This article was published in 2015, in Newsletter 121.
I recently returned to Melbourne in Australia for a quick visit to family and friends, and while there I was pleasantly surprised at the increased number of people cycling and the improvements to cycling infrastructure. One of the best changes I observed was in front of my old local cafe, where car parking space had been converted into cycle parking. Following on from our article in Newsletter 119 regarding the conversion of car parking space to bicycle parking space in Thoday Street, I thought it would be interesting to explore this change further, particularly from a business perspective.
I was a regular customer at this establishment during 2012 and 2013. At this time the proprietor was using some of the footpath space to provide bicycle parking – at the cost of additional tables for customers. He had a loyal customer base of cyclists; however, they certainly struggled to find space to park their bikes. It was clear that neighbouring residents were frustrated as they had placed signs in their front windows requesting that bicycles be kept away.
Reviewing the minutes of the local council and bicycle advisory group provided insight into the process that was undertaken to install the permanent cycle park.
The owner originally proposed the installation in 2013 and following consultation with residents and businesses a trial was undertaken for three months in early 2014. This trial involved the conversion of one parking space into temporary bike racks for eight bicycles. Throughout this trial, car use in the street was monitored and community feedback was sought.
The results of the trial were overwhelmingly positive. Monitoring of the area showed that the bicycle racks had a significant and regular amount of use and car drivers were not affected, as there were always at least two empty parking spaces nearby. Feedback was also sought from local residents and businesses. To 70 letters sent there were 13 responses: 10 supporting the change and 3 in opposition. An additional survey of the same group indicated that 97% supported the bike parking. While most traders supported the provision of cycle parking, they were less supportive about the removal of parking spaces.
Within these results, however, there was an indication that residents thought the cycle parking would be safer and more appropriate on a nearby side street. This was particularly supported by a second cafe, next to that site. In view of this, the council decided to conduct another trial in the new location, following which they would determine if permanent parking should be installed and in which location.
By 20 October of that year, before the second trial was complete, the council decided that the bicycle parking in front of the first cafe should be made permanent, provided additional features were implemented to improve safety and the appearance of the racks. By the end of November the cycle park was installed.
Despite concerns that having two sections of car parking converted into bicycle parking would provoke negative reactions from the community, in December the council decided to make the second bicycle parking site permanent as well. The council is now continuing to monitor these sites and use them to guide further installation of bicycle parking in other locations.
I was particularly pleased to read about the key policies that the council considered in making their decision:
- environmental sustainability: bicycle parking would result in positive shifts towards sustainable transport
- human rights, equity and inclusion: improving mobility through cycling and walking assists in reducing social isolation
- economic development: installation of bike parking was a positive step; it provided more parking and also freed up the footpaths so that additional outdoor seating could be used.
I strongly believe that increasing cycling and walking infrastructure provides numerous benefits for the local community and local business, and I am pleased to see that a business owner was able to drive this change in their community – getting even more bicycle parking installed than was originally intended. A review of the cafe’s Facebook page shows that the bike parking is regularly filled beyond capacity, so I am sure that the business has benefited greatly from its efforts.
Roxanne De Beaux