Bike parking: the next generation

This caught my eye: a commuter at Aircraft station:

…uses the station five days a week and said she had given up trying to get a park at the station.

“Because of the traffic congestion on Point Cook Road and because of the lack of car parking facilities at the station, I choose to walk or to cycle to the station

Star Weekly, 2/4/2019 “No love for Aircraft train station

Aircraft is not unique in this regard. No suburban railway station has enough car parking to meet demand. It’s basically impossible to achieve. It’s extraordinarily expensive, and doesn’t scale up.

Car park, Laverton station

If someone walks or cycles to the station instead of driving, is that actually a bad outcome?

The caveat:

“The footpath’s broken, it’s very narrow, the railings either side of the footpath are inadequate and inappropriate.

“I lock my bike to the fence … there’s just no bike security.

All of these could be fixed without just giving up and expanding the car park at huge cost, so it fills up a few minutes later each morning, and generates more car traffic into the precinct.

Unfortunately, it looks like the nearby level crossing removal won’t provide upgrades to the station either way.

Singapore MRT: bicycle parking

Bike cages? Or something else?

In Europe and Asia, you see huge numbers of bicycles parked at railway stations. Could we get the same outcome here?

(The image above is from Singapore; the image at the top of the post is from Bruges, Belgium.)

I’m not sure a cage is necessarily much more secure than locking a bike to a fence. Almost anybody can get a bike cage card key. And bike cages are pretty expensive to install en masse – around $100,000 for a standard cage (fitting 26 bikes). That’s a lot cheaper than car parking, but still quite pricey.

I’ve been reliably informed that bike theft can be a problem, but it almost never happens if a D-lock is used – because D-locks can’t be cut through with bolt cutters.

(Angle grinders are a different story. This is why many people use a cheap bike to park at the station, not an expensive one that may attract thieves.)

The Aircraft commuter’s situation is not unique. Many people would like to drive to the station. They’ll never be able to do so, because providing a car spot for all of them is completely impractical.

Station car parks are often very prominent, usually taking up more space than the station itself, but that’s because cars take up so much space. The statistics show that most people don’t drive to the station. Not even in Zone 2.

Most people walk, cycle, or catch a bus or tram to the station because it’s the best (or least worst) option for them. Given costs of providing station parking make it impractical on a large scale, it’s good that most people can find another way.

But the article is right – bicycle parking could be a lot better than it is.

The next station out from Aircraft is Williams Landing, which has 666 car park spaces [1] – also full early each morning.

It turns out that a lot of people are cycling to Williams Landing.

Williams Landing station - bike cage

When I took a look one weekday afternoon, I found the bike cage was packed full of bikes.

…and nearby, this fence had a long row of bikes along it.

Williams Landing station - bike parking

This is good. The more people cycling, the better.

So what’s the best way to encourage even more people to cycle?

Better bike lanes and paths will help, but if every fence already has a bike chained to it, what about more station bike parking, on a large scale?

The Wheelie

If more Parkiteer bike cages are expensive, are there cheaper options?

Turns out the Department of Transport and Monash University have been working on something: The Wheelie.

It’s a simple metal structure that is compact – designed to fit into an area the size of a parking space – and can cater for up to nine bikes.

It looks quite ingenious, and could help cater for a lot more bike parking around stations as well as places like university campuses.

I’m told the cost is under $1000 to manufacture it, plus some installation costs – kept low by not needing excavation (which in turn can impact underground services) – it’s just anchored to a block of concrete. Unsophisticated, but effective. And the design is Creative Commons, so anybody can make and deploy them.

The key is to target installation sites carefully: probably better at staffed stations, in view of CCTV, in a well-lit spot, and preferably undercover.

Cycling’s not for everyone. (I don’t currently have a bike.) And connecting buses should be better.

But if this new design provides a cheap affordable way to get more people to railway stations without them having to drive and add to local congestion, then that’s a win for everybody – even those who do have to drive.

  • [1] The new PTV web site just says the station has parking, with no detail. Only the old web site specifies the number of spots.
  • Lead photo: bike parking at Bruges station, Belgium

Is this Melbourne’s narrowest bike lane?

Is this Melbourne’s narrowest bike lane? What exactly is the point here?

I wonder if it actually offers cyclists any safety if they have to move out into traffic every time there’s a parked car?

Melbourne's narrowest bike lane?

I’m not sure that it inspires me as a prospective cyclist.

Pic from Brewer Road, Bentleigh. I thought Neerim Road in Carnegie had some narrow bike lanes, but those are wider than a parked car.

Bike helmets

Radio National’s Background Briefing had a feature story on the bike helmet debate yesterday morning. You can download it and listen to it here.

It talks about Melbourne’s bike share scheme; the experience in Europe (where cyclist numbers are higher, but injuries are lower) vs Australia (which it sounds like is the only country with compulsory bike helmet laws, since 1990, and is now cited in Europe has how not to do things); what really makes cyclists safe (investment in separate bike paths and lanes); the changing attitudes to road investment in European cities (concentrating on cars in the 50s, but switching back to cyclists and pedestrians in the 70s and ever since); and the ego and antagonism from both cyclists and motorists.

My conclusion:

On an individual level, your risk of injury is undoubtedly lessened by wearing a helmet. (One of the medical experts said you’re four times less likely to incur head injuries.)

But on a communal level, it’s quite possible that society might well be better off by not having compulsory helmet laws — because they discourage people, and in cycling, safety comes in numbers — and instead concentrating on more bike lanes and bike paths, as they have in the most successful cycling cities in Europe.

(Certainly for me the concern about sharing space with cars and trucks is my biggest worry about cycling.)

In turn, cities with less people cycling means less overall health benefit from active transport, so a less healthy society overall.

One contributor to the programme suggested that a study needs to be conducted, which could involve one state repealing (at least temporarily) its helmet laws, to see what happens.

Bike share – is it working?

Bike share station outside Southern Cross Stn and Media House

A commenter challenged me to learn a bit more about bike sharing before writing about it again (previous post), but didn’t point me to a specific URL. So I did a little digging.

As it happens the Melbourne Leader had an article on it this week:

The State Government-funded scheme has attracted just 185 subscribers and 1350 trips since its launch in May, with BYO helmets and high deposit costs appearing to discourage would-be users.

Assuming those figures were from 11th July (the date before the article), that means 1350 trips since 31st May, or 42 days, which means about 32 trips per day.

The rate of trips per day does not appear to be growing. An RACV media release from 22nd June said at the time they’d clocked up 700 rides. That’s also 32 trips per day. Which is not to say it won’t grow in the future of course, as university restarts, and more bikes get rolled-out.

The Leader article mentions there are currently 100 bikes, so each bike has been used, on average, once every three days.

The other week I watched ABC2’s e2 programme on the Paris bike share system Vélib’, which seems to have been a big success. According to Wikipedia (and from memory the programme said similar things), it has 20,000 bicycles and 1,639 stations, and it’s apparently spread well beyond central Paris. It has a similar pricing scheme to Melbourne, geared at short trips, with free hire for the first half-hour.

(You can watch e2 online on their web site — click on webcasts — some later episodes are on ABC iView.)

Paris’s system has about 120,000 trips per day, so on average each bike is used 6 times per day. Clearly we’ve got a long way to go in Melbourne. I’m just not sure if it’s going to take off.

I haven’t seen people using the bikes, but I’m told those that are seem to be grabbing them and riding around without helmets, suggesting they’re tourists unaware of the helmet rules, or locals willing to risk the fine. Presumably at least some are rocking up with their own helmet to use.

Now, I don’t mind the concept of bike share. Cycling, particularly in the CBD and inner-suburbs, has matured over the last few years. In fact if there are any public main streets I’d feel safe cycling on, it would be in the CBD, where with some exceptions, there’s very little traffic.

But I still struggle to see where the market for Melbourne Bike Share is, given most Melburnians arrive in the CBD with an all-day ticket they can use on trams for short trips, and tram services along most CBD corridors are very frequent (though admittedly slow and overcrowded much of the time).

And it’s the helmet requirement that is really going to prevent a lot of people using it. Even proponents seem to accept that this casts doubt on whether it’ll work.

Update 23/7/2010: While the Leader article says there are currently 100 bikes, today’s Age article and the official web site both say there are 600 bikes. However, I attempted to count the total number of bikes using the station map, and came up with 314.

The bike share scheme

Melbourne’s bike share scheme is meant to start today, and the bike stations have been going in. I found this one at Federation Square, evidently almost ready to go, the only thing missing is the bikes:

Melbourne Bike Share station, Fed Square

Melbourne Bike Share

Curiously, just across the road outside St Paul’s Cathedral is another one.

Melbourne Bike Share station, St Paul's

I wonder what the bogans who often hang around there will think of it. I hope the bikes are tough.

The other initial locations are mostly around Swanston Street, with a couple up near Melbourne Uni, and one at Southbank. Apparently it will eventually spread to some fifty locations.

I’m maintaining my previous cynical view of it. I’m happy to be proven wrong, but I just don’t see who would use it.

If you’re a tourist, you won’t have a helmet. You can use one of the existing tourist-oriented bike hire vendors. (This scheme seems to be designed not to put them out of business.)

If you’re a Melbourne local who arrived in the city by PT, your trip around the CBD by tram or bus or train is included in the price of your ticket, and is probably more convenient by PT than bike. Why would you pay more, and carry a helmet to do it by bike?

If you arrived in the city by car, I really doubt you’ll be carrying a helmet and hiring a bike.

If you work close to the city in a spot not well-covered by PT (perhaps somewhere like Fishermen’s Bend), even if you did carry a helmet, unless your destination also has a bike share station, you’d pay a fortune to have the bike at work all day. You’re more likely to bring your own bike on the train.

There is one possible group I can see: CBD residents, but only if they are of the mind to ride a hired bike (not one they own themselves; perhaps if they have limited space in their flat), bring their own helmet, and if they are making a trip that was genuinely easier by bike than other means. And it would have to be a trip to the vicinity of another bike share station — all highly unlikely with the initial stations, given they’re almost all parallel to Swanston Street, which has a tram every minute or so.

The helmet thingthe government claims to have a solution: ”very cheap” helmets would be available to people who joined the bike scheme. He did not specify how much the helmets would cost. Helmets would also be available at city shops near the bike stations. But it’s not yet clear what this means: how much is “very cheap” and if that means shared helmets or buying a cheap one if you’ve forgotten to bring your own.

I may be proven wrong, but get the feeling the bike share scheme may turn out to be a big waste of (taxpayers’) money.

It’s part of the plan.