Station cycle park at last!

This article was published in 2013, in Newsletter 109.

After years and years of waiting it seems that a solution to cycle parking at Cambridge railway station may only be 18 months away.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign has been involved in discussions about cycle parking here since we were formed. Although the amount of parking has tripled over that time, any additional Sheffield stands have been overwhelmed within weeks, if not days. We had discussions with the city council about a planning brief in early 1999, prior to the collapse of Railtrack.

More recent plans have always included a multi-storey cycle parking facility, as there is no way sufficient surface cycle parking could be provided given the value of the land in the area. Ideally the Campaign would have wished for a facility with cycling permitted in all areas and without double-deck racks. We had long and interesting discussions with developers and local officers from the city and county councils. The design changed from a brutalistic structure over the car park and adjacent to north-facing bay platforms, to one combined with the hotel, and a CyclePoint shop.

Finally, on 3 July the city council’s Planning Committee passed plans for a cycle park that will have at least 3,000 spaces, with Brookgate, the developers, hoping that the facility will be open by December 2014. The Department for Transport has granted £500,000 towards the cost.

Cycleable ramps

Having looked at long cycleable ramps we were persuaded that the obvious advantages were outweighed by less obvious disadvantages.

  • The time taken to walk up a stepped ramp about 1 in 6 will be little different to that taken to cycle up a 1 in 20 ramp.
  • Any long ramp will remove much space otherwise available for cycle parking.
  • On this confined site even a gradual ramp risks unruly cyclists exiting at speed into an area full of unwary pedestrians. Remember it is the height of the descent rather than the angle of the slope which principally determines free-flow exit speed!

Double-deck racks

The developers, city and county councils, and the Campaign were also involved in a trial of double-deck racks. Again we were wary of these modern inventions, and some previous designs we have seen were far from satisfactory. A crucial factor is having enough racks, so that no one arrives to find spaces only on the higher level. Those with lightweight expensive bikes might well prefer the upper level as components are less vulnerable. The trial has enabled lessons to be learnt. This will be a large order for the manufacturer chosen, and I’ve heard further improvements are being considered.

Cycle parking at Cambridge railway station.
Image as described adjacent


At ground level there will be a cycle shop, hire facility and space for the disabled, and those with special bikes or trikes, to leave their cycles. Greater Anglia have just opened a similar but far smaller facility at Colchester, which itself is a development of the one at Leeds station. Abellio, the parent company of Greater Anglia, has just announced a Bike and Go scheme at 50 locations in the UK. It is aimed at the last mile (or so) from stations rather than touring, so as to help those who might otherwise have taken a bike on a train. No doubt this will form a part of the facilities at Cambridge.

How will it be managed?

It will be part of the station, and the agreement is that it will be open before the first train of the day until after the last train. A full management plan has to be agreed, and the Campaign will have an input to this plan.

Does this affect the Chisholm Trail?

The huge cycle park makes the route a more valuable asset, but crucially the proposed revised layout of the car park could counter a more positive view from developments on the Travis Perkins site off Devonshire Road. Being on railway land, the car park changes do not require formal planning approval, but already this is a major route for those on foot or bike. We have made contact over this issue and hope that a meeting will lead to positive changes to the layout. We are aware that the county council has met with Network Rail over access over land currently classified as ‘Operational’, but it seems that a small part of the current Travis Perkins site will be safeguarded for the route in advance of formal adoption of the local plan.

So what of the future?

If the cycle park gets full there is the opportunity to expand over the existing car park. We hope that, should demand for car parking fall significantly following the opening of the Science Park station, this could include a more gradual approach ramp from the north. We have also been assured that the level of the cycle parking deck will be such that a link could be made to the existing overbridge to the island platform. Any such access would be required to have a gateline, and as such gatelines are required to be staffed, it is likely that they would have a more restricted opening time.

We look forward to working with both the developers and Greater Anglia in ensuring that we get the best for all who will use this facility.

Jim Chisholm