Station cycle park

This article was published in 2016, in Newsletter 125.

Image as described adjacent

The ‘Cyclepoint’ is now (nearly all) open, so what is it like?

For those new to this area, or subject, the ground floor contains little cycle parking, with what there is supposed to be for the disabled or those with ‘non-standard’ bikes (cargo bikes, trikes, tandems etc.) The remainder of the ground floor is taken up by a bike shop and the entrance to the hotel occupying the top floor and which wraps round two sides of the cycle park. Both the cycle shop and the hotel will open later.

A sloped/stepped ramp at a gradient of 1:6 leads to two further floors. This has four wheeling channels and shallow steps. A ‘ride-able’ ramp was ruled out as that would have needed a gradient of 1:20, hence taking up much more internal floor space, and would have had to be at a remote location to avoid conflict with the many pedestrians in the area at the exit.

This is a splendid building for which we’ve waited nearly 20 years, but it is not perfect.

Signage for the ground floor is abysmal, leading to ordinary bikes being squeezed/squashed/ stacked in an area supposedly reserved for non-standard bikes. There were 340 when I counted!

In some areas on the first floor lighting obstructs the placing of many bikes on the upper layer of the double-deck racks, and some larger bikes even hit the ceiling!

I have some slight concerns about the security of these racks, and I gather that in at least one place in London, modifications have been made.

There some ‘Sheffield’ racks available, but it might have been better to position them further away from the stair exit nearest the station entrance, so that they were less likely to be grabbed by early arrivers, who might otherwise have used a double-deck rack.

Exterior of cycle park showing cycle artwork.
Image as described adjacent

One blogger has pointed out that these racks are common in countries where prop stands are almost universal. This makes it easy to park your bike, and then use two hands to pull down the top rack. I chose a location close to a pillar as a means of propping up my bike!

In many locations the ‘aisle’ width is insufficient to easily align a bike for the top deck.

A trial of double-decker stands was conducted after planning permission was granted, and although a ‘preferred’ design was selected and used in a temporary cycle park, they proved not to be robust enough. We only recently discovered that Abellio had purchased racks of a different design for use within the new building. Only time will tell if these are robust enough.

Of course, with construction activity continuing for some months in this area, access to the cycle park is currently restricted. Rutland Cycles, who recently took over Station Cycles, have won the concession to run the cycle shop, and will shortly be opening a shop for sales, repair and hire. I expect some rebranding of the facilities Abellio originally proposed.

So how is it being used, and how smooth was the change-over?

After less than a week some 1,000 bikes were parked. A number of us were concerned over the short timescale for clearing the temporary cycle park, and somewhat threatening notices about removal of bikes left there. In part this was a result of a contractual commitment by Brookgate to release the temporary cycle parking area for other use, and the late delivery of the cycle park. In the end the change-over was better handled with a longer grace period, and bikes left were removed to a temporary storage area with the racks dismantled around them rather than locks damaged.

By the time you read this, the second floor should have been opened, and most regular users will have a chosen spot, having become familiar with the layout. We now await the formal opening later this spring.

The history

I’ve a collection of various drafts and planning briefs for the station area going back into the 1990s and we’ve a ‘thread’ of newsletter articles: www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters/threads/station.html
A very early article is: www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters/16/article5.html from February 1998 which reports the awarding the previous year of a ‘Chocolate Chain’ to WAGN (West Anglia Great Northern) for the abysmal lack of cycle parking at Cambridge station.

By this stage plans (a Development Framework) were being drawn up by Railtrack (remember them?) which included cycle parking both north and south of the station with around 1,000 spaces.

Later came a ‘Planning Brief’, which was overtaken by Ashwell’s development proposals which covered a larger area, and included 2,000 cycle parking spaces with room for expansion in a multi-storey building. As with many development plans of around the time, this bit the dust with the collapse of Ashwell, although by that time new plans had been drawn up that would have given similar numbers of cycle spaces on the lower two floors of a multi-storey car park to the north of the main buildings.

Brookgate had taken over and further revised these plans by 2010, by which time some 1,200 cycles were parked in the station area.

The Campaign also did a detailed study of cycle parking and cycle movements through the gateline. See: www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters/90/article7.html

Finally in about August 2013 the plans for the new cycle park were agreed and a DfT grant of £500,000 contributed to the cost. See: www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters/109/article2.html

At that time it was hoped that the facility would open in December 2014.

For the future

Will anyone guess when it will fill up?

The park was designed such that one floor was approximately the same level as the ‘gated’ footbridge to the island platforms, and we have been assured that the modular nature of that bridge means that an additional span to reach the cycle park is practicable. It would of course require a gateline within the cycle park, and perhaps more importantly someone to fund it. When the new Cambridge North station opens, it is likely that many more London-bound trains will depart from platforms 7 and 8. There will be lots of running up and down stairs, together with a crush at the existing gateline that could easily be avoided.

Thanks are due to all those city and county councillors and officials, not to mention those in the rail industry and DfT, and those past and present committee members of the Campaign who have worked on this issue over all those years.

For a very short time St Albans station actually had more cycle parking than Cambridge. This must never happen again!

Jim Chisholm