CB1: car storage and cycle parking?

This article was published in 2011, in Newsletter 98.

The detailed planning application for a further stage (Blue) of the CB1 development at the railway station has recently been submitted.

Yet again this is a plan that totally fails to meet the Local Plan requirements for cycle parking, and shows a lack of understanding by the designers of cycle and car use within Cambridge. Of course the submission does not talk about ‘Car Storage and Cycle Parking’ but lists ‘Cycle Storage and Car Parking’.

In a dense development of this nature which is so close to both the railway station and the city centre it is likely that few will be daily car commuters, or spend their lives on the ‘school run’. It is more likely that cars will be stored for that weekend trip, with walking, bike or train being used for work or leisure trips, often just within Cambridge, and hence bike parking needs to be quick and convenient. Some people are even likely to use a bike trailer to get young children to nursery or school. So people may store their car and not use it for a week, but use a bike several times each day.

What is wrong? Everything…

  • The racks are too close together so it won’t be possible to use all of them.
  • The cycle parking is not easily accessible from the dwellings, nor can the adjacent cycle network be easily reached.
  • The current design does not restrict the cycle parking area to residents.
  • The illustrated cycle racking fails to meet basic standards as it isn’t possible to ‘U’ lock the bike frame to the rack.
  • The two points above mean any bike stolen from this huge area is unlikely to be covered by insurance.
  • It is unclear whether the required number of racks can be created if the spacing is increased to meet the standards.

My major concern is that the access for the cycle parking is totally impractical.

The vast majority of cycle parking is in a basement area 4 metres below ground level (that is the same as the height of the gutters on my two-storey house). Not only that but there is just one single steep, ‘one in three’ ramp for all the blocks in this complex. As a ‘modification’ there is a wheeling slope on each side of the stairs and there are ‘resting’ places. If you are wheeling a bike with a toddler in a child seat you’ll really need these. I’m not sure how you are expected to cope with a trike, a child trailer, or one of the increasingly common cargo-type bikes, nor would I feel safe wheeling a bike loaded with shopping down such a steep slope. I don’t understand what happens on such a long ramp when a ‘left-hander’ meets a ‘right-hander’ half way down. (The Navy has / had precise rules about who retreats and how far when two different ranks meet on steep and narrow stairs.) The Illustration in the planning documents is, I’m told, of a far shorter and far less steep ramp on a different development in Cambridge.

As if this string of woes wasn’t enough, because the blocks are spread over some 200 metres with a single entrance you may travel nearly 500 metres getting your bike, and just get back to your front door.

These aren’t the only problems. One block separate from the others has no residents’ cycle parking. It is difficult to see where visitors are expected to park their cycles. Although there is some very limited residents’ cycle parking at ground level, to be of any practical use this would need to be strictly reserved for those with specific needs.

You would think, that with two excellent guides to cycle parking and access produced here in Cambridge, at least some of the suggested measures would have been incorporated. I can only assume that the persons concerned with this design have neither seen nor read either of these guides.

Jim Chisholm

‌STOP PRESS: The development was approved with some last-minute improvements but is still unsatisfactory. See our website and the next issue of the Newsletter for an update.