Cycle parking, please can we have more…

Cycle parking, please can we have more…

Cycling is a good thing. It is increasingly recognised that cycling should be encouraged, as it helps to achieve so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, it is healthy (regular cyclists live longer), and people who cycle to work are more productive. Of course, those who cycle regularly know that one of the best reasons for cycling is simply because it is so much more fun than other means of transport.

So what is stopping the likes of me from using the bike more? Well, one reason is problems with lack of secure bicycle parking and it is not just me, around 30% of car users say they would cycle more if there was better cycle parking. This is ironic, as one of the reasons why cycling is more convenient than driving, for short journeys in town, is that parking a bike is generally easier than parking a car. However finding secure cycle parking is not always as easy as it should be. For instance, the City of Edinburgh only has 1,697 public cycle parking spaces. Compare this to the 27,608 on-street car parking spaces, plus 4,562 spaces in council owned car parks, plus 207 Limited Waiting Bays. Added to this, there are numerous commercially owned free car parks attached to shopping centres and supermarkets.

So you can see that cyclists are very badly served, compared with drivers. Most non cyclists would probably take the attitude that cyclists don’t need the provision of secure parking, as bikes can be left anywhere. Is this really true? Well no, while there is often street furniture around to lock your bike to, this is not always available, added to which it is not always secure. Also, It is a little known fact that “where there are existing waiting and loading restrictions in force, cycles, like other vehicles, may not be parked on the carriageway or the footway of a road.” Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

Most people who drive to work or to the shops do so because there is a free, secure, parking space when they arrive. How many would be quite so keen to drive if they knew their expensive car was likely to be stolen, vandalised, or taken away by police? The same can not be said for cycle commuters and shoppers, for whom the risk of having their expensive bike stolen or vandalised is widely ignored by employers, supermarket chains and urban planners.

Contrary to the widespread belief among not-cyclists, bicycles are not cheap. Just take a look through any bike shop window, a mid range cycle costs anything from £500 to £1000 (I am talking about real bikes here not Bike Shaped Objects), and top end bikes cost considerably more, so they need to be secured. For cyclists, theft and vandalism can be serious problems. In the last year for which figures are available for Scotland (2006), there were 10,382 motor vehicle thefts, compared with 22,211 bicycle thefts. While there is no figure for bicycle vandalism, the extent of cycle thefts suggests that it would be proportionately higher than the 167,608 motor vehicles vandalised. I am just thankful that I don’t live in England, where a bike is stolen every 71 seconds!!, with the hotspots for cycle thefts being: central London, Kingston-upon-Thames in south west London, Cambridge and Bristol.

Having established that there is a need for secure bicycle parking, what should we do about it? First off, let’s look at the space available in the cityscape. Currently, most cyclists are forced to use any street furniture that is available, in a city like Edinburgh this often involves lamp posts, street signs, railings and down pipes. The use of railings and down pipes is often not popular with the owners, as they are worried about damage to their property. In England there is draft legislation to allow the council contractors to be given the authority to remove bikes not parked in proper bike stands. It is a typically retrograde step which tries to deal with the symptoms but ignores the source of the problem.

Scots law is, of course, different: While there isn’t yet any direct case law to draw on, there maybe help form an unexpected source, the motoring lobby. The case of Black v. Carmichael (1992) concerned the clamping of cars by private companies on private land. The court used an interpretation of the existing laws on theft. The case centred on the fact that the clamping company was depriving the owner of the vehicle of the use of their own property, even though that may have only been intended to be temporary, and decided that this constituted theft. Now it doesn’t take too much imagination to see how this can be used as a precedent in a case involving the removal of a bike from railings. If said bike was to be taken inside the property, or moved to another location and re-locked, this would not be possible with the original lock, as presumably, this would have been cut to remove the bike in the first place (and this in itself could constitute criminal damage).

The real solution would be to provide secure cycle parking, at its most simple this would be Sheffield Stands or something similar. As observed above there is a lot of space provided for the parking of cars. Now given that cars spend 95 percent of their time parked, this adds up to a lot of space already in use. It takes an average area of 12m2 to park one car and 1.1 m2 to park a bike, so you can get 10 bikes into the parking space required for 1 car. Therefore, a relatively small number of car parking spaces can easily be converted into a substantial number of cycle parking spaces, with minimal impact.

Although this solution, just using Sheffield Stands, would still leave the bikes vulnerable to vandalism. In areas where long term parking is required, this needs to be enclosed. There are a few useful ideas from other countries, such as the underground “Bicycle Parking Tower” from Tokyo, the Biceberg from Spain, or Toronto style cycle cages and lockers. For those of us who live in tenement flats, secure cycle parking at street level would be very welcome, as carrying a bike up to the third floor is a real pain. Why couldn’t one or two of the residents only car parking spaces be converted to secure cycle parking? OK, so a Residents Parking Permit inwith Edinburgh’s Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) costs £80 a year, and the Council made £1,716,203 in 2007/2008 from Residents Parking Permits, so I wouldn’t expect it to be free. However, I would be prepared to pay, say £20 a year, for such cycle parking in my street. Remember, 10 bikes can be parked in the space need for one car, this could yield a far higher income for the Council, from the same space.

8 thoughts on “Cycle parking, please can we have more…

  1. Very interesting post. A very interesting point about paid cycling parking provided by councils to the residents. If it’s secure I would gladly pay (I had to pay £50 for my sheffield stand anyway, plus I had to buy concrete install it in the communal garden). I’ve seen nice looking bike sheds which could be fitted with lockable, separate boxes and you’d pay for the key.

  2. Kim: It’s good to see you’ve done the figures as otherwise it’s just guessing. Edinburgh really does lack cycle parking.

    However, I have some skepticism about the 30 percent of motorists who said cycle parking was the reason they don’t cycle. It’s very difficult to measure things like this because people don’t give simple and honest answers and you can’t take their answers at face value.

    I would guess this was a multiple choice question. People were asked to pick a box to tick to explain their lack of cycling. There is an inbuilt bias in most people not to pick an “embarrassing” explanation such as “I’m scared to cycle,” while “not enough parking” is neutral enough for most people to tick.

    David: That’s a nice novelty, but the Danes are also somewhat behind on cycle parking by some measures. If you want to see cycle parking not as a novelty, but on a truly large scale, everywhere, take a look at the Netherlands.

    1. I would also be surprised if 30% said cycle parking was the only reason they don’t cycle, it would be one among a number of factors. However, given the problem of storage in tenement flats it is a reason why some people who want to have bikes don’t have them, as they have nowhere safe to store them. I know this as I overheard a conversion between two women who live in a street near me and one of them gave that as a reason she did have a bike, the other was just taking her bike out of her ground floor flat (the first woman was leaning out of a third floor window). As for “I’m scared to cycle,” is one of the more common reasons give for people not cycling, or for that matter to walk in some places.

  3. Very brilliant of you to do this analysis. I think people in the governments around the world needs constructive technical people like you rather than the bureaucrats like Henery Kissinger with destructive and selfish mentality.

    Contrary to what most politicians claim, most of the social problems can be solved with less money and more brains.

  4. Hi Kim

    We are opening a new commuter cycling hub in Glasgow with good quality bike parking with maintenance, servicing etc. while you are at work, showers, laundry, a great cafe that does packed lunches, all on a swipecard system so you can get in and out when you like.

    To get an idea of what we will look like, go to for a look.

    If Glasgow works then we will head East!

    1. Hi,

      Very keen to use this in Glasgow.

      Can you send me more details of where / when this is opening etc please?


  5. Very interesting comments. There is a research study (by Tim Ryley) which provides pretty convincing evidence that cycle ownership and use by central Edinburgh residents is reduced because of the difficulty of bike storage in tenements – the study only looked at the Dalry tenemental area, but presumably the same applies to any tenemental or flatted area without bike parking built in. The paper is at in downloads – technical.

    Spokes is very concerned about this issue, and we are intending to bring out a factsheet covering all the angles of bike parking and storage for flat/tenement-dwellers. Different solutions will suit different locations and different people, but they could include… onstreet lockable containers (potential difficulty with council ‘streetscape-oriented’ officials, but some councillors are interested in the idea), stairwell arrangements (fire-exit problems sometimes), backgreen storage (we understand that is to think about ideas and recommendations on this), equipment to use inside flats (hooks, hoists, etc), and the use of folding bikes. A problem with most systems, other than in your own flat, is management.

    We hope the Spokes factsheet will also briefly cover how to ensure that decent bike parking is included in new-build flats, etc.

    The factsheet is at an early stage, and if anyone has ideas/information for it, including suppliers of equipment which you know is good, please email with BIKE PARKING as the subject (and post your ideas here!)

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