In the face of the climate crisis, cost of living crisis, air pollution crisis, inactivity and lifestyle disease crisis, we’re nudged almost daily to reassess our routines. It’s no news to Cycle Kirklees campaign members and followers that the humble bicycle is emerging as an eco-friendly, cost-effective, and health-preserving alternative. For cycling to become a practical choice for daily travel, certain conditions are essential – safe car-free routes, behaviour change schemes, and mutual respect on the roads. But there’s a crucial, often overlooked, aspect: a secure spot to park that bike.
Imagine setting off in your car without any guarantee of a parking spot at your destination. daunting, isn’t it? The same applies to cycle parking. Secure and convenient cycle parking is as essential to cyclists as car parking is to drivers. If it isn’t available, people won’t choose to cycle. In fact, many people in the UK who have their bicycles stolen never cycle again. Practical cycle parking infrastructure, thus, becomes critical to promoting cycling, something Kirklees Council claims to support.
Image: Known colloquially as the ‘dreaded wheelbender’, this rack is perhaps better suited to situations where security isn’t a consideration, larger tyres sizes will struggle to fit, and it’s near impossible to secure the frame of a cycle to the rack, meanining a thief can simply disconnect the wheel and walk off with the rest of your cycle. This one isn’t even bolted to the ground.
Effective cycle infrastructure isn’t just about providing a rack to lock a bike to – though a well-designed rack is certainly a perk! It involves strategically placed installations, thoughtful design, adequate capacity for future growth, safety, bicycle preservation, weather protection, even public tools for quick brake adjustments or inflating tyres. They should also be aesthetically pleasing. Yet, Kirklees residents grapple with subpar or, in many instances, non-existent cycle parking provisions. This deficiency stems from a priority imbalance favouring private motor cars.
Image: Utrecht’s Stationsplein underground parking with 12,500 spaces, and an off-street access ramp which allows users to cycle right up to their secure cycle parking bay.
The Netherlands sets an example with its extensive, well-placed cycle parking facilities near public buildings, transport hubs, shopping centres, and workplaces. In contrast, the UK’s cycle parking infrastructure remains fragmented, inconsistent, and deeply insufficient. The Netherlands, with cycling as a preferred mode of transport, responds to high demand with ample parking facilities. But in Kirklees, like elsewhere in the UK, cycle parking capacity doesn’t keep pace with the increasing number of cyclists, leading to overcrowded spots, public space clutter, and conflict with non-cycle users.
Security is a major barrier for many. The Netherlands demonstrates what is possible with high-quality cycle stands, secure lock systems, and surveillance measures offering peace of mind to cyclists. Local cyclists however, are fraught with the fear of bike theft, primarily due to underinvestment, poor quality, and a lack luster responses from overwhemeled and under-resourced police. Is it surprising, then, that valuable e-cycles are less utilised here, all the whilst while the e-cycle revolution thrives across the channel?
Visible and accessible cycle parking facilities reveal societal attitudes towards cycling. The Netherlands, with its abundant, well-maintained cycle parking spots, sends a clear message: Cycling is integral to our transport system. This encouraging tone is lacking in Kirklees, where cycle parking isn’t given equivalent importance to car parking.
Kirklees council must demonstrate leadership. Through proper planning, they can ensure private enterprises and housing developments prioritise cycle parking over private car parking. Cycle parking should be a primary consideration in planning and development to encourage sustainable transport.
Public buildings like schools, libraries, leisure centres, and council offices can showcase local authorities’ commitment by providing ample cycle parking. In doing so, these institutions not only make cycling a viable option, but also contribute to the normalisation of cycling in daily life.
Private enterprises, including housing developers, should be incentivised or mandated to incorporate secure cycle parking in their designs. By doing so, they express their commitment to sustainability and active travel.
Public transport hubs also play a key role. Adequate cycle parking at these locations enables people to incorporate cycling into their longer journeys, making multi-modal commuting a reality. This encourages people to leave their cars at home, reducing congestion and pollution.
The quality, security, and visibility of the cycle parking provided is crucial. High-quality cycle stands, secure lock systems, and CCTV surveillance can make a significant difference, offering cyclists peace of mind and promoting cycling uptake.
Cycle Kirklees urges Kirklees Council to ensure cycle parking facilities at public buildings are as practical as possible. These facilities should be near building entrances, accessible for all ages and abilities, feel safe and be secure, non-damaging to cycles, accomodate non-standard cycles, offer space for changing, showering, drying clothing, tools for repairs and where possible, asthetically pleasing.
To raise awareness, we invite you to share nominations for your favourite and least favourite parking spots in Kirklees. Please send us high resolution and well-lit photos of the good and bad to cyclekirklees[at]gmail.com. We’ll select the best examples to share on our social media.
We will also discuss parking provision, among other active travel priorities at our AGM in July. Please consider attending on Tuesday 18th July at 19.30 in the cafe at New North Road Baptist Church (near railway station, Huddersfield). A detailed agenda will be available on our website soon. And yes, secure parking will be offered!