your Sheffield Stand) somewhere in my little driveway, but there's still the issue of weather protection. So, living room it is, for now.

I feel very lucky to have secure underground bike parking at my workplace--roll on in, card-operated door opener, hanging racks, the whole thing, smooth as ice. Was very disappointed to learn that the city building code here (Portland, US) for multi-family residential construction was upgraded not to require one or two bike parking places per unit, but only one per 1.5 units--and many don't allow tenants to bring bikes into their apartments!

Much change still needed. Happily, five-flight walkups with "Amsterdam"-esque stairways are pretty rare here. Your situation sounds much more trying.

Mark said...

@Anne - your work cycle lock-up sounds a dream -I am currently trying (and failing) to allow my bike to be taken into our works car garage - apparently there is a risk I might scratch cars with my bicycle!

As for keeping your bicycle in the living room, I suppose this is not as bad as keeping it in your bathroom as one respondent on Twitter admitted. Apparently it makes it hard to wash your hands (eew!)

Agreed that much change is needed, on so many fronts, there almost needs to be a 'designing for bicycle living' standards document!

Thanks for stopping by,

Mark

Steph said...

I'm three flights up a 100 year old tenement at home in Edinburgh, and bike gets kept in our 1 1/2 cycle width box room, there are usually a few chained up on the landings too, as there is just enough room to get past with the handlebars going into the stairwell void (a concept that modern buildings don't seem to get!)

Wouldn't imagine leaving my bike outside, but I live on a very main road in a slightly rougher area.

Work fitted a bike stand when I started cycling, which was nice of them, it's of the basic wheelbender model, but my work is just left of the middle of nowhere so not really an issue.

Mark said...

@Steph Thanks for stopping by. Your house sounds like a bit like mine; ie old and a bit of a bugger to get a bicycle into.

It's great that your work place has given you cycle parking, let's hope it encourages others to give it a try too!

Mark said...

Remember folks, you heard it all here on i b i k e l o n d o n - we publish a blog post on 'Why cycle storage matters' and ttwo days later The Independant no less runs a similar story. Great minds think alike!

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/house-and-home/property/urban-cycling-property-pedal-power-1865830.html

Anne said...

Hi again, Mark. Thought you might like to see what our in-garage parking looks like.

You can see the old yellow parking-space lines, and just make out the yellow wheel-stop, moved back about five feet from the wall.

The wall racks are very simple: you just tilt your bike up onto its rear wheel and hoist its crossbar up over a hook, and apply your lock. Each rack holds two bikes, they're mounted alternately higher and lower (for different bike and person sizes) all down two of the garages four walls.

I don't think car-scratching has been an issue, but then, the only cars allowed in the garage are the little electric hybrid fleet cars of the government agency I work for.

Mark said...

Hi Anne,

Thanks so much for doing this, but the link is coming straight back to this blog post - send the link raw if you can.

We do like a bit of infrastructure!

Anne said...

Whoops. That was silly of me. Try this link.

Mark said...

Thanks for the picture Anne, I am SO jealous - what forward thinking! I think it should be law that all empoyers of a certain size must provide secure cycle parking. The crazy thing is of course that your cycle parking takes up no room at all and hardly costs a thing, but the benefit to the employers of having employers who cycle is well documented.

David Hembrow said...

Mark, you may be interested to know that it's been the law over here in one form or another for many years.

At the moment it is a requirement that a minimum of 6.5% of the floor area of an apartment or house, and a minimum of 3.5 square metres in all, must be provided as ground floor storage. It must also be a minimum of 1.5 m wide. These dimensions are chosen deliberately to make sure it is suitable for a bike.