Cycle parking is a key tool to better promote and enable cycling. It is a critical component of infrastructure that often ‘completes’ active travel journeys, making many more cycle trips possible. But this does not mean that all cycle parking works, with certain poor quality, unsafe facilities acting as a deterrent, rather than an enabler.
Effective cycle parking is about more than ‘making up the numbers’. Instead, it is about understanding exactly where and what racks & stands to use, and how to properly expand and diversify cycle parking.
Policy makers recognise this, but rarely do they have peer-reviewed research to lean on in making informed decisions. With cycle lanes and other infrastructure, the Dutch CROW Design Manual for Cycle Traffic is leant on, with the LTN 1/20 using their core principles of safe, direct, coherent, attractive, and comfortable infrastructure.
But for cycle parking, there is no agreed set of rules or principles. The London Cycling Design Standards Chapter 8 provides guidance, and while the newer Bicycle Association’s Public cycle parking standards set out very useful pointers (easy to use, safe, secure, long lasting, and fully compliant), these are not peer-reviewed in the academic sense.
A new review paper in the Journal of Urban Mobility by Robert Egan, Conor Dowling, and Brian Caulfield aims to produce a set of principles to use universally across public cycle parking. These are derived from existing research and literature in an attempt to form a broad academic consensus.
It should be noted that these discussions are around public cycle parking. We take that to encompass cycle parking at transport hubs such as rail stations, shopping centres, libraries, hospitals and other public services.
The ‘Elements for Public Cycle Parking Planning Practice’
The review proposes ‘elements’ – or principles – for ‘effective’ public cycle parking planning practice. These are: visibility, protection, accessibility, proximity, integration, and diversification.
Drawn from 24 research papers that focus on either public transport integration (encouraging multi-modal journeys through cycle parking) and public cycle parking (cycling-only journeys), the principles are in effect a summary of the existing literature.
Here’s a few brief components of each element:
Maximising the visibility of cycle parking was found to both improve the sense of security, and alongside proximity, help its usage. The greater the visibility and proximity, the lesser need for extra protection measures.
The need for protection comes up in the majority of studies and underlines a preference for sheltered, ‘secure’ parking over Sheffield stand type parking in the open. Studies found a link between ‘fly-parking’ (parking without a formal bike rack, e.g. to a lamppost) and greater theft, so in this sense, providing more parking can automatically raise protection.
Ensuring as many users as possible can use public cycle parking, plus making sure there is straightforward access to promote usage, will lead to greater inclusion and overall use.
Maximising the proximity of racks to the destination has a similar effect to visibility. In combination, the cycle parking will be close to proper entrances and transport interchanges, making it more convenient to make multi-modal trips possible.
Many studies have shown that cycle parking is a key tool for integrating rail travel with cycling. These multi-modal journeys can help lower car usage, but to be successful studies found cycle parking should be part of a multi-faceted effort that includes other measures, for example direct cycle lanes to stations.
With a diverse set of parking – e.g. sacrificing protection or accessibility for greater proximity – there is a chance to cater facilities towards a wider range of personal preferences. For example, including open storage for quicker short-stay use, with locker provision for those requiring greater long term protection.
Putting cycle parking at the centre of planning
With these criteria, researchers say, public cycle parking can be implemented which alongside other important cycling infrastructure has the potential to promote more cycling.
This requires the giving over of important public space. Often times, this is occupied by car parking, particularly at train stations. As established here, cycle parking requires visibility and proximity to the final destination to serve the user well and achieve greater protection levels.
Ambitious planners will put cycle parking at the heart of future schemes. An enviable example of this in the Netherlands is Amsterdam’s recent new underwater cycle parking garage. Directly next to the station, with full guarded access and electric ramps for access, the facility was heavily invested in and will ultimately support more cycle journeys in the city.
Academic methodology: what are the limitations?
While the study drew from a worldwide body of research, as the authors note, each country – and even city – has drastically different cycling numbers, culture, and other important differences which can make it hard to generalise too much.
The correct understanding of the location and demographic context is critical in getting cycle parking facilities right, alongside the where and how of cycle parking facilities themselves.
However, an academic research led approach to active travel provision is a very useful way for policymakers to secure further important investment.
But as alluded to in the paper, one reason there is still more thought and money poured into car parking is the ability to monetise them. Perhaps an easier way of convincing decision makers.
Emphasising the wider – and often harder to measure – benefits of better public cycle parking is therefore essential.
Even the smaller touches like green roofs – whether the more basic sedum substrate, or biodiverse systems – work to absorb carbon dioxide, lowering street temperatures and improving air pollution.
Cycle parking hubs have the potential to be public meeting places, include bike repair services, or even feature custom branding or bespoke artwork.
Often marginalised in planning, cycle parking deserves more attention and research as featured in this paper to help further legitimise bolder plans for new sophisticated and central public cycle parking.
Read the full paper here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S266709172300002X#tbl0002