Thursday, 17 December 2009

No Place to Park (My Bike)

"Traffic signs. Trees. Wrought iron railings. Chain link fences. Telephone poles. Even a storm drain. I think I've secured my bicycle to just about everything in and around the center city of Manchester; everything, that is, except a bike rack.

....The number of bicyclists on Manchester roads seems to have increased considerably as of late. Whether folks are riding high-end mountain and commuter bikes or Wal-Mart specials, we all face a similar problem: no legitimate place to park. But I would settle for several designated bike racks in visible, highly-trafficked areas, at least in the downtown area. While it would be nice to covered bike parking like they do outside of this train station in Northern Ireland."

Sound familiar ?  Whilst this description of one persons search for decent cycle parking is from Manchester, New Hampshire (see Fortress Manchester) it can be a common problem in many parts of Greater Manchester.

But why are there so few decent cycle parking facilities in Manchester?

Part of the problem is the ludicrously small number of cycle parking spaces that Greater Manchester planning guidance requires building developers to incorporate in new buildings or re-development projects.

According to the Greater Manchester Parking Standards listed in the 2006 Local Transport Plan (LTP2) Technical Guidance (who said we were sad!)

For office building type developments (Type A2: Financial & professional services) the "Minimum standard for cycle parking provision" is 1 cycle parking space per 400 square metres (minimum of2).

Compare this to the requirement adopted by York City Council that demands all plans for new office buildings provide 1 space per 55 square metres. This means that any new buildings in York are required to provide 7 times more cycle parking space than an equivalent office building in Greater Manchester.

To make it worse, it is not even clear whether the Greater Manchester guidelines actually have any actual teeth.  According to a Greater Manchester Local Transport Plan Cycling Group report in April 2002 Greater Manchester Cycle Parking Guidelines the "notes give advice regarding design and numbers of places, and whilst they cannot be enforced yet, form a suitable basis on which to implement facilities."  I am hoping a helpful Council officer can tell me that this lack of enforcement has changed.

Interestingly, the Greater Manchester Police Cycle Parking Design Guidance (Design for Security) released in October 2009 are based on the York Council 'level of parking' requirements and in the "What are Cycle Parking Standards?" section state that:

"These are generally acknowledged by Local Authorities as providing 'best practice'. These standards should be applied to all planning applications by Local Authorities." (emphasis added).

So Greater Manchester Police have adopted and are promoting higher standards for cycle parking than those currently followed by the Greater Manchester local authorities.

With the lack of decent cycle parking being amongst the many barriers to increased cycling levels in Greater Manchester is it any surprise that York achieves commuter cycling levels of between 20-25% compared to the 1-2% in Greater Manchester?

If you want Greater Manchester to build better cycle parking facilities it would be great if you could raise this with your local cycling officer or via your local cycle forum.  See CycleGM for contact details for your local cycling officer.

If you are really keen you could raise the need for better cycle parking standards within planning guidance in a submission to your Councils consultation process on their local development framework.  Check your Council's website for details.

PS It is interesting to see how other cities are responding to the need for better cycle parking facilities.

In July 2008, theNew York Times reported that while "people are generally free to wheel their bikes in and out of residential buildings, commercial buildings often ban them."

But on 7th December 2009, New York Department of Transportation announced that "the City is prepared to implement the Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law (Local Law 52), which aims to increase bicycle commuting by helping cyclists gain access to secure parking at their office buildings during the workday."

In August 2008, New York Department of Transport also installed nine new bikes racks designed by musician, artist and biking enthusiast Byrne. "These clever and innovative racks were created to generate more interest in cycling in New York and also to add attractive, temporary art the City's streets."  See also David Byrne's Bike Rack site