Friday, December 11, 2009


There is something very wrong with this picture. On the right is my bike (the battle bike). Amazingly when I got to the station at 5pm on wednesday, there was a spare rack for me to lock it to. When I returned at midnight, the bike on the left had appeared, locked to the rack through my frame, leaving my bike 'kebabed', unable to be moved.

Thursday morning, offending bike still there - and I get a rare insight into the world of bus travel in Cambridge. Thursday afternoon - offending bike still there. Even more remarkable - a British Transport police office was on hand to ask what I could do.

His manner gave every impression of someone who has been asked this a number of times before, I wasn't going to like the answer, and he didn't particular like the answer he was giving either.

Basically, the rules have recently changed, and neither the police nor station staff will help remove the offending bike, for fear it could be deemed 'criminal damage'. He suggested I ask the station supervisor, and put in a complaint - he also suggested I point out the bike to him so he could let his colleagues know 'what is going on'.

Inside, the supervisor confirmed a rule change, and insisted there was nothing they could do, and I should just wait for the offending bike to move.

This situation if frankly ridiculous. The sign clearly indicates that there are powers to remove bikes causing problems, I suspect they just couldn't be bothered coming up with a proper procedure that will involve storing the removed bikes. If they really are worried, they could change the sign to say something even more obvious like 'permission to park your bike here is conditional on you not locking other peoples bikes - if you lock your bike in these racks such that other bikes are disabled, we reserve the right to remove your bike to storage at the owners cost' or something similar that their lawyers will like.

The whole situation with station cycle parking makes Cambridge look like a joke when it comes to supporting cyclists - the root cause of the problem is the woeful lack of spaces. With the CB1 redevelopment some way away (if ever with the current economic mess), they need to take urgent measures to increase cycle parking.

A letter of complaint will be on its way, and if I can't get my bike back today, I will be along with some boltcutters later (unless anyone has any better ideas...)


Frugal Dougal said...

Boltcutters sound good.

Anonymous said...

paint their bike bright pink,
they wont do it again!

Richard said...

Zoned parking (credit Richard Taylor) would be an obvious answer. Similar to airport car parks. Zones for one hour, one day, one week and one month would make enforcement simple and cheap to implement.

Chris Howell said...

One idea I had was to have machines issuing printed tags with some type of barcode on that encodes the print date, and the tag must be fixed to the bike. Someone with a scanner periodically checks if bikes have been there an unreasonably long period of time. A more complicated version could be to push a button for an anonymous ticket, or swipe an oyster card/type in a season ticket number for a ticket that encodes a personal id, so if there is a problem with your bike, station staff can be in touch.

Possibly combined with the idea of different areas for different lengths of stay, could almost eliminate the problem with abandoned bikes, but the problem would likely remain as there is currently way too little capacity...

Martin said...

All this talk of zoned cycle parking, or using tags, scanners, etc., are simply a distraction from the simple cause of the problem: not enough cycle parking (as Chris then says).

All those solutions will do is cause extra bureaucracy and cost. Logically they will not free up spaces because we all know that a space that is freed up is immediately taken by someone else.

I think the station owners are going to be reluctant to cater for their cycle-arriving customers while they are making money from the car park:

Dare I suggest that the Cycle Cambridge project or some other body should effectively buy out the spaces in the car park area on the left of Station Road as you approach the station?