Actions speak louder than words, and why the new East London Line is failing London's cyclists

To much fanfare and as part of a £1billion upgrade, the new East London Overground Line opened fully yesterday.  The new line, which incorporates some of the old East London Underground Line and includes a handful of new stations such as Dalston Junction and Shoreditch High Street, is expected to see 40million passengers a year by 2016.

Last week Transport for London and the Mayor, Boris Johnson, launched their 10-point 'Cycling Revolution' plan, an extensive document full of pretty pictures and points about how we should expect a "400% increase in cycling levels by 2026 compared with 2001".  (As I've said before, in real terms this equates to a pitiful target of just 5% modal share of journeys by bike by 2026, which is less like a velorution and more like a wet Wednesday matinee of Les Miserables.  Copenhagen, for example, is currently working towards 50%)  I digress... one of the key points in the 10 point plan to help bring about this 'Cycling Revolution' is this:

"An increase in secure cycle-parking on streets, in workplaces, and at stations and schools"

So I thought I'd check out the new East London Line stations and see how the reality matches up to the hyperbole...

First stop, the shining new Dalston Junction station.  Lots of room here, and a brand new major bus interchange. Remember that Dalston resides in the Borough of Hackney, the borough that has the highest modal share of trips by bike in the whole of London, at a reasonably healthy 8%.  Besides the shiny-floored lobby and lovely new platforms what I was really interested in was how many cycle parking spaces had been provided at this brand new London station?  The answer; none

There is a space at the end of the station that looks like a large broom cupboard.  A station attendent told me it was going to be used as secure cycle parking, but that there was a possibility it might be turned into a little shop and of course that commercial interests win out...  Outside, in the sweeping new bus interchange there isn't a single cycle hoop to behold.

Further down the line in riverside Wapping they've done much better, installing a grand total of 2 Sheffield stands for all us cyclists to park our bikes, whilst south of the river Surrey Quays is blessed with a total of 5 uncovered stands not covered by CCTV and almost impossible to reach from the road without either pulling up in the gutter against railings or cycling across the pedestrian crossing... 

Surrey Quays station
Hoxton (above) and Haggerston

Back in cycle-friendly Hackney the newly created Haggerston station rustles up five stands too, under the cover of a bridge this time, despite there being space for many more.  Hoxton - another new station - lucks out with a total of 8.  Further south in Zone 1 and on the edge of the City of London (where they have a cycle parking shortage of their own) is enormous new station Shoreditch High Street.  Despite being one of the largest and potentially most important station on the line and situated firmly in the centre of hipster cycling heaven there are just 6 stands, even though there is enough room around the station itself to park a fleet of bendy buses.

How is it that a brand new, multimillion pound raft of train stations in the centre of London provide so poorly for cyclists?  Could it be that cycling was overlooked and forgotten at the planning stage? Maybe the designers never read - or chose to overlook - Transport for London's own Cycle Planning Standards document which states clearly "Secure cycle parking should be incorporated in new developments that have the potential to attract new cyclists."  Zone 1 stations, such as Shoreditch High Street, come under 'Category F' which means in non-geek speak that there should be one bicycle parking space for every 200 people entering the station...  I'm no transport consultant but I'd hazard a guess that 6 measly Sheffield stands falls far short of this.

Let us consider the small Dutch town of Assen... With a population of some 65,000 it has 2,300 cycle parking spaces at it's local train station, of which 754 are guarded indoor spaces. That's one space for ever 28 residents at the train station alone, according to David Hembrow's excellent cycling blog 'A view from the cycle path'.  And of course they are currently in the process of building more to keep up with the demand... By comparison, the Borough of Hackney has a population of 212,000 and a handful of new stations with nothing more than a tokenistic cluster of Sheffield stands to cater for it's cycling citizens.

If we are to truly to believe that the 'Cycling Revolution' is really going to happen in London we need to start seeing some infrastructure on the ground.  We can talk all we like about how wonderful riding a bike is, but in order to promote mass cycling we actually need to start providing for said cyclists in order to make it as easy, safe and convenient as, say, driving a car.  Someone working on the East London Line dropped the ball when they overlooked cycle parking; annoying for cyclists, and embarrassing for the Mayor and Tfl.  It's not too late to build plenty more cycle parking at all of the new stations and demonstrate a commitment to a real cycling revolution.  Till then words are just words and there's not nearly enough room to lock my bike, or yours.  Build it... and they will come!

P.S  It's not all doom and gloom on the new old East London Line - folding bicycles are, apparently welcome onboard the roomy air conditioned new trains at all times, and full-size bikes can travel onboard outside of peak hours Monday to Friday.  It's just as well, there's nowhere to park outside..(!)  I'm sure those good people at Brompton are thrilled.


Anonymous said...

I agree its shocking that this is the best they can come up with for such an expensive piece of new railway. Cyclists forgottern about once again!


Jim said...

Some great research there, Mark. Shocking that even TfL can't follow their own advice. I wonder if we could get a London Assembly member to question the Mayor about this and maybe get him to commit to more bike parking at each station?

Adam said...

Major road schemes are required to do a Non-Motorised User Audit to document decisions and how they effect cyclists, pedestrians and the disabled (and equestrians in rural areas). So was an NMUA done for the ELL effects on local roads and if so, what did it say about cycle parking? see: for more on this.


ibikelondon said...

Thanks all for your comments.

@Jim Great idea to send it to a London AM, will get straight onto it.

@Adam I hadn't heard of NMUA but I am sure something like this would have been done. Did it get lost in translation maybe, or just plain ignored? I wonder if TfL would even know the answer themselves.

Anne said...

Hi Mark. Can't help with your Twitter stats request, but I just wanted to say how great this specific, pointed, on-the-spot bike journalism/advocacy is. What is the internet for, I ask you, if not to allow the average person to call bullshit on shiny promises made by government and corporations?

Go you!

ibikelondon said...

Hi Anne, thanks for your kind words. It just grates with me that we see all this policy talking about 'cycling revolutions' but I just don't see it on the ground. That Dalston Junction has opened with no cycle parking, not even a lousy bike stand, is really shocking so I figured it was worth calling it out. We will see what comes of it!

Jams said...

Interesting, if rather depressing, article

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