Sunday, July 1, 2012

Trying out the Double-decker cycle parking stands at Cambridge Railway Station

Wednesday, 20th June 2012: What should be a rather pleasant “outing”, a meeting in London, always starts with a bit of stress. Actually it doesn’t start with the stress.  Although I had to be in London fairly early, during the peak travel time I didn’t need to get there until 10.00am, which meant I could catch the 8.45am train. Which as regular travellers from Cambridge to London will know is that it doesn’t actually depart until 8.50am. But by mentally planning around the earlier time it makes getting to the station a little more relaxed.

So I set off quite early and detoured around Cambridge Airport and took a different route on approaching Cherry Hinton. Normally I would cycle up the High Street and then left along Coldhams Lane and then down to The Tins. The trouble is you get caught up with cars and odd traffic-calming and cycle lanes. So instead as I reached the end of the Airport cycleway and turned off down Teversham Drift and then along Church End and down Rosemary lane and across to The Tins via Norman Way. Despite it probably being slightly longer it avoids the nightmare for cyclists that is the Cherry Hinton High Street Traffic “Calming”. Although you swap one traffic light for another it seems to reduce the potential for unnecessary conflict with cars and vans.

I then followed the Mamora Road/Greville Road route down to the station.

What followed next was the usual where the flip will I abandon park my bike today. I scanned the covered bike park opposite Station cycles – nothing. Although it is sometimes hard to tell with a line of taxis waiting adjacent to the cycle stands. (Unfortunately I would be back after Station cycles closed otherwise I would have parked there.)

I then thought I would head over to the cycle stands displaced by the double-decker trial cycle parking stands. The last “space” went as I cycled down the CGB area. I say space – generally although the stands are designed to take two bikes, one either side, cycle parking is so dire that you can get up to 4 locked up to one stand. I then toured the area in front of the station and alongside Station Road – nothing. It was starting to get desperate. There were people with there bikes milling around, it was a dog-eat-dog situation.

It was peak time and so I couldn’t take my bike on the train, it looked as if I would have to lock it to a fence or something somewhere – but where.  As they say the darkest hour is just before the dawn and as I was mentally penning an "email” I noticed someone unload his back from the Double-decker stands. Brilliant, not only would I be able to park my bike and catch the train it would give me a chance to try out the new stands.

My first concern is that although they look as if they double the number of bicycles parked in a given space, they don’t.  I did get my bike loaded onto the top deck. However my handlebars are wide and despite adjacent bikes being at alternate heights my handlebars would not fit if my bike went in forwards. The other bikes seemed to fit but not mine – well at least not well.

What you do is pull out the stand and it lowers ate one end, you put the bike on and push it back in  - mine didn’t go back in very well. Mind you an even more serious issue came up – my lock wouldn’t fit around the frame and the stand – it wasn’t long enough. I have a D-lock, which conventional wisdom suggests it better than a cable lock. Conventional wisdom also holds that the shorter the lock the harder it is to brake/cut. Not being able to lock the bike at all is a lot more serious though. At least I could nip up to the bike shop and buy a lock. However, I’d to leave my bike otherwise I’d lose my space.

For reference the handlebars are 65.5cm wide and the D-lock has a locked spacing of 23cm x 12.5cm. I reversed my bike – it fitted more readily and more to the point I was able to lock the frame to one of the stand loops.

Maisie Marin locked up on one of Cambridge Railway Station Double-decker stands

As it happens I think I was the only person who had this problem all the rest a forward-facing. Mind you several had cable or chain locks. A few had also locked their helmets up. Now I believe that ordinary cycling is not made safer by wearing a helmet. However one of the other minor hassles if you do wear a helmet is what to do with it when you lock you bike up. It can be a nuisance to carry it into London, but it is at risk of damage or theft f you leave it.

As you can see the stand has 20 bikes, with a pitch of say 70cm?. According to the Cambridge Cycling campaign's guide to cycle parking (pdf) the spacing between stands should be 1.0m (min) to 1.2m (desirable). Which allows, normally, two bikes per stand and so if my guestimate is right double-decker parking should give 2 bikes per 0.7 metre length versus Sheffield Stands allowing 2 bikes per 1m. So the Double0decker packing density is only 30% better. However around the Station it is not unusual to see 3 or 4 bikes locked to one stand. Which implies that if all the conventional stands around the station were to be replaced with Double-decker stands then the amount of cycling would reduce – although be of higher quality. (These are only estimates, I haven’t had time whilst searching for a space to do a proper comparison.)

After successfully locking my bike up two cyclists came over in the hope that I was actually preparing to leave. We all agreed just how totally disgraceful the situation is in Cambridge – “Cities fit for Cycling” – pah. They were both a lot crosser than me, my letter (email) of complaint evaporated as I made my way into the station.

Maisie Marin locked up on one of Cambridge Railway Station Double-decker stands
Spot the Odd one Out

As is usual , the train was on-time and that extra five minutes most welcome. It was also waiting on the new central platform. Here are some commuters to Cambridge – de-training getting of the train. There are some nonsensical ramps to “assist” cyclists getting their bikes up, but they a not fit for purpose (IMHO).

Commuter to Cambridge – prepare to carry your bike

As you can see some cyclists wait as it makes it easier to man/woman-handle your bike with some space. There is a lift – but you do enough queuing without wasting more time on a lift that will barely take one bike.

The stupid thing is that it is so obvious that the bicycle is an ideal complement to the train – AT BOTH ENDS of the journey.

Commuter to Cambridge – carry your bike

A picture in London – just to show I was there – it was absolutely boiling hot – which means that that was my Summer gone. Since I was cycling around I hadn’t bothered wearing a jacket – which a good thing as it would have been yet something else to carry around.

Westminster Abbey, London

At the end of my day, I was pleased to see my bike was still there.

Maisie Marin still locked up on one of Cambridge Railway Station
Double-decker stands

And this is what you have to do when desperate, hope that amongst all the other bikes if you can’t get a space your bike doesn’t get stolen lying around.

What happens when the cycle parking stands at Cambridge railway Station are full?

If you are lucky you might find something to lock your bike up against.

What happens when the cycle parking stands at Cambridge railway Station are full?

Here is my bike locked up. I did not follow the advice of using two locks and both locking the wheels to the frame and taking them and the saddle with me. What errant b*ll*cks

Conflicting Advice on locking you bicycle at Cambridge Railway Station
Take your wheels with you!

Maisie only one lock and still there – phew

And here is Maisie about to dismount the stand – that bit was quite easy.

Taking Maisie of the double Decker Cycle Parking Stands
Cambridge Railway Station

As I headed home it was most pleasant to unwind with a gentle cycle across Coldham’s Common. I took this picture of cattle grids in case I needed picture in the future.  Strangely there is space for cyclists but not for pedestrians. Also if you are crossing, but waiting you either block the pavement or the cattle grid – clever design – non!

Cattle Grids – Coldham’s Common

The only problem with cycling  is that it mellows you out so you forget to send of a string of complaining letters to the powers that be.


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