Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cycle parking solutions - Horwood Close

Space for 6 bikes; more if necessary!

As detailed before, our cul-de-sac has totally inadequate parking for bicycles (ie almost none).

In the interim, I have built a parking station on our driveway. It has room for 6 bikes comfortably, and more can pile on if needed. We have been using it constantly for a year now, with no problems. 3 wooden pallets, a claw hammer, a saw and some nails is all that's required.

At first, local drivers didn't know what to make of it - people had grown quite used to parking on our driveway. They would attempt to park as close as possible, making it impossible to get bikes in and out.

Gradually it has been accepted as a fixture. My partner suggested painting it brightly, turning it from a heap of wooden pallets into something in its own right.

Recently I came across the RoadWitch project, and realized this is probably similar to what we have done - reclaiming space from the car. On a smaller scale, of course - and only to turn a single parking space over to multiple bikes.

Perhaps free residential parking spaces elsewhere could be turned over to bike parking like this? Ideally our councils would be the ones to do this, and would identify locations where it's needed most. Sheffield stands would also be a better choice than wooden pallets.

Oxford is fairly fortunate to have good bike parking in the shopping and university parts of town. But residential streets have been neglected so far - on-street parking should accommodate bikes as well as cars.

Car-sick Oxford cul de sac

The view from my window

This is a fairly typical image in Oxford. An ordinary cul de sac in Headington (Horwood Close, OX3 7RF, if you're interested).

Oxford is a 2-university city. With this comes students - lots of students. In turn, buy-to-let landlords and letting agents move in, either out of financial self interest, or a strong sense of social responsibility. Or maybe an element of both.

To accommodate the student population, and to extract the most rent from their investments, it's common for these to "renovate" properties to house more people than originally intended.

This is visible in the photo above. See the house in the background, with the white garage door? Every house in the close started off like that. One by one, the garage doors have been bricked up, adding a bedroom and making these 5 or even 6 bedroom properties.

That's what the building site in the photo is about - renovating another student house.

With no garage and 5 or 6 students per house, you'd expect a few parking problems - and you'd be right. I'd estimate there's 2 cars per household - the photo doesn't show the scale of the problem, as it's a Sunday morning and some of the cars are off running errands etc.

Oxford Brookes' campus is 1km away. The older Oxford colleges - 2km. Perfect for cycling.

Yet this cul de sac has a major car problem, and no cycle parking. (There are a couple of Sheffield stands up at the far end of the cul de sac, but nothing at this end).

What is needed is parking for maybe 30 bikes. This could replace 3 parking spaces. Nothing fancy, just Sheffield stands, perhaps with a bus-shelter style roof over the top. (I can dream).

Pehaps when local councils approve building alterations, as they have done in this close over the last 10 years or so, they should require that the property developers also put in the necessary infrastructure to suit the changing use of the housing?

So, when family homes for 4 people, with garages, become student households of 5 or 6, the developers should pay for on-street bike parking. Like how big housing developers may be required to build a school when they want to build 500 homes, but on a smaller scale.

Next post - my stop-gap interim solution.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Stop the child murder - UK edition

Parents in the UK, and the rest of us, have a terrible choice to make. I hope it is not an understatement to say this - and that the title is appropriate.

The choice is this:

- On the one hand, letting your child out to play, or to ride a bike to school, seems like madness given the state of the roads (and the steady stream of news peddling fear). So most parents keep their kids in, and drive them to school. If i had young kids, there's no way I'd let them cycle on the very roads I ride every day.

- On the other, keeping our kids inactive is storing up an epidemic of health problems for the future. Obesity, diabetes, depression - it's here already, and it's going to get worse.

We need to let our kids get out, be active, and cycle to school. For that, we need to make a major change to our environment.

This has happened before.

In the Netherlands in the 1970s, a few people recognized that car usage was on the way up. Also, the number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) on the roads was also on the increase.

"Stop de Kindermoord" ("Stop the Child Murder") was the response.

David Hembrow has already detailed this (at ).

It was abhorrent and unacceptable that child deaths would be the cost of driving - their government responded to this, and gave the necessary attention and money to developing safe, effective cycle routes. (Ones you would actually want to use, not the paint-on-pavements "safe-routes-to-school" the UK has opted for). Cycling increased, and deaths on the roads fell in the same period.

So, if the UK is to have its much-mentioned "cycling revolution", perhaps we need to make this less about cyclists, and more about children?

The nutjobs can rant and rave about how cyclists "ride on the pavement and run red lights and don't have lights and don't even pay 'road tax' and murder policemen and...", because they don't cycle and they don't know anyone who does.

But everyone knows children, or can sympathize, and would wish them well. And best of all, they're on our side! They overwhelmingly want to get out more, and to cycle.

We are in a very different position to the Dutch in the 1970s. We have engineered cycling completely out of the equation, off our streets and out of our collective consciousness. The scale of this erasure is so complete that it would be hard, now, to make the case that children are dying on our roads. The problem is so bad, that parents have chosen to protect their kids by keeping them off the streets. We're still killing them, but softly - depriving them of activity and fresh air now, and setting them up for major health issues later.

We can offer helmets, and cycle training, and say we're promoting cycling, but as long as we fail to address what keeps cycling at pitiful levels in the UK (2% of journeys; 68% of adults never cycle), all that training just helps people ride around Centre Parcs - they won't do it out in the world.

This is why i despair of the mainstream cycling lobby in the UK - the CTC, and Sustrans, who seem to have colluded with TfL and the DfT to maintain "vehicular cycling" as the only option. It's certainly the only way i feel safe to cycle in the UK, but it's a last-resort survival tactic i wouldn't wish on my loved ones, or anyone else.

(Vehicular cyclng - Copenhagenize has a tongue-in-cheek discussion at )

Their "hierarchy of provision", with dedicated cycling facilities at the bottom, is no doubt meant with good intentions. We would all prefer calm, safe roads (designed with cycling in mind) to the pisspoor pavement bike lane / shared-use paths that serve no-one and put pedestrians and cyclists at risk. To be honest, this is broadly what they call for.

The outcome, however, seems to be that the middle option, "reallocation of carriageway space" (aka gutter cycle lanes), has been overwhelmingly popular with planners. It costs peanuts, and doesn't interfere with the road layout (since dashed-line "advisory" cycle lanes, the commonest type, allow any vehicle to drive in them). The better options - actually improving the road network for cycling - are just seen as too hard.

The CTC tells us that they "believe that pavements should be safe for pedestrians, and that the carriageway should be made safe for cycling". Neither has happened. Cycling (and walking) are flatlining in this country. Unless we rethink radically, and change our priorities, it's only going to get worse.