New city centre cycle park

Will we ever have enough cycle racks? Despite the city council installing new cycle parking for over 600 bikes as part of the Cambridge Cycle Parking Project, it is still difficult to find a space, especially on St Andrew’s St and Sidney St, where there are many shops, restaurants, pubs, banks and churches, and a three-screen cinema.

As highlighted by the city council’s survey of city centre access, the shortage of cycle parking means people leave their bikes where they can obstruct pedestrians, pushchairs and wheelchairs, and add clutter to the cityscape.

Not securing a bike to an ‘immovable object’ will in most cases invalidate insurance against theft. In Cambridge, where over 2,000 bikes are stolen every year, that’s a big risk to take.

If finding cycle parking is a challenge, it provides a ready excuse for people not to cycle when otherwise it could be a perfectly good option – whether from home, a Park&Ride site or the train station (with Bike & Go arriving with the new station cycle park).

Cargo bikes and trailers are becoming increasingly popular, and provide a practical and sustainable way to transport infants and shopping. Increasing and improving the quality of provision for these will reduce the number of trips for which people must use a car.

Current city centre cycle parks

Level -1 area of Grand Arcade car park, which could be reassigned to cycle parking.
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The existing Grand Arcade cycle park, which has a capacity of about 230 cycles, is regularly full, and provides little accommodation for cargo bikes and trailers. (The original planning consent actually required parking for 511 cycles, but Station Cycles was allowed to take over half the space.)

Park Street car park is due to be redeveloped. While that work is happening there will be a net loss of about 270 cycle parking spaces. Having additional capacity elsewhere that exceeds this would significantly reduce the inconvenience and impact of this temporary loss.

Proposed new location

The southern end of the ground level (‘-1’) deck of the Grand Arcade car park (beneath Cambridge City Hotel) could provide space for a cycle park with over 600 spaces. This area is easily isolated from the flow of vehicle traffic, and has two direct entry points, one from the elevated walkway alongside Corn Exchange Street, and one from the City Hotel access lane (the upper level of St Tibb’s Row).

Structural work would be required to widen and ramp the existing pedestrian entrances, or possibly create a new entrance from St Tibb’s Row closer to Downing Street.

Junction of Downing St and Corn Exchange St (in need of reconfiguration).
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The net loss of car parking would be just 35 spaces, which is 3.7% of capacity (953 spaces). Two of these are disabled bays, which could be relocated to the level ‘-2’ deck, close to the lift.

According to the Cambridge Access Study (Appendix B), the Grand Arcade car park does not fill up, and only exceeds 90% of capacity at weekends and in December. Therefore the revenue loss to the city council in sacrificing 35 parking spaces would be negligible.

How it would work

Access to the cycle park would be primarily from the (little used) City Hotel car park access road, which is one-way. Cyclists leaving on this route would need to walk their bikes along the pavement to Downing Street. Widening the road to create a contraflow cycle lane would entail reducing the width of the delivery ramp to a single lane. This might be possible if access to the ramp were light-controlled, but that would occasionally mean delivery vehicles having to wait in front of the hotel while other vehicles exited the delivery yard.

Existing pedestrian access from Corn Exchange Street (which would need to be widened and ramped).
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Cyclists could also access the cycle park from the corner of Downing Street and Corn Exchange Street. A reconfiguration of the junction could reduce conflict (which exists now) between motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

Existing pedestrian access from St Tibb’s Row (which would need to be widened and ramped).
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Additional options

Magistrates’ car park

Secure area in Grand Arcade car park reserved for magistrates.
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The city council was at one time looking into extending the existing Grand Arcade cycle park into the secure car parking area reserved for magistrates. If some of the 20 parking spaces are surplus to requirement there might be an opportunity to create up to 100 additional cycle-parking spaces. But it’s more likely that a new secure parking area would need to be created, in which case the entire space could be used. In practice this would mean moving the shop and hire centre backwards, releasing space at the front for more cycle parking.

Below Lion Yard

Jim Chisholm has suggested that there’s space to install a mezzanine level within the delivery yard beneath the Lion Yard shopping centre. This would be accessed via a ramp from the courtyard off Guildhall Street, behind YO! Sushi. Cyclists would not have access to the delivery yard itself, so there would be no conflict with delivery vehicles. Security issues might make this suitable only for passholders, e.g. employees in the Grand Arcade, Lion Yard and Petty Cury area.

Post Office Terrace

David Earl has proposed the yard at the end of Post Office Terrace (opposite Christ’s Lane), which currently holds a telephone exchange and a few car parking spaces. In theory one could install some double-decker cycle racks or, more ambitiously, create an underground cycle park.

Regent Terrace

An underground cycle park could be built under the western corner of Parker’s Piece with access from the end of Regent Terrace. There is considerable demand for cycle parking here, especially for events on Parkers Piece.

Let’s make it happen!

Location map.
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The first of these suggestions was submitted by Better City Deal (now Smarter Cambridge Transport) to the City Deal’s ‘Call for Evidence’. Some City Deal money is reserved for cycling infrastructure (including the Chisholm Trail and cross-city cycling improvements), but there’s no commitment yet to invest in more cycle parking. So please lobby your councillors and the City Deal (city.deal@cambridgeshire.gov.uk) for this.

Other practical steps you might want to volunteer for include:

  • tracking down the original structural engineering drawings for Grand Arcade, which should be on file with the city council
  • examining those drawings to see how feasible it would be to widen the pedestrian entrances to the parking level below the City Hotel, or to create a mezzanine level under Lion Yard
  • obtaining traffic movement data for St Tibb’s Row to see what would be the impact of reducing the width of the delivery ramp
  • contacting Cambridgeshire Magistrates to determine their parking requirements
  • investigating land ownership and access rights for any of the proposed options.

Please feed back any information or ideas you have to the Cycling Campaign via Cyclescape and Smarter Cambridge Transport via its website (http://www.smartertransport.uk/).

Edward Leigh,
Smarter Cambridge Transport (@SmarterCam)