Bicycle street

This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 113.

In recent newsletters I’ve reported on our efforts to introduce cycle parking on Thoday Street. I’m now pleased to report a positive development and some interesting statistics.

It’s a struggle to park bikes in back gardens down these narrow, muddy and dark alleyways.
Image as described adjacent

When I last wrote I was struggling to keep up momentum in the project following the lukewarm consultation response to the two-week cycle parking trial that was held in September 2013 (see Newsletter 111). That had yielded only a brief results summary which showed 16 for and 14 against the initiative. Those figures had not inspired much enthusiasm among councillors for taking this project further.

After discussing the matter with fellow members in the on-line Cyclescape forum, we planned a carefully worded question for February’s Cambridge City Council East Area Committee (EAC) meeting. This successfully re-opened the debate, and was followed up by visits to the street by two local councillors. I took the opportunity to show them the narrow back alleyways which make for an inconvenient option for parking bikes in the gardens. The political party of the county councillor for the area undertook a thorough survey of residents by organising a ‘knock and drop’ posting of questionnaires for the whole the street – which has about 190 addresses.

The results read out at the EAC showed: 112 responses, 61% in favour, 36% against. There were many other details but the key statistic that persuaded the councillors to support the project was that almost half the motorists were in favour of the scheme.

The outcome of the EAC decision is that the County Council are going to proceed to formally advertise a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to introduce two blocks of cycle parking outside the same houses in Thoday Street that were in September’s trial. The TRO defines what changes will be made to the highway and gives a deadline by which representations should be made.

I was impressed by the statistic that 85% of respondents owned bikes. But it doesn’t feel like a bicycle street because it is choked with cars parked on pavements on both sides of the road. The bikes are in front rooms, hallways and back gardens and relatively few are visible in the street – looking out of place, leaning against lampposts or attached to drainpipes. The cycle parking will raise the status of bikes, make them a lot more convenient to use and therefore they will be used more – as the results of the initial experiment revealed. One immediate neighbour has already bought a cargo bike for transporting their toddler twins – and the imminent arrival of the bike racks was a factor in their decision.

The racks will require the removal of two car parking spaces, and it was this issue that most exercised councillors in their deliberations. They have not made this decision lightly. It is a move away from allocating all the available space for parking cars towards a fairer use of the space that accommodates bikes in the transport options for this street.

For now we are looking forward to the implementation of the racks and have submitted comments on the detailed design. The lead councillor on this matter has stated in a public meeting that he is willing to consider more such installations and in the longer term they could become part of the city council’s parking policy.

Simon Nuttall