This article was published in 2005, in Newsletter 60.
Cycling always ends in parking, and if your destination is a train station, parking can be a right performance.
Conditions were perfect this morning for cycling. It was a joy to hop on my bike and cycle the short 15 minute journey through the back streets of Cambridge to the station. So why, then, was I experiencing an all-too-familiar sinking feeling, accompanied by a slight, but definite, tightening of my jaw muscles?
Parking – that’s why. The thought of navigating my way through the tangle of obstacles in the station’s cycle park was enough to make me wish I had never sold my car – and that’s just hacking your way into the park. I haven’t even considered finding a space yet. That’s when swear words start to find their way out of my mouth, despite the vice-like jaw set.
There is an alternative, of course: I could take my bike with me. Now there’s a thought – my jaw muscles start to relax and a faint smile almost graces my lips. It doesn’t last long though. The reason is Audley End train station’s bike parking facilities. Not quite the obstacle course that is Cambridge, but still not ideal.
It’s wonderful that there are cycle parking facilities at most of our rail stations, but their condition and capacity, at least at these two stations, is shameful. At Cambridge, the main cycle park resembles a rubbish tip. It is covered in litter, weeds look set to take over, and rusty, broken bikes are taking root. And if you arrive later than about 8.15am, the only available racks are the ‘for hire’ ones.
My alternative parking, at Audley End, doesn’t suffer from the same set of problems, but the picture is not that much prettier. There are two parking areas, one on each platform. The Platform 1 area is always full by the time I get there, 8.40ish. The racks on Platform 2 look very inviting, but to get there I have to carry my bike over the footbridge, which is not the easiest thing if my panniers are fully loaded. And once I’m there the racks are not inviting in the least, as they are broken and rusty. I’ve long since given up trying to use these racks properly; now I just settle for any secure locking solution.
It’s disheartening. The prospect of parking at either station casts a rusty shadow over my journey to work, and it makes me angry. I guess it’s my equivalent of road rage. As a nation, we are being encouraged to use sustainable transport, and some of us are trying, but we’re finding it a trying experience.