Discussion Paper: secure bicycle parking stations for Newcastle.

Introduction
Through the comments section below, I am using this page to continue discussions I’ve been having with community leaders and potential sponsors, on the topic of secure bicycle parking stations in Newcastle, along similar lines to the RBWH Cycle Center in Brisbane. Please feel free to join the discussion. Adding your contact details and any affiliations would be appreciated. I’m too busy to promise close moderation, so be judicious and ignore senseless comments and futile debates.

The need for facilities like this

  • Sprawling cities cannot easily be cycled using cheap bikes like those used in Amsterdam, that can be chained outside unattended.
  • Furthermore, Australians’ love of sport, means a love of sports bikes, too expensive to chain to a pole.
  • Longer commutes mean sweaty commuters, in need of a shower when they arrive.
  • Secure facilities dignify, even glorify cycling, thus encouraging people to cycle who may currently think only driving behoves them. 

Precedents
The past decade has seen the construction of secure bicycle stations in other sprawling cities. The common traits:

  • architect designed to dignify and celebrate cycling
  • peace of mind against theft, by way of attendants and/or after-hours digital keys for club members
  • revenue generation from bike store, repair shop and bike hire lease
  • shower and locker facilities for "club" members

Links to specific examples:

What might they look like?
Such facilities can take the form of: small towers; infill developments; sculptural interventions in plazas or parks; or where underground silos can be used to store the actual bikes, dispensers may be the only above ground trace of the actual storage facilities (although showers and bike shops would add to the visual impact).
 

Siting

  • within 300m (a short walk) of work places that presently lack such facilities
  • triumphal, highly visible locations, that bespeak public sanctioning or cycling as a mode of commuting on par with driving
  • proud entrances, acknowledging users’ pride in their cycling and club membership.


Stars indicate some sites to consider: 1. in front of Civic Station; 2. cnr. Hunter and Perkins; 3. cnr. Watt and Scott (Enterprise Park)

Budget
To be determined after July envoy to see centers operating in Brisbane.

Determining Capacity and Scale
The key determinant of scale, is the population of potential bicycle commuters within a short walk (say, 300m) of each facility. Since the objective is to encourage drivers to swap over to cycling, existing demand for bike parking gives no indication. Rather, we need to look at the capacity of parking facilities in other cities, as compared to the population of workers within walking distance from those facilities.

Who will benefit?

  • Everyone who switches to commuting by bicycle from commuting by car, bus or train.
  • Casual users who can use these when day tripping to the city by bike
  • Businesses, who will see casual users of the facilities making the city a destination for shopping and recreation
  • Tourism, as cyclists come by bike/train for cycling holidays to enjoy the coast, Glenrock and Fernleigh track, and admire this kind of infrastructure
  • The local economy, as the artistic and environmental character of the stations lures the creative class
  • Council, by reducing burden on car parking.
  • Drivers, for whom car parking spaces will be freed up (momentarily, before they are turned into cycle lanes!)
  • Users’ employers, who will have fitter, wealthier and happier staff
  • Investors, who (might) receive carbon offset benefit.
  • Humanity, by reduced carbon emissions.
  • Tax payers, by a less morbid society with lower health care costs.

Who misses out?

  • Because membership is charged for, there is no direct benefit to people who cycle because they cannot afford to drive—they will benefit indirectly, as the boost to cycling leads to cycle paths being upgraded.

Quantitative Brief
Spaces to include, but not be limited to:

  • accessories and clothing shop
  • repairs workshop
  • Club member shower facilities to cope with rush hour demand
  • Locker facilities
  • Best practice with regards to ecologically sustainable design
  • 24/7 member access with smart cards and CCTV

Qualitative Brief

  • Worthy of architectural award
  • Somehow evocative of health, bicycle design, environmentalism, or some other relevant image.
  • High profile and visible

Least resolved questions

  • Can investors use the project to offset carbon emissions?

Where to from here?
My first thoughts on a plan of attack, for the next 6 months, are as follows

  1. Promotion of this forum to gather input from a variety of sources (May 2010) Please share the link!
  2. Preliminary meeting with influential supporters of plan (May 2010)
  3. Envoy to visit Bicycle Centres in Brisbane (14 July 2010)
  4. Generate discussion in The Herald and ABC radio
  5. See who might sponsor a symposium, feasibility study, design competition, exhibition and catalog (ATO? NCC? GPT? University of Newcastle? BVN architects? bike rack suppliers? bike retailers? etc.)   
  6. Newcastle Innovation to handle account.
  7. The launch phase will culminate with a one day symposium in January 2011, to include:
  • presentations by local and international speakers,
  • exhibition of best entries in design competition
  • prizes awarded for 3 best design schemes
  • workshops and facilitated discussion
  • networking drinks function
  • public forum
  • presentation of exhibition catalog including essays by symposium presenters, and feasibility data.

Who am I?
I lecture in architecture at Newcastle Uni, and have conducted some research at the nexus of architecture and cycling (my two passions). I’m not hard to find via the web. However, for discussing anything to do with cycling, I’m more accessible via this blog. Hey, and thank you for reading this far!

12 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Parking ideas

    Good to see a project to raise the bicycle parking issue to a serious level. The key reason for cyclists not using their bikes to commute remains the perceived lack of safety. But right after this come the issues of lack of secure parking and showering facilities.

    I believe one of the potential limits to success of major parking facilities could be the cost. There are many buildings and offices with nooks and unused offices as well as shower facilities that have simply not been used before. There is a likelihood that if there was to be an increase in cycling usage in Newcastle, cheap bicycle parking could be in competition with whjat is effectively free parking that the commuters search out closer to or right at their place of work. People are quite creative in finding ways to get their bikes stored safely.

    • Steven says:

      Re: Parking ideas

      Hi and thanks for those thoughts. What you say would be true for most existing commuters, especially in a no B.S. town like Newcastle. The true target market for bicycle parking stations, would be people who own expensive bikes they feel proud to own. The many people we see parking their 5K racing bikes at cafes, for example. Of those who could probably sneak their bikes into their offices, many might use a bike station, simply because it is more dignified, and fun.
      I will admit, bike stations ARE for the more affluent. However, the uptake of cycling among the well heeled benefits everyone, by raising the profile of cycling. I can imagine affluent bicycle commuters, once they all get together, lobbying quite effectively for safer routes into town.

  2. Anonymous says:

    bike parking, King Georges Square Brisbane

    Message from Ben Ewald
    Brisbane has another bike parking station as well as the hospital one. It is under King Georges Square in the middle of the CBD and can park several hundred bikes. Access is by subscription. Bikes are stored in German made double decker steel racks.
    When I went to have a look they wouldnt let me take photos inside but heres a photo of the entrance.
    What? No attachments to this blog???

    • Steven says:

      Re: bike parking, King Georges Square Brisbane

      Hi Ben, thanks for that lead! I found this youtube clip of King George Square cycle centre in Brisbane


      I take your point too about Brisbane having that riverfront bike freeway generating more demand for up-market bike parking than we have right now in Newcastle. That said, a bike parking station, if someone built one, would add to demand. Admittedly, any built here would be smaller/
      Loved your clip about the forthcoming Wallsend/Glendale link,
      http://users.hunterlink.net.au/~magsb/WallsendGlendale.htm
      and plan on taking the kids out for a ride, before and after it’s sealed.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Bike Stations for Newcastle are a way forward

    Our train line, as much as we like public transport, is placed inconveniently. It will probably be removed. Light rail would be nice, to fill in the gaps, but it is unlikely for Newcastle, where we like the idea of digging up Civic Park for a car park, and Westfield.

    Where light rail might be considered too hard, more flexible, private means of transport must be used. This includes cars and bikes. For commutes between 1km and 10km, bikes are used by a small percentage of commuters (about 3%). Distances further than 8km are travelled mostly only by serious cyclists with racing bikes. These people would appreciate the proposed facilities, which would service the central business district and the proposed city university campus.

    The provision of infrastructure for cyclists can only encourage higher rates of participation in the sport, which is able to increase health, decrease pollution and congestion, and is really quite fun.

    Stations designed to glamourise the sport can only improve its image and promote this wonderful form of transport.

    Thomas Marshall,

    President,

    Newcastle University Bicycle Users’ Group

    • Steven says:

      Re: Bike Stations for Newcastle are a way forward

      Hi Thomas, thank you for that clear endorsement! Your mixed-mode vision is not unlike Jan Gehl’s, that has happened in Copenhagen (one of this blog’s readers/contributors, Roberto, has worked with him and has made me a fan).
      I take it NUBUG has mostly student member, cycling because they are on a shoe string budget. I’m a little concerned that some students, if they can’t see the big picture, will object to bike parking stations because they cost money to use, so do not serve them, directly. It’s the kind of thing I might have done, when I was young and jealous of anyone with money β€”β€” not realizing the old guys wished they still had my looks πŸ™‚

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: Bike Stations for Newcastle are a way forward

      Newcastle University Bicycle Users’ Group has 39 staff members, most of whom presumably would have the same attitude as you, regarding access to showers as necessary for their morning commute.

      NUBUG’s membership is broad, and brings together all people on campus with the common interest of cycling. It is unlikely that members would oppose any cycling infrastructure, even if it is not something they can afford to use themselves, at this point of their lives.

      To allow members to comment themselves, I have made this proposal available to all members through our emailing list.

      Thomas Marshall,

      NUBUG President

  4. Mild disclaimer

    Behooving,

    Possibly a bit of a stretch to say I have “worked” with Jan Gehl.

    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

    And yes, we all wish we had your looks – or is that legs?!?

    Roberto

    • Steven says:

      Re: Mild disclaimer

      Sorry, I meant to say Jan Gehl, who worked for a while under our regular reader Roberto. πŸ™‚

  5. Anonymous says:

    Newcastle Bike Club or Hire Scheme

    Steven,

    As a researcher in sustainability in Architecture at Newcastle University, I like with your proposal for Newcastle Bike Stations and facilities.

    I had some ideas last year to start something similar, although less ambitious to get it up and running fast – with reconditioned second-hand bikes, starting with 5-10 bikes at 2 cafes (eg. at Newcastle station, and maybe closer to Civic).

    It would have an internet booking roster, operated by the Cafes, and would need a bicycle repair organisation. It could possibly be a service-oriented cooperative, where profits are allocated to the members based on their annual transactions, with capital accumulated to buy more bikes from small user and/or member fees, with direct repair and replacement costs taken into account.

    This could be targeted at back packers (who could join, or just hire on an ad-hoc hourly/half-day/day basis with security) to start, and expanded as partners and momentum grew.

    Here are some good web sites/articles:
    http://www.ibike.org/encouragement/freebike/starting.htm#Starting
    http://www.bicyclensw.org.au/files/u1/d_Affordable_Transport_Alliance_FINAL_2_4_09.pdf
    http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/nrmas-bold-75bn-plan-for-hunter-transport/1799674.aspx
    http://users.hunterlink.net.au/~magsb/

    John Shiel
    http://www.envirosustain.com.au

    • Steven says:

      Re: Newcastle Bike Club or Hire Scheme

      I love this idea! A grass roots initiative like this could give a strong enough sense of purpose to the people maintaining the bikes, that the petty profits would be enough. I note Newcastle Bike Ecology Center has some beautiful and quirky old bike frames that could scrub up real nice. The trick would be to place legal liability with someone who has no worldly assets. I especially like the newcastle flavour. While my blog focuses on those who are motivated to ride to show off their fitness and wealth, Newcastle is a great place to be on a low income. Please keep us posted!

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: Newcastle Bike Club or Hire Scheme

      Steve,

      The liability issue is important. Firstly the T&Cs usually try to put the liability back onto the hirer, and secondly if it is a Coop structure (where the users are the members, and the employees would be the shops issuing the bikes, as well as the repairers) then there would be liability insurance.
      Problems can be minimised by keeping the bikes in order, and good training for shop issuers of good practice re testing bikes before riding, and having procedures for regular maintenance & for repairing defects.

      John Shiel

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