It was interesting standing in the street talking about the cycle storage with a council officer and seeing the number of people coming up and asking how they could get a key. Apparently there is already a waiting list of places, even though many of the people living in the street don’t even know what the cycle storage are as they have not seen them opened before. I get the distinct feeling there will soon be demand for more!
Just over five years ago (in September 2009) I wrote a blog post “Cycle parking, please can we have more…” in which I talked about the problems with lack of secure bicycle parking in Edinburgh. I flagged up issues the particular problems for tenement dwellers in Edinburgh, where storage is often a very real problem (as it is across most Scottish cities), added to which people living in tenement areas are less likely to own a car.
Three years ago things were looking positive as there where the first glimmerings of hope that something might actually be happening. There had been an announcement that City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) has proposed a Pilot of on-street residential cycle parking. I was one of the first to put in an application and waited with bated breath, well almost. As the closing date for application was December 2011, it seemed reasonable to expect that here might be something on the ground by the summer of 2012. In early May a letter arrived inviting all those who had applied to be a part of the trial parking project to a site meeting to consult on how it might work in practice. So it was that my self and one of my neighbours met with a number of officials, including the CEC’s cycling officer (Chris Brace), a CEC Project Engineer (Scott Mannion), one of the environmental manager (David Doig) and LBP Crime Prevention Officer (Carol Menzies). We had a wide ranging discussion, as we stood in the spring sun shine, covering all aspects of how that cycle parking (and its location) could affect the street, from accessibility to security, from refuse collection to turning space, and more. The meeting ended with a general consensus that the best location for the cycle storage was at the southern end of the street on the west side, on an area of concrete pavement which is currently just dead ground. It felt like something was really about to happen after two years of campaigning and lobbying, finally we were getting what was needed.
For a couple of months nothing happened, no information, nothing. In late July 2012 a letter arrived saying that the council was going to hold a written consultation for all residents in the street. A number of my neighbours came to ask me about this as they wanted to know more about the proposal, everyone I knew who lived in the street was in favour of the idea of having a secure cycle parking facility (even those who owned cars and those who didn’t own a bicycle). The written consultation was than followed with a series door to door interviews, and it was beginning to feel like someone at the Council was doing all they could to find an objector, so that they could stop the scheme (maybe I am being too cynical here).
Following all this consultation things went quite again until late June 2013 when another written consultation arrived, this time with plans showing the proposed location of the cycle storage on the opposite side of the street from that which residents said they wanted in the earlier consultation. I am told that there eleven responses to this consultation, all in favour of having the cycle storage on street and three saying explicitly that it should be on the far side of the street (the other made no comment on the location). One wonders why it is felt necessary to have quite to much “consultation” when they don’t bother to take notice of what the people who are going to live with the infrastructure actually have to say. It strikes me that a large amount of public money is wasted in this way.
Move forward to June 2014 and the City Council break their radio silence again with a letter to say that three different types of secure on street cycle storage across five locations across the city. The three types of storage chosen were the Cyclehoop Fietshangar, Cycle-Works Velo-Box lockers and Cycle-Works Streetstores (the latter a somewhat experimental design to judge by their website where there are several different prototype designs shown). The letter went on to say that the installation would be completed by the end of July 2014.
By this time I was starting to feel I would only believe when I saw it, so you can imagine my surprise and delight when I was told of shiny new Cyclehoop Fietshangars had been sighted in the city!
Then came the news that Cycle-Works Velo-Safe lockers had also been sighted.
This was real progress at last! But wait where were the Cycle-Works Streetstores? There was no sign of them anywhere and again silence from the City Council, after some prompting there was a few vague comments that they were coming soon. July turned to August, the Festival came and went, September, still nothing, then finally in October Streetstores were sighted for the first time!
How does the scheme actually work? Now there’s a question I keep getting asked, well, places in the cycle storage is offered to first to residents living within 100m of the stores. Only two places per flat are allowed per flat (which is rather unfair on students living in Houses in Multiple Occupation or HMOs) and place are allocated on a first come first serve basis. Each person gets a gets an individual contract and must give the details of the bicycle they are intending to store. The contract also states that the storage can only be used to store “a security-tagged bicycle belonging to or in the care of the member”, later in the contract it talks of bicycles with a permit and displaying a permit sticker.
As to costs and pricing, the contract states that “during the period of the Scheme the Council will not make a charge for participation in the Scheme. The Council may bring the pilot Scheme to an end on giving 14 days’ notice to the Members, and thereafter charge the Member for continued participation in a new scheme and take a deposit for the access key”. Nowhere, in the contract does it give any indication of how long the pilot Scheme will run for, nor is there any mention of how much the charge might be in the future. Elsewhere, it has been stated that the “cycle parking would be … trialled for around 2 years“. Also “It is expected that there would be a charge of around £5 per month per user for the use of the covered storage options to help cover running costs”. This would mean that it would cost £60 a year to park a bicycle compared with £31.50 to park low emission car in the same permit zone. When you bear in mind that ten bicycles can be accommodated in the space required for one car, this seems rather excessive, no doubt the Council will say that this reflects cost of maintaining the cycle storage, whilst blithe ignoring the costs involved in controlling car parking in the city. If the council are to introduce such a high charge for cycle parking, then it would only be reasonable that all subsidies for car parking be dropped and that the cost of car parking be brought up to a matching level.
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Following on from the future of local transport debate the other evening, I would like to propose a simple parking experiment. It would not cost much and should be fairly straight forward to carry out.
I suggest that the council gets four or five Car Bike Ports, puts them in parking bays around the city, and then monitor what happens. If you were to leave them in a single bay for no more than a few months at a time, you would only have to use Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TTROs). Or you could have them moved between bays on the same street every few days, so that you would even need to bother with the TTROs.
As it is purely short term experiment there should be to much planning needed and as the Car Bike Ports were originally commissioned by the London Festival of Architecture, the Street Scape people shouldn’t have a problem. The Car Bike Ports could even be rented to keep the cost down. Although I suspect that by the end of the experiment there would be a clamour from the local trader for keeping them.
So are you wiling to give it a go?
It would be great to see something like this in Edinburgh:
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Three years ago I wrote a blog post called Cycle parking, please can we have more…, where I suggested that there was a need for better cycle parking facilities in Edinburgh, and particularly in the tenement areas of the city. A year on, I thought I had found a possible solution (although the Cycledock website suggests there is a problem with the company).
I then found that Spokes were also looking at the problems of cycle parking in Edinburgh and were lobbing on the issue. Moving forward along the time-line, a year ago it was starting to look like all the lobbying and campaigning was about to pay off, as the City of Edinburgh Council proposed a £50,000 pilot on-street residential cycle parking scheme.
I put in an application to be a part of the pilot scheme, as did one of the owners in the next stair. We were delighted when we were told that our street was to be included in the scheme, this was in March (four months after the closing date for application). A site visit was arranged for May, which proved to be very positive. We discussed: problems with cycle storage for our tenemented street, the range of available on-street solutions, security, issues around management and maintenance, even a setting up a ‘Not for Profit’ Locker Management business. It was agreed that secure, covered cycle parking was a must (maybe something similar to this) and that lockers were also an option. Following the meeting, copies of the minutes were circulated (in July), which owed the next steps:
- Produce drawings showing positions and types of facilities.
- Initiate TRO [Traffic Regulation Order] process for removal/relocation of Parking Permit Holder spaces.
- Approach Streetscape with proposals showing locations and types of lockers.
- Investigate security certification.
- Produce ‘final’ design drawings for consultation with all parties.
That all sounds great, but that was the last my neighbour and I have heard.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Edinburgh people are being asked to remove bike lockers from their front gardens. All of which leaves one wondering what is going on at the City of Edinburgh council.
Update 16th Oct 2012 – Received an e-mail today to saying:
Please accept my apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
We are still considering the points raised during the initial
consultation meetings (and some additional issues that we have become
aware of since), but I hope to have some preliminary designs ready by
the end of this month to discuss with all the applicants.
So it looks like there will be further progress soon.
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In a recent discussion on Twitter, Tom Bailey and I had a discussion about how to make shopping by bike more attractive, and in particular my suggestion that taxing parking spaces might help. Given the restrictions of trying to discuss complicated ideas in 140 characters at a time, Tom wrote a blog post (which I would urge you to read) to lay out his position more fully, and this is my reply. It started as a comment on his blog but got too big, so I moved it here instead.
My position is a bit more involved than just taxing car parking spaces at big retail parks, see here for further details. One of the issues for the High Street is that it can not compete with the free parking provided by the out of town shopping centres, so applying a tax to parking spaces would go some way to help redress this balance.
The introduction of pedestrian and cycle friendly access would also help, as would convenient secure cycle parking. There have been a number of international studies which have shown that the economic value of a parking space is far greater when used for parking bicycles than cars. As Tom says, retailers care about footfall, and you can get 10 bicycles into the space required to park one car. By taxing car parking spaces you can provide incentives for cycle parking in locations where they are most likely to benefit both the retailer and the cycling shopper. Retailers consistently overestimate the importance of car users and parking to their businesses. I well remember the rumpus when cars were removed from Princes Street to make way for wider pavements, all the retailers claimed that their businesses would suffer, but then a year later they all reported greatly increased takings.
Unlike Tom, I have used a bicycle to shop at various large shopping centres, when I have been unable to find what I wanted in the city (Edinburgh), i.e. going to Ikea at Straiton or B&Q at Fort Kinnaird. Neither of these places is easy or pleasant to access by bicycle, but could be made more accessible if there was a will to do so (it is worth noting that in a number of countries Ikea offers free cargo bike or bike trailer hire to help customers get their purchases home). Experience from a number of cities in mainland Europe shows that retailers even want to encourage cyclists, because they spend more! Think about it, cycling to the shops costs nothing, so you have more money in your pocket when you arrive. You could argue that the big supermarkets offer petrol stations to recover more money from people who have driven to their sites, but a quick look at the margins on such fuel sales will show that it is just a loss leader.
Tom says that he has never seen an attractive car park, well I can’t argue with that, but if you reduce the need to park cars, these “ugly, traffic congested hell holes” (Thanks Tom, I can’t think of a better description) could be re-landscaped into something far more attractive.
So now we come to the heart of the issue, how do we get the cultural shift which is needed to get people to leave the car at home and use other means of transport such as cycling, walking and public transport, to get to the shops in the first place? Well the first thing you need to do is to make it attractive to do so. Most people really don’t want to spend time in “ugly, traffic congested hell holes”, so why do we insist on making them use these? Conventional wisdom has it that, if we give people some training and they are confident, they can ride safely with the motorised traffic, and from this base cycling modal share can be increased. Once modal share has reached 5%, you may then need to put in separated infrastructure to grow the modal share further.
Sounds great, but I can’t find a single example of anywhere that it has actually happened this way! Places with high cycling modal share have gotten there by providing good quality cycle infrastructure, including separation from motorised traffic on the busiest routes. The other great fallacy is that this takes years to happen, odd then that Barcelona they saw a dramatic increase in modal share over the space of five years, after putting in good quality cycle infrastructure, so it can be done! The key thing, as Jan Gehl tells us, is to invite people to walk and bike in cities by developing quality streetscapes.
In the end you can see that Tom and I are in agreement in many ways, but I don’t see why good quality separated routes couldn’t lead straight to the doors of the retailers, and with cycle parking being higher density, parking for a greater number of shoppers could be provided right at the entrance to the units. After all, if people could get there without using the car, much of the space currently wasted on car parking could be greened to make them more pleasant to visit and increase retail spend.