Bike parking

Park it here! Oh, on second thoughts…

IMG_3646

Bikes not allowed. Upside down wheelchairs however, are permitted.

The poor old City of Melbourne Council, scratching about to make improvements for cyclists where it can, albeit in a transport system that puts cycling on the lowest rung of the transport ladder.

One of the best ways to encourage cycling is to have public transport that encourages it. An example might be taking your bike on a bus or train as part of your journey. Another initiative that has proven positive is secure parking for bikes at train stations, or large transport hubs, ostensibly encouraging people to cycle to the station and then move onto public transport rather than drive to the station. Both responses (bikes on PT or secure parking for bikes at stations) have proven successful according to evidence that has informed Melbourne’s Bicycle Plan, 2012.

Yesterday, at South Yarra station though, I saw on the platform the above photo, indicating that I was not permitted to take my bike on the train in the first carriage. There are several things wrong with this. Firstly, there was no indication as to where I could put my bike on the train; secondly that it’s long been my belief that the first carriage is where cyclists are meant to put their bike (the first carriage usually being the most empty and therefore less disruptive for other passengers); thirdly that there is no parking at all at South Yarra station for bikes (even though 170 people ride there every day and then catch the train – imagine if they were all driving cars!); and lastly, if the argument that is provided is true and that the first carriage is now reserved for those in wheelchairs, do you not think they could have put the wheelchair signs around the right way, i.e. facing the person in the wheelchair waiting to get on the train? And anyway, is the demand for wheelchair space on the first carriage so overwhelming that bikes can’t fit in there as well? I’ve not seen such evidence.

The ‘Parkiteer’ (park it here) secure bike parking cages in Victoria have proven to be successful, even though you have to pay for it. Advertised as free*, if you squint you can see the asterisk next to the last ‘e’. In order to use the Parkiteer cage, you need to register and put down a $50 deposit after which point you will be posted an access card (which may take over a week to arrive). Compare that system to the all swinging, all dancing bike parking in Utrecht. It’s completely indoors and there’s no need to register to use it. Oh, and it’s free. Even with the restrictions posed by Parkiteer parking however, the cages have proven to be so successful that Bicycle Network are no longer issuing access cards for the cages at certain stations, as they are at capacity.

Sorry? What?

Let’s unpack this a little and take Hoppers Crossing station as an example, as this is one of the stations where the Parkiteer bike cage is completely full. My outrage, in short, is this: there are 566 car parking spaces next to the station. This aerial view puts it in proper perspective. Given that by removing one car space you can provide parking for up to 20 bikes, doesn’t it seem like a no brainer to do this? Further, given that each car park costs approximately $500 to operate per annum, is this really the best value for money (and that figure doesn’t even include the negative externalities such as noise pollution, environmental degradation associated health costs and so on)?

Again, in short, how serious are we?

If we really wanted to encourage cycling we would retrofit train carriages to allow (not merely allow, but actively encourage) people to use their bikes as part of their journey. We would find spaces for people to park their bikes at stations for those not wishing to travel with them, and not merely say ‘Sorry, the bike parking facilities are full, you’ll have to put your name on a waiting list’ (this is indeed currently the case). We wouldn’t make people faff about with registrations and deposits to use Parkiteer cages, it would be free and open to all. Again, it would be a demonstration of intent, of genuinely encouraging people to ride. I’m not naive enough to think that everyone is going to stop driving and ride a bike to the station, nor do I believe that everyone would be in a position to do that. But many would if it was made easier (of course having a more fully integrated PT service so that people didn’t actually have to drive to the station would be the stuff of dreams but, currently in Victoria, it may remain a flight of fancy for some time yet).

The outcry over full car parks around train stations is always a political football around election time, and Victoria saw this at the tail end of last year, especially with the Liberal Government’s promises to build more car parks, blind to the lunacy in such policies. I’m incredibly pleased they didn’t get in so that they won’t be able to see their absurd imaginings come to life.

The tagline of this blog is ‘It can be better’. One of the ways it can be better is to encourage people to ride more and make it easy for those who already do. Based on the evidence above, this is sadly not the case.

This post can be put in a visual sense by looking at the Parkiteer information on Bicycle Network’s website (notice the dates of the news items too). Oh the hilarity – it’s enough to make you weep.

Screen shot 2015-01-16 at 2.42.02 PM

Bikes and Parking (could that be a less interesting title?)

Yesterday’s post looked at pedestrian and bike movements when cyclists and pedestrians are forced into the same space and I made mention of the City of Melbourne’s (CoM) Bike Strategy. The most recent edition (2012 – 2016) is an excellent document and is in stark contrast to the woeful City of Boroondara’s (CoB) Bike Strategy (which, strangely, seems to have completely disappeared from their website). I bring up CoB as it is the Council in which the author of this blog resides. They move at an entirely glacial pace with regard to anything to do with biking and very much focus on the ‘recreational’ cyclist – those who want a rail trail or alike. However, if you want to ride to work, you’re pretty doomed as there is no safe option. See the previous entry, entitled ‘I Just Want a Route’ for more of a rant on this. However, I digress.

Whilst the CoM’s Bike Strategy focuses on built infrastructure (which I enthusiastically applaud), there is a severe need for more bike parking now, as the stats below (taken from the CoM’s Bike Strategy) demonstrate:statsAnd my own little wanderings also prove:

overcrowding in CoMovercrowding 2

On the days when these were taken, the one on the left was a Friday afternoon, at about 5.30pm, and given the glorious weather, there were understandably a lot of people riding that day. Similarly, the weather was looking pretty good on the day the second shot was taken, however this was snapped at 3pm – in the middle of the day. With more bikes, comes more biking (hurrah!) but that leads to more need for bike parking (kind of ‘hurrah’) and that leads to finding more money for that parking (boo). However, the money that cyclists save cities in the long run (not to mention health benefits) is a small price tag indeed.

As the God who is Jan Gehl states in Cities for People:

“…in terms of parking, there is plenty of space for ten bicycles in one ordinary parking slot. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic saves space and makes a positive contribution to green accounts by reducing particle pollution and carbon emissions.”┬áp.105

There is no need for the jury to retire on this one – build better cycling infrastructure but then make sure you provide the bits and bobs that go along with the increased popularity that it will have.