Campaign: The Future for Cycle Parking,

This article was originally published in the September 2014 edition of London Cyclist

If cycling numbers are to continue growing, then the volume and quality of cycle parking needs to increase dramatically. Tom Bogdanowicz reports

While the capital’s rail commuters catch ever earlier trains just to get a seat, London cycle commuters are finding they have to get in equally early to grab a cycle parking space.

Despite the apparent installation of 60,000 additional spaces on London streets, the tangled mass of bikes at popular locations shows supply is still not meeting demand. London’s Waterloo and Paddington stations have seen their neat racks double in number, only to have them filled up again in a matter of weeks.

Here’s a quick sum. According to TfL data, every day 600,000 cycle journeys are made in London. Take away the trips made by couriers, tourists and on Cycle Hire bikes and you have some 250,000 people making two trips (there and back) per day on their own bikes. That means they need 250,000 bike spaces at home and a similar number at their destinations.

The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling has a target of 5 percent of journeys made by bike in 12 years’ time (2026) — that’s around 1.5 million journeys per day, which will add demand for another 500,000 spaces at home and 500,000 at other destinations. If the Mayor (and his successors) keep up the pace of 20,000 new spaces per year, that will deliver 240,000 on-street spaces. But we’ll need double that for non-residential destinations, plus a similar amount within or near homes, in addition to catching up with current demand. So what’s the solution?

A key factor must be vastly increased provision by employers and developers. Some companies, like Google and the Guardian, are in touch with their staff needs and, at King’s Cross, the new Google building will have 600 parking spaces accessed straight through the main entrance. Just down the road, the Guardian has 200 spaces, plus showers and lockers.

A top executive from Argent, the developer of King’s Cross, told a conference that his clients (major employers) are no longer asking for car parking spaces but are demanding cycle parking well above the minimum standards specified in London.

The same goes for residential cycle parking.  On one private estate in Tower Hamlets, parked bikes far outnumber cars. In Hackney a recently-converted property with eight flats had a bike shed installed for 10 bikes, but residents already park more than a dozen.

Cycle parking standards

That blunt message — we need more — is being heard. After almost a decade of lobbying by LCC, the Mayor and TfL are, at long last, proposing significantly higher standards for cycling parking in new developments, whether that’s workplaces or homes. Draft proposals for the revised London Plan — the key document considered by developers and by councils enforcing their own local standards — now specify two bike spaces per new flat (over 45 square metres in size) and one space per 90 square metres (gross) of office space (arguably about one space for nine staff). That is close to double the previous standard.

LCC is arguing that the new proposals are still inadequate, particularly since a special report, commissioned by TfL for the London Plan revisions, concluded that higher levels of provision were required to meet future demand. Ealing Cyclists has made the common-sense suggestion that new flats should offer one space per resident, rather than assume that no family could ever need more than two bikes. Because the London Plan is subject to an examination in public, an inspector will decide whether to accept the current TfL and Mayoral proposals.

Even if the London Plan cranks up the cycle parking in new developments the problem of insufficient parking will not disappear. We face a lag of several years before the new guidance is adopted and enforced and those who live and work in existing houses and workplaces will continue to be restricted in their cycle ownership by poor provision.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

If you want to have a Bikehangar in your street it is worth first canvassing neighbours on whether they are interested and then contacting your council — the cycling officer is most likely to know if any funding for hangars or lockers is available.

  • Some councils also have funds to install cycle lockers on estates — it’s worth calling to ask.

  • Consider forming a Bicycle User Group at your workplace to make a case for improved provision. Encourage your employer to take advantage of TfL’s Cycling Workplace programme — available to any business with five or more staff which meet conditions.
  • If there is anywhere you think cycle parking should be installed, on street or off-road? 
  • Mark it on the LCC-managed, and TfLsupported, Urban Cycle Parking website - this data is reguarly sent to councils.
  • Unless, of course, councils act to improve conditions or residents take action themselves.

Residential cycle parking

Two LCC members campaigned long and hard to get cycle lockers installed on one of Hackney’s largest housing estates. The original dozen that were put in have since grown to more than 400 spread across Hackney estates and they have also appeared right across London, notably in Ealing, where local cycling officers championed them.

But for street properties, lockers are not an option, so Lambeth council pioneered the Dutch-style, on-street ‘Bikehangar’ which offers six secure bike spaces in the area occupied by one parked car. In towns like Amsterdam and Rotterdam such fietshangars are a regular feature of the streetscape. After the instant success of its pilot hangars, Lambeth put in many more and will be marking its first 100 ‘Lambeth Bikehangars’ by the end of this year. Not surprisingly, they are all well occupied.

LCC teamed up with Cyclehoop (one of the Bikehangar installers/managers) in 2013 to promote them in Lewisham and Southwark — around a dozen have since sprouted up on south London streets, with more to follow.

The recipe for residents is simple:

  • Put in a request for a hangar.
  • The council decides whether it has the funding and can install a hangar at the required location.
  • Residents are allocated a space for which they pay an annual fee (typically £50 or less).
  • The scheme manager ensures the hangar is maintained properly.
  • Similar schemes are now being developed in Hackney and other boroughs.

Workplace cycle parking

Many employers, notably legal and architectural firms, are retro-fitting bike stands and facilities to meet staff demand. Law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, for example, converted its car garage into a bike shed for 120 bikes.

Elsewhere, companies without available space are clubbing together to help cycling staff.  In Holborn the Midtown business partnership is about to create a cycle hub with secure parking for 100 bikes and showers in Bedford Square.

Transport for London is currently offering free stands (installation has to be paid for) to workplaces with five or more staff.