Meet the man unlocking our streets for cyclists

Cycle theft is a growing problem in London; in 2009 some 23,175 bikes were reported stolen, a 30% increase on 2008. Part of the problem is having somewhere suitable to lock your bike, but Councils are loathe to spend their precious budget on cycle parking, especially if it is at the expense of car parking or pavement space, and involves digging up their roads.

This is where modest, polite but energetic young designer Anthony Lau steps in.

First introduced at the 2006 Architecture Biennale, Anthony’s ingenious yet simple design fits a hoop to existing street furniture to create simple, safe cycle locking points. Since it’s inception his company has grown and grown, winning a clutch of design and innovation awards and Boroughs all across London (and indeed the whole of the UK) are fitting his Cycle Hoops. Last month in Camden he launched the latest incarnation of his product; the lamp column cycle hoop which fits to lamp post columns, in addition to his inaugural design which fits to street sign posts.

At the launch of the new hoop, Camden’s Executive Member for the Environment, Councillor Chris Knight was full of praise for the latest addition to Camden’s streetscape:

“We found that other cycle stand designs had failings; maybe the bike would fall to the side and across the pavements, or, as with single pole fixings they’d actually encourage theft whereby... ...the bicycle could be lifted over the top. This design beats all of those things and does it extremely well, and is a very good looking piece of street furniture.

I’m really keen to promote Tony and his company because they’ve come up with something that is clever, attractive and safe and does everything we would ask of it. We’d like to see it rolling out across London!”

Praise indeed, and Councillor Knight may see his wish come true sooner than he imagined, with Tfl ordering hoops to be installed along the new Cycle Superhighways, and no less than 6 London boroughs counted as clients on Anthony’s websites.

And as we’ve discussed here before on the blog, with 27,000 cycle parking spaces needed to meet existing demand in the City of London alone, Anthony may well have hit upon a winning idea here, as he explains:

“We work closely with the Council to ensure the street engineers are happy with what we are doing, and the planners are happy with what we are doing. This trial of the new lamp hoop will hopefully show that this is a useful product that can have a place on London’s streets.

There is a perceived problem with other types of cycle parking in that they are seen as a trip hazard or a blight, people think they make a mess, whereas here we’re utilising existing street furniture. And of course the Councils choose sites carefully; they’re e not going to put these up where they create an obstruction and will put them in good locations. So there’s no negative points; it helps provide parking which is what cyclists want, it reduces theft in the boroughs and keeps the streets tidy.”

I like to keep a healthy dose of scepticism about all things to do with locking bicycles because I have seen bicycle thieves in action and know what sharp operators they can be. I tried to kick and bend the new cycle hoop out of place, then tried to lever it off the lamp column completely. I failed, miserably. The metal fabricators who construct the hoops in a factory in Kent have done a superb job. Better still, because the very design of the hoop creates a ‘tight lock’ the bike can’t be used as leverage to snap the lock. Armed with a decent lock and the sense to lock your bike right, I think your bike secured to a Cycle Hoop will be safe as houses.

Of course, for cycling to be a success on our streets we need a tapestry of cycle parking: mass parking at train stations, secure under-cover bike racks inside offices, clusters of Sheffield stands on street corners and cycle parking on our actual streets, right outside our front doors. I’ve touched before on why ease of access to secure cycle parking matters but the crux of it is this: you need to be able to lock your bike as easily and securely as you do when you leave your car in the street outside. The Cycle Hoop can help to do this; let’s hope it goes from strength to strength.


Anne said...

Attractive, unobtrusive, functional--and locally fabricated! It looks like a winner to me. It looks like a second bike could be locked from the opposite side of the pole, too, if you had one of the longer U-locks.

Also, that T-shirt that Anthony Lau is wearing in the photo is pretty cool.

ibikelondon said...

Ah ha! I wondered if anyone would spot the t-shirt; yes they are very cool (I have one in green which I love) and are Anthony's side project: his t-shirt design business is called I BIKE LDN (nothing to do with your favourite cycling blog of course, but we reccomend them very highly) and can be purchased here:

You are right, Anne, you can fit two bikes onto these hoops if you have a longer lock - they're a great addition to our street scape!

Lady VĂ©lo said...

They look like a fantastic idea!

Andy in Germany said...

Excellent idea- and they have the advantage that the usual excuses for not making more cycle parking can't be applied here: They look good, are functional, and don't require a lot of space or extra street furniture, and they can be where you need them.

ibikelondon said...

Hi Lady Velo, and Andy in DE - you're both right, they ARE an excellent idea: one of those inventions where you think "Why didn't anyone think of this before?"!!

Thanks for stopping by!

anna said...

Very cool idea! I've actually heard of it before but never seen it anywhere.