The importance of adequate cycle parking seems to be widely under-estimated. If the future of urban mobility is to be dominated by a combination of two of the most energy-efficient modes of transportation, bicycles and trains, then safe and convenient bike parking facilities are essential to providing a seamless, door-to-door experience.
As levels of cycling rise, pressure is increasingly placed on parking facilities. Copenhagen in particular has, at the time of writing, a problem with bikes cluttering up the pavement.This is particularly evident at key transport hubs.
The high land value at these locations, and tendency for congestion, mean that with investment there is great scope for innovation. Solutions are emerging that enable greater numbers of cycles to be stored in smaller amounts of space.
But first… a look at the more standard cycle fare that characterises our streetscapes.
The Sheffield Stand
Apparently this started out life as some redundant gas piping, which local Yorkshire cyclists suggested could be shaped into these handy bike racks. This is now the rack of choice in most UK locations, and allows for the storage of approximately 1.4 bicycles per square metre when implemented according to guidance.
This ubiquitous design is well-suited to public areas, and ‘short stay’ or Class II bike racks. It is often found on high streets, and can be customised according to the location. It can also accommodate two bikes with multiple locking points.
In the ‘mayors Vision for Cycling’, 2013. (2) More cycle parking is promised at central London ‘termini and suburban stations, enabling better integration between transport modes and embedding types of travel behaviour that support trip chaining.’
I would guess that such parking will be of the two tier variety, which can store twice as many bicycles per square metre compared to the Sheffield stand.
Although effective as a space-saving solution, the user experience could be improved. this type of parking doesn’t retain any of the ease, accessibility, or convenience of the sheffield stand. A certain degree of manual dexterity is required in order to lift the bike up, and some designs lack the possibility of locking bikes through the frame, meaning wheel locking is the only option.
Along with not being particularly inclusive for those with limited upper body strength, they are certainly not usable with non-standard cycles like cargo bikes, tandems and tricycles.
Nevertheless they are ubiquitous in Holland and areas of the UK
This type, a feature of my local out-of-town retail park, is not to be recommended under any circumstances. Should one bike happen to topple, the potential for cumulative damage is quite significant: A cascade of destruction, and a row of bent wheels.
This stand seems designed to create maximum likelihood of theft or damage, accidental or otherwise, and the single locking point makes an easy life for one-wheeled-bike thieves.
Lockers are another option that are by far the least space-efficient, but provide high levels of security. A solution appropriate for gyms, universities, and other locations which provide for athletes, and others with prized bicycles.
Looking to the future, designs are emerging that combine the benefits of high-density parking without the drawbacks. These solutions allow for storage to integrate effectively into the existing urban fabric.
Despite heavy criticism, and an even heftier price tag, designs like this one illustrate the possibility of repurposing existing elements of the urban fabric to accommodate cycling.
Although perhaps not a long-term method, this could be an ideal short-term response should rapid growth in numbers of cyclists occur.
Bollards pre-existing, slight addition makes them cycle-friendly.
Another example of transitional infrastructure can be found in Copenhagen, which illustrates how existing car parks can be repurposed to accommodate bicycles.
The pink ’cargo bike car’ is essentially a fiberglass shell, equipped with solar powered headlights – that can slot into an existing car parking space. This builds on the symbolism of a cargo bike being able to act as an effective replacement for the car, given the right infrastructure.
London based firm Cyclehoop also have an alternative in their ‘car bike rack’, which might provide convenient ‘on-street’ parking outside shops. As Kim Harding suggests, the economic argument is also worth exploring.
Through methods like this and others, Copenhagen and many other Danish cities are increasingly transforming car parking spaces into cycle parking. However; such a solution often creates a dearth of parking for motorists.
One alternative is the sharing of these spaces, referred to as ‘flex parking’, which allows for spaces to be allocated to bicycles or cars at different times of day depending on demand. This has its shortcomings, notably a lack of fixing infrastructure for cycles that allows for dual purpose use.
What is needed is a solution to enable this; a part-time infrastructure. Perhaps retractable or folding bollards that could be parked over, and then erected to provide fixing points.
A more permanent solution can be seen at Groningen, where bicycles are stored underneath an elevated platform Stadsbalkon or city balcony that extends out from the train station. Light penetrates with aid of these tree holes, providing a protected and accessible area. Through which the cycle path to the station leads.
In megacities like Tokyo, underground parking is another solution. The Eco Cycle Anti-Seismic Underground Bicycle Park was designed and built by the engineers of Giken Seisakusho and can store up to 800 bicycles at a time. It is a completely automated underground cycle parking garage.
It is, I imagine, prohibitively expensive, but nonetheless employed extensively in Tokyo to keep bikes from clogging walkways and streets. Whilst undoubtedly sheltered and secure, it is also overly complicated and perhaps not practicable in most UK contexts.
Without effective cycle parking – enjoyment is removed – avid cyclists who would otherwise ride, don’t for fear of theft, or ride beaters which exacerbate their ‘advertisement of poverty’.