The following is based on a contribution to the Cycle Parking Subgroup’s e-mail list a few months ago, during a debate on how reasonable it is for us as a Campaign to insist on enough quality cycle parking provision.
We must be able to distinguish between reality and the prejudices that are repeatedly rolled out to justify giving cyclists a raw deal yet again in favour of drivers. We should not forget that to squeeze one more car space onto a site forces about ten cyclists to try and find a railing to hang off.
It is not a valid argument to suggest that cycle parking isn’t needed because people can just fly park. A bike chained to a lamp post doesn’t create the same problems as a car on a pavement, but it isn’t something you want to encourage either. And what of the user? A bike chained to a post is vulnerable to theft, vandalism or cursory removal by the police or local authority.
Have a look around the centre of Cambridge. There is an acute shortage of cycle parking – railings have threatening notices fixed to them; shop windows have notices requesting people not to lean their cycles against them and bikes are left everywhere a space can be found. It is a problem, and it is not being properly catered for, precisely because of the attitude that cycle parking is an unreasonable imposition on building owners and developers. We are worried, though, that the developers are trying to make cyclists pay to park at the majority of spaces.
Developers will always fight for more car parking, but they have little interest in the more general long-term health of a city. Restricting availability of car parking space is one of the few effective deterrents to traffic growth that a local authority can apply. If we want Cambridge to have clean air and quiet roads, then resisting the demand for ever more car parking and supporting calls for more cycle parking are essential.