A cycle parking secret

This article was published in 2005, in Newsletter 59.

Did you know that there are FREE underground parking stands for over 200 bicycles at Park Street Car Park? Did you know that for just £10 per month you can place your bike in a locker with your belongings? That three CCTV scanners and security staff are constantly at work there? And that it is the biggest of its kind in Britain?

Yet although the Bike Park has been available for several years, I am still amazed at the number of people who do not know it is there. In case you are one of these, the entrance is a few yards from the corner of Round Church Street and Park Street and the cycle area is in the underground bay of the multi-storey car park. All shapes and sizes of cycles can be accommodated including tandems and tricycles and there is even space for trailers. There are small blue signs marking the entrance and pointers on the opposite side of the road.

The bike park is now around two-thirds full on weekdays but I still wonder why more people do not avail themselves of this excellent facility which has been provided by a generous Home Office grant. Some may feel that there is a certain romance in the traditional Cambridge sight of bicycles clustered around railings on the street and want to add their imprint to the scene or that having to walk a few extra yards to their destination is not worth the effort. I thought so until I collected my bike at the end of a particularly trying day, from a railing beside my workplace, to find the saddle had been removed. Since then I have always used the Park and do so even if I need to go to another part of the city centre. After all, there are two ‘free bus’ stops almost within sight of the Park entrance: one at the end of Jesus Lane and the other in Trinity Street.

A colleague was concerned that an underground situation presented a possible danger to women. I must say that in its early stages the Park did not seem too inviting. It had very few users, it seemed rather dark and gloomy, it didn’t smell too pleasant and it took me several months to discover that there was a second exit (leading to St John’s Street). Now, with its bold and attractive murals and a growing fraternity of regular users (including several youngsters from the nearby primary school) I feel quite an affection for the place. Oh yes, and the smell has gone.

The lockers seem very underused. Although I do not have need myself, I have arranged with my workplace to have the cost refunded to anyone who wishes to use one. Other nearby employers may like to take up the idea to encourage more people to cycle to work. It is much cheaper than providing or paying for car parking!

Do give the Park a try, even if it is to keep your bike out of the rain one day. Once accustomed, you won’t need to wonder whether you will be forced to retrieve your bike from the bottom of a stack of others or even to wonder where you actually left it. And, above all, there is far less need to worry as to whether it will actually be there when you go to fetch it.

And finally: what has happened to the luminous plastic self-curling cycle clips that not only worked effectively but also provided an advertising stunt that people really did notice? I was regularly asked what my clips said. Now I have lost them and no longer have the opportunity to peel them off and roll out the words Free Secure Cycle Parking. Please make some more.

Jane Chisholm