The key is quality and not just quantity

17 Jun 20

You only have to look at most high-density schemes in many of our urban areas and you will often see bikes stored awkwardly on balconies. To me, this emphasises that for whatever reason the generic policy compliance of 1:1 cycle parking (varies throughout the UK) is not being embraced by residents and, therefore, it is equally common to see cycle secure lockups without a single bike stored.

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It is widely anticipated that bike and scooter usage will increase due to both Covid-19 and the Government’s e-scooter trials. If you’ve tried to purchase a bike through any of the mainstream online retailers you will have quickly discovered that there’s little to no stock left. And you’d also better be quick to buy your shares in Halfords, which are up 70% over the past 3 months.

But where do we store our bikes and scooters once we’ve bought them? A casual glance at any number of high-density schemes in many of our urban areas presents the visual proof that they are often stored awkwardly on balconies. To me, this emphasises that the generic policy compliance of 1:1 cycle parking (varies throughout the UK) is not being embraced by residents and, therefore, it is equally common to see cycle-secure lock-ups without a single bike stored.

We therefore need to be thinking as much about quality as quantity when anticipating cycle/scooter provision, and that starts with the user experience. As users we want comfort that our £500+ vehicle is safe and secure – and as the ubiquitous balcony display demonstrates, we’re often willing to forgo personal space for peace of mind.

As a nation, we have concentrated our planning on ‘A to B’ cyclists rather than holistic explorers. We’ve made provision to store our bikes at home (not necessarily in the designated space) and we’ve got better at providing secure parking at the workplace; but what happens when we need to go to a meeting elsewhere, or simply make a spontaneous visit? This is where things can fall down. How many bikes have you seen on a Sheffield stand minus its front and rear wheel outside a convenience store, or ‘bikes will be removed’ signs on railings on the outside of public buildings?

Clearly fold-up bikes like Brompton have an edge, being easy to store and largely able to stay with the user, but what about everyone else? Have we, or will we see, a spike in the demand for fold-up bikes before the e-scooter potentially begins to compete for sales? Will people rent rather than buy to reduce the threat of bike theft?

Here in the UK we also need to think about the weather – it is in our DNA after all. The droves of newly converted cyclists in the April and May sunshine seem less visible in June showers. What happens as we move into colder and wetter months? Where do we hang that sopping wet jacket during our meeting? Again, this emphasises why we need to be thinking more about the end user rather than binary cycle policies that risk pushing quantity over quality.

In last week’s email we talked about our overprovision of retail space in the context of Covid-19. Can we repurpose some of our surplus retail space into secure bike storage with changing and drying facilities to accommodate the expected spike in demand for cycle parking, much like a downsized version of the Cycle Hub outside Brighton station? Longer term we may begin to find the smaller, potentially cheaper, e-scooters have a role to play in replacing many of these journeys, being easier to store. However, it’s difficult to close the rings on your Apple Watch standing still, so the bike isn’t going away quietly.

To hear more on the above issues, please watch our weekly vlog, ‘When Tomorrow Comes’, which will be available online at 8am on Friday 19 June 2020. This week our special guest is Julian Scriven, Managing Director, from Brompton Hire. We’re pretty confident Julian will be planning beyond A to B.

Clive Burbridge Director,Transport

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