Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Tale of two cities–Cycle parking in Cambridge and London–a shallow review

Thursday, 23rd August 2012: I had meetings in London today and because I was late the last time, although it was only a few minutes (5 minutes)  I decided to catch the train an hour earlier.  Then depending upon the weather I could have a more leisurely walk from the station to the office building and take some pictures.

Actually my original plan was to take my Brompton, which has been a little under-used of late and check out the route from King’s Cross to Waterloo Station (well nearby), load it onto my GPS and then cycle through London. I used to use the TFL website – but I find that the more Cycle-specific Cyclestreets is more convenient to access. Here the the Cyclestreets suggested routes,  As you can see the actual distance is nothing at all at 2¾ miles and around 20 minutes journey time. this compares with a Tube journey time of around 15 minutes – which does not take into account the waiting times.

My biggest problem is that I don’t know my way around London at all. The Tube is convenient but it makes London feel like a series of islands of indeterminate separation. If you look at the routes suggested you’ll see that there isn’t a simple direct road from the two stations.  This is where having a GPS on a bike becomes really useful.

The trouble is a ran out of time and didn’t have a chance to download the route onto my GPS (nor check tyre pressures and the like on my Brompton). So I went for plan B and cycled to Cambridge Railway Station to catch the 7.45am train to King’s Cross and then to use the Tube to get through to Waterloo Station. This meant allowing a bit more time to find a parking spot for my bicycle at the railway station and although I took a reasonably scenic route to Cambridge Railway Station I didn’t want to lose time stopping to take pictures.

When I got there it seemed as if half the car park was empty. I know it was August and so quite a few people would be on holiday and that the schools were on holiday, I was still surprised how many spaces there were in the car park. Not surprised enough that I wished I had driven though. What was even more of a surprise was I find a space in the racks opposite Station Cycles. This was a genuine proper space – not  a four to a rack space either.

Here is Maisie Marin on the left hand side of the cycle racks. As you can see it is still a bit muddy, my motto is that “bikes are for cycling, not cleaning”. There is still a bike parked less conventionally on the far left.

Maisie Marin parked “properly” for a change – Cambridge Railway Station

Here is a side view of the afore-mentioned cycle parking. There are still more bicycles than 2 x the number if stands.  Strangely there is also a spare wheel on the floor as well.

Cambridge Railway Station – one of four areas for Cycle Parking

Look another space, this time in on the parking area in front of the station, actually I can see two – now that is a rarity. The trouble is when virtually all spaces are taken it can be quite difficult spotting the odd space, especially when you are late for your train. Which is why the lamp post has three bicycles locked up.

The Doppelstockfahrradparker (Blog 50) are also still around – I just didn’t take any pictures of them.

Cambridge Railway Station – another one of four areas for Cycle Parking

This is the roundabout in front of the railway station. This is a busy spot with loads of vehicles milling around including Taxis exiting, cars entering, cars and taxis dropping people off and loads of buses.

Although there are plans to alter the access route to the station which close Station Road to traffic apart from buses. The concern is about traffic using a residential street – the answer, make it more flipping easy to cycle and park your bike quickly at the station.

What amazes me is how poor some of the planning is, take the new platform at Cambridge Railway Station – the access is via a bridge. The access for cyclists (wishing to travel with their bicycles) was pretty poor, there was an angle iron track positioned far to closely to the hand rail. Mind you it wasn’t as bad as this cock-up with Mothers with prams and wheelchair users facing a five mile detour. The only type of user they seem to consider is an able-bodied car driving commuter I reckon.

Although there is a Tool-kit for Cycle-rail which sets out best practice to encourage more integration of what should be natural bedfellows – cycling and train transport (pdf).  The suggestion is to target a doubling of cycling to individual stations over the next five years (2014) with a national target of 5% of passengers cycling to stations.

Here is my starter for ten – Cambridge Railway Station has crap cycle parking facilities – if you want to double the number of cyclists using the station then time is running out to build a load more cycle parking. What worries me is that complacency and inertia cause nothing to get done. Or maybe the cycle usage is 20% and they are trying to me the target by reducing it to 5% by making it so bloody tedious to park.

The roundabout is a popular if unofficial cycle parking space. There is even a tarmac ramp to make it easier to cycle onto it. I reckon this cyclist was in a hurry to catch the train although as in life more haste locking your bicycle up, less speed.

Cycle Parking – Station Road Roundabout, Cambridge Railway Station

As I was so early and not delayed but finding a cycle-parking space I had plenty of time in hand to catch my train. The good news is that it was a 12 carriage train and bits of it turned up early. So it wasn’t jam-packed and I had some where to sit before it set off.

The last time I went to London the train was significantly late – this time, perhaps because I had plenty of time in hand it wasn’t late.

One option I have considered, but never quite managed is to make use of the Boris Bikes to get across London. According to the costs page for casual use the costs are an Access fee of  £1 and a Usage Charge of 30 minutes free/ £1 for 1 hour. Which means I ought to be able to get away with a cost of £1 for the Access Fee and the there and back journeys should be free – providing I don’t get lost. Which is a definite saving on the Tube travel.

So for me there are two issues – where do I put my GPS because I would still need guidance to navigate the London streets and where are the Boris Bike parks and would there be bikes available? Conveniently there is a Boris Bike area just outside Waterloo Station but it would seem that most bikes have gone. (Of course I would use the facilities at King’s Cross – but I can’t recall just where they are.)

Waterloo Station – Boris Bikes on the station approach

As I had time to spare I sat down outside Kings College London to admire the cycle parking – there is plenty of room for more I reckon.

King’s College London – James Clerk Maxwell Building – Cycle parking

As I sat I also check out another Boris Bike cycle station – I can’t recall whether this bike was being taken or parked – either they haven’t got enough bikes to go around or the service seems to be getting fair use.

The pavement refers to Ray Davies’ Waterloo Sunset and that the Waterloo Bridge has the best view of any in London. (it also featured in the Olympic opening.)

Boris Bikes Station near Waterloo Station

What is surprising is just how many Boris Bike stations there are in such a small area – although all of them also seemed to be devoid of bicycles. I guess that some of them suffer from tidal flow.

The bike hire map does not seem to work with Chrome (beta) very well. So I have had to revert to I…..E…….9 (which seems to have gotten even slower). Although it does work with my pen and tablet – two black marks against Chrome… As I write this – this particular station = Sunday 11:52am – 15 cycles available and 6 empty docking spaces.

Stamford Street – Boris Bike Station

This time around – around 9.10am there were two cycles available and 19 empty stands.

Stamford Street – Boris Bike Station

A little further down Stamford Street some unusual cycle parking stands.

Stamford Street – Inverted triangle cycle parking stands

As expected I was very early for my meeting. Things only go wrong when it really becomes a nuisance. Still it was better to be early than a late and sweating heap.

The journey back was uneventful and my bicycle was where I parked it. Here is is ready to go.  Although you don’t think so the cycle ride home is really rather pleasant. The train journey can be a bit soporific and the fresh air as you head for home is really nicely invigorating.

The bag is rather good for this sort of journey – although as a cyclist I tend to carry more than just the stuff I need for the work. For this sort of commuter trip I carry an aerosol inflator which seals punctures, in case of punctures and yes I have had to use it and it does gum things up sufficiently.

Maisie Marin ready to roll – Cambridge Railway Station

Apparently we have also had another Police crackdown and the Police are ‘disappointed’ after snaring drivers. More than 140 offences were “spotted” including 71 for mobile phone offences.  I wonder why the Police feel able to enforce these laws and not the 20mph speed limits.  They did also stop three red-light jumping cyclists.  It seems all a bit inconsistent to me.

Whilst I am moaning about cars – apparently “Addenbrookes has been told to tackle parking chaos”. Apparently staff pay £2.50 a day to park there and so some are parking on the streets much to the consternation of local residents. After all if you live somewhere doesn’t that give you extra ownership of the public roads!!!

Mind you there has also been complaints that “Bad parking could stop fire crews reaching emergencies”. The real elephant in the room is there are too many cars taking up space with the transport alternatives not being sufficiently attractive. and it is still too attractive to use our cars. It will change I reckon.

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