Blog post by Catriona Swanson
Welcome to our fifth blog post and our second about inclusive cycling. This post, at the request of one of our Twitter followers, is about inclusive cycle parking.
As with previous posts, this isn’t going to get all technical and talk in detail about the design and installation of cycle parking as that’s already been done far better by others, particularly Wheels for Wellbeing in their must-read Guide to Inclusive Cycling as well as the Department for Transport in LTN 1/20.
This post is intended more as a gentle introduction to the topic, particularly for non-disabled people so that you can understand why inclusive cycle parking is so important and can campaign for it or even design it into your own schemes if you’re lucky enough to do this stuff for a living. According to research carried out by Arup and Sustrans, 31% of disabled people who do not cycle would like to start. However, we are not currently doing enough to enable it and one area that we’re failing in (among many, it has to be said) is cycle parking.
So, why is inclusive cycle parking important and how is it different to plain old cycle parking?
Parking at your destination
Well, funnily enough, just like non-disabled people, disabled people planning to cycle somewhere need to think about where they are going to lock their cycle at the other end. As a non-disabled person with a pretty cheap bike, I’m usually fairly relaxed about cycle parking, particularly if I’m not going to be somewhere for very long. I can normally find something to lock my bike to, even if it’s not ideal. I’ve occasionally contacted venues in advance to check what their cycle parking situation is (my line of work does occasionally take me to some less salubrious places) but, unless the person you’re meeting cycles, they often have no idea what cycle parking they have or where it is. The chances of them knowing whether it would be accessible to a disabled cyclist are slim to none. However, the worst-case scenario for me is being a bit inconvenienced by having to lock my bike a few minutes’ walk from the venue, lift it up a kerb or a couple of steps or lock it to something patently not designed to be cycle parking. It’s never actually stopped me being able to cycle somewhere.
That slight inconvenience for me can, however, be a major obstacle for a disabled person. For example, many disabled people can cycle but really struggle to walk so having to go any distance from the cycle parking to the venue might make it completely inaccessible to them. And while I can improvise with locking my bike to a bit of guardrail, it might not be possible for someone who has a non-standard bike, be it the lack of space (i.e. it would block the footway), because they can’t physically get the cycle close enough to lock it, or because non-standard cycles are expensive and they don’t want to take the risk that it won’t still be there in an hour (as well as needing to meet insurer's requirements). Any of these issues may mean that a disabled person may decide to not attend that meeting or appointment or that they have to drive or take a taxi to the venue, reinforcing the false narrative that disabled people choose to drive or take taxis.
Pedestrian guardrail can act as bike parking in a pinch but is not accessible for most non-standard cycles (Source: @backonmybike,Twitter)
So, what does inclusive cycle parking look like? Cycles used by disabled people come in all shapes and sizes from standard two-wheeled bikes, to e-bikes, trikes, handcycles and cargo bikes. Standard cycle parking such as the ubiquitous Sheffield stand are designed to be used by standard bikes and are often installed to close to each other and surrounding objects to enable non-standard cycles to be secured to them.
Well-spaced 'M' cycle stands can be helpful for a whole range of cycles from non-standard cycles to step-throughs and kids bikes (that's Harrie pretending to be a wide cycle in the photo below).
A long low bar with plenty of room around it (at least 1.5 metres so there's space for the cycle and for the rider to dismount) and designed so it can be ridden into and out off (without needing to reverse or lift the cycle) is generally what’s needed but there are other options too and different solutions may be needed for different locations and cycles.
Inclusive residential cycle parking
And it’s the same at the start of the journey; finding somewhere to store a bog standard bike at home is a big enough barrier for a lot of people (hence Waltham Forest’s hugely successful bike hangar programme) but at least bikes don’t take up that much room and can be manoeuvred up steps. But for a disabled person this might be impossible, either because their disability means they can't lift their cycle or because their cycle is too big/heavy to lift up stairs and get through doorways (of, of course, all of these things). As I alluded to above, non-standard cycles tend to be much more expensive than bikes and can be pretty big beasts so storing them outside can be difficult. Secure cycle shelters are available but rely on people having a garden or other space to put them and the means to buy and install them (again, they don’t come cheap). Unfortunately, outside Waltham Forest and a few other councils, secure residential cycle storage is a rare sight. Secure inclusive cycle parking is even rarer but does exist.
Secure cycle storage for a non-standard cycle (Source: Falco)
These are huge financial and physical barriers to cycling before we even consider the sort of things we normally focus on as cycling campaigners and designers like lack of safe cycle routes and roads dominated by cars. These barriers are so great that they go beyond limiting the number of journeys disabled people can cycle; they are likely to prevent many people from even considering getting a cycle in the first place.
Cycling vs. driving
When you compare this with driving, the differences are stark. Car parking standards and building regulations ensure that disabled car parking is provided in all new developments while people can ask their local authority to mark a disabled parking bay in the street outside their house. This is based on an assumption that all disabled people drive (or are driven) and can’t or don’t want to cycle. Meanwhile, disabled parking and the needs of disabled people are often cited as a reason why cycling infrastructure can’t be provided or schemes are watered down. This all acts to create a self-fulfilling prophecy where disabled people drive rather than cycle. In fact, worse than that, it contributes to the fallacy that we shouldn’t provide for cycling, as it disadvantages disabled people when in actual fact, when inclusive cycling infrastructure is provided, cycling gives disabled people more transport options and independence, not less.
Cycle parking is only one issue on a very long list that prevents disabled people and many others from cycling. But by ensuring that every new cycle parking scheme caters for disabled cyclists, we can improve things bit by bit – and, of course, this applies to all types of cycling infrastructure, not just parking.
So, please, if you are involved in designing or campaigning for cycle schemes, please remember cycle parking for non-standard cycles in your schemes. My top tips are:
- Ensure that all cycle parking schemes cater for disabled cyclists and non-standard cycles such as including half-height stands
- Locate cycle parking as close as possible to (accessible) entrances
- Ensure cycle parking is accessible, i.e. step-free
- For larger cycle parking schemes such as cycle hubs, 5% of spaces should be dedicated for use by disabled cyclists
But I really recommend reading the Wheels for Wellbeing Guide to Inclusive Cycling
Have you been put off cycling because a lack of cycle parking? Have you got any great examples of inclusive cycle parking you'd like to share? If so, please leave a comment!
Note about the author
Catriona Swanson is co-founder of In Tandem and an Associate at PJA. She specialises in planning and designing active travel schemes and has delivered award winning inclusive cycling infrastructure including traffic-free routes, protected cycle tracks and low traffic neighbourhoods.