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

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

16 replies on “Bike parking: the next generation”

A bike hoop is almost always just as good as any complicated bike parking solution.

Hoops cost <$100, are easy to install by drilling into concrete with a drill press and are suitable for every bike.

Any structure that requires the bike to be lifted rules out heavy (e)bikes or less strong people. Structures that require bikes to be close together also create awkward entanglements between bikes. Most complicated parking solutions preclude locking of the wheels with a d lock because the secure bars are in awkward places.

The benefit is that you can get a higher density of parking. If you’re running a cbd end of trip where the cost per foot is extremely high then this may be worth it. If you’re building a parkiteer cage cost is high per square foot as well.

In most suburban stations it’s just not necessary. There is almost always excess foot ways where you can put a few hoops

Going to have to disagree with anonymous above on a couple of points.
– Hoops cost WAAAAAAAY more than $100 each to install at stations. Add a zero and you’d be closer. There are many complicated reasons for this, and it might sound odd, but it’s true.
– As you said, you can install hoops in concrete or paving but that assumes that is available and at many locations you are going to have to pour a slab, or put them into asphalt and pour concrete around them. This all adds costs.
– However, the main costs are actually in terms of project management and doing all the surveys to make sure you aren’t going to drill into something you shouldn’t (power, signalling cables, etc.) and getting approvals. You need to make sure you aren’t compromising DDA access. Liaison with other organisations might be required. Plus you have to use contractors that are able to work in a station environment which adds training. This all pushes up costs (but also makes sure you don’t accidentally bring the train network crashing down). It also means that costs are proportional (e.g. installing 20 hoops costs only a little more than installing 3 because most of the costs are in relation to approvals, checks, project costs, etc).
– The Wheelie allows six bikes to be parked at grade (like standard bike hoops), plus three “bonus” hoops up high. The extra three hoops provides additional capacity in the same space (e.g. you don’t loose any spaces). Trials at Monash show that many people prefer parking up (makes it easier to attach your D-Lock to the frame and front wheel).
– The comment “where you can put a few hoops” is probably the critical issue – the objective is to significantly increase the number of bikes being used. With around 150 bikes parked at Williams Landing each day, adding a hoop or two isn’t the objective, it’s about moving to very large numbers of bicycle parking facilities at stations.

In my experience there is a much higher level of security using cages. I’ve used the cages at Hoppers Crossing and Williams Landing for a long time and have accidentally left my lights attached with then getting stolen. I’ve also watched bikes parked in a loop at Hoppers Crossing get destroyed if left overnight. Also the cages provide much better shelter. I’d argue we should be spending a lot more of cages at the expense of parking and upgrading routes to stations for more people to walk and ride. This also would give the benefit of increasing local routes for people to ride to the shops and such instead of driving.

@Alan, did auto correct make an unwanted contribution there? Did your lights get stolen, or not?

I guess I would point back to the Asian and European examples. They don’t force people to muck about with cage and pass keys. They just provide lots and lots of spots to park bikes, on a scale that would be impractical with cages.

don’t suppose anyone has been to Amsterdam…. I’d have to pick this as the biggest example of bike and ride. No cages most of the time.

This is the obvious answer, especially as multiple single person last mile transport (SPT) innovations mature. Shared bikes and scooters, self driving cars, shared trip cars, who knows, drones?

At some point we won’t need any extra space at stations, as shared self-driving SPT vehicles reposition themselves out of the way. In the meantime, practical bike parking in abundance is the practical answer.

Two impediments:

1. Cycling is an important component of the culture in Singapore and Belgium, but not here. Don’t underestimate the importance of culture.

2. I believe that in some of those countries the police will prosecute vandals and thieves caught on CCTV rather than consider the victim a nuisance.

I agree that connecting buses should be better with higher frequencies and better connecting time.

Monash Uni’s solution looks viable though I would imagine someone not familiar with it would just park it horizontally like with the usual U-shaped bars and take up the same amount of space.

I’d just got for the Japanese racks along places like that fence in Williams Landing.

The Wheelie is quite ingenious – basically it operates as three inverted u-shaped hoops (two bikes on each side for six bikes in total) – plus the three extra spaces up higher for a total of nine. Basically you’re getting nine bikes in the space of six – plus you can just drop it in place without ground works – and then keep dropping in more (and they’ll match even if different manufacturers made them as the design is Creative Commons). Competition for supply is designed to keep prices low. And they link together – so you can have as many units as you want. Once you have a couple of hundred (eg. 20 units is 180 bikes) then you can go and replace them with a permanent solution.

In relation to the cycling culture comment above – there are thousands of people who cycle to stations every day. So it’s about raising the visibility of that. Also worth mentioning that people who cycle to stations do not regard themselves as cyclists but rather people who ride a bike. They see themselves as making a practical, logical decision – and they regard cyclists as those middle aged people in Lycra ;)

That’s not a bicycle parking solution. This is a bicycle parking solution:

It ought to be obvious, but apparently it isn’t: bicycle parking should preferably be under cover. Likewise, it should be well lit so you aren’t futzing around in the dark. It should either be in a hiigh-traffic area like in the video, or in a secure area so that only other cyclists go in there.

It beats me why the new stations being built don’t have purpose-built bike garages. Cheltenham stands out as a station with a large hinterland accessible by bike (basically most of Beaumaris) that should have a bike parking garage. The prefab Parkiteer cages look like exactly the tokens they are, with the distinct whiff of passive aggression about them.

As for locking up a bike outside, I personally wouldn’t risk it. A couple of months ago I noticed the remains of a biike locked up outside. Several parts, including a wheel, had been stripped.

Interestingly the research shows that while undercover bike parking is preferred it doesn’t actually influence cycling rates. Put simply, if you want to increase cycling to stations putting in shelter structures doesn’t actually change behavior (but makes people happier). Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of cover that’s already there – like the bike hoops under the Skyrail at Mernda Station. Brand new station and you’ve got 35 people a day cycling there.

It does mean that if you want to increase the number of people cycling to stations then shelter isn’t where you would put your investment.

On average, even at stations with Parkiteers more people use standard bike hoops. By a considerable factor.

That’s what makes this so interesting – a lot of people say stuff like “well I wouldn’t leave my bike there” even though others do. People worry about their lights and trip computers while other people just use cheap ones. Everyone’s risk perception is different. One interesting fact is that about half the people who cycle to stations in Melbourne have a cheap bike they use for that purpose. Lots of bikes get stolen in Amsterdam and other places in Europe and people are used to having a cheap “pub bike” to ride around and save their good ride for weekends (remember 75% of people cycling to stations ride for less than ten minutes).

The European experience suggests that success is actually more about having people using cheaper bikes rather than more secure bike parking – but of course ideally you want both. In well lit areas, under CCTV, etc. Daniel’s photo of Williams Landing reveals a lot – those bikes are parked in a highly visible location, that is lit, has cctv in the area.

We just need to be careful to look at the evidence base about what people actually want and what changes behavior – as opposed to investment in things that actually don’t address the issue.

Cycling to stations is growing – check out the number of bikes at Clayton or Noble Park. The new stations have created environments where people have decided it’s safe enough to leave their bike there which is awesome. And most of them are parked on standard bike hoops rather than in Parkiteer.

@Adrian, what research? Figures from Melbourne? Because that tiny percentage of people who cycle to the station in Melbourne might just be the hard core that doesn’t really care, that is happy to ride home with a wet bottom even though it rained only briefly 5 hours earlier, or can walk home 3km if they come back to a bike with parts stolen from it. If you want to make any actual difference in demand for car parking or bus services, you need to appeal to the mainstream. This mistake is made over and over again with respect to provision for cycling in Melbourne.

As for people using the hoops rather than the Parkiteer, I would too. Did you notice something about the bike parking in Europe? You aren’t expected to hang the bike by the rim. That warps rims and I wouldn’t do it to either a nice bike or one I wanted to ride regularly without having to keep retrueing the wheel.

Finally, if you’re going to talk about where to direct funds, please explain to me why it should be going to (free) car parking over bike parking.

Bicycles like the people who ride them are very diverse:

The example shared is yet another “design” of bicycle storage by people who clearly don’t understand the needs of bicycle storage. You can see a commercial company with proud pictures of their installations here:
Still only practical for about half the bicycles out there, compared to the ever reliable post or hoop in the ground. Locking a bicycle needs both wheels through the lock, not just the front. And bicycles come in a wide range of sizes, so anything which makes assumptions about the diameter/width of the wheel, or relative position of the handlebars, wheels, or seat, will just make for a frustrating and unworkable situation.

Even the fixed sized dutch solution has limited compatibility:
Their utility bicycles are more uniform in shape and size than the diversity of bicycles in Australia, but even so more than half the parking with less constraining ground level parking.

The most compatible rack is possibly the style with a wheel clamp:
But it still won’t fit around bicycles with front racks or mudguards.

Car parks are designed so that cars are all individually spaced apart and are not scratched. Bicycle parking leans them against hard surfaces with bicycles overlapping/intertwined or supported by twisting the wheels. Efficiency of space has its costs.

The bus should be a good solution to get to the station in Melbourne if the frequency is increased. At least there is zero extra cost for the passenger to use the bus to get to the station which is something Melbourne has done really well. Unlike Sydney where unless you’re within walking distance of the station you’re going to be paying $1.66 to use the bus each way ($3.66 less $2 transfer discount). That $3.32 a day, is almost $900 a year for the privilege of using a bus. So few people use connecting buses to stations here when it’s much cheaper to drive.

Sorry, but all of these prices sound insane to me – $100,000 for a 26-bike cage, $1000 ex. installation for the ‘wheelie’, $37,500 per car space at Tarneit – can we not get these costs down?

In response to Francis E’s comment that hanging bikes by the rim warps the rim, that is rubbish. I have done it plenty of times including for two years running at work with road wheels and have never had any issue.

If just hanging a bike caused the wheel to warp, imagine what would happen if you hit a pothole or speed hump (as you do)?

In fact once I took all the spokes off an old wheel that was severely worn from brake pad abrasion over several years. Even with no tension support from the spokes the rim was still so rigid I couldn’t deform it at all.

Hanging a bike by the rim is less likely to do damage in my experience than having it stuck between the prongs of a regular wheel stand – these can scratch the bike or, if you reverse the bike in, damage the rear derailleur (the component that changes the rear gears).

Hanging stands are not as convenient for some as another post pointed out – but damage to the bike is a non-issue. And they do allow more bikes to be used within the available area, which is why they are used in buildings in CBDs.

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