die belebende Bedenkung

Bikes and metropolitan public transport

with 2 comments

Although local authorities in Britain purport to encourage travel by bicycle, cyclists and would-be cyclists continue to be marginalised in town planning and transport policy. In Birmingham, the level of municipal antipathy was such that it took three years to install a single ‘Cyclists crossing’ road sign. (Earlier this month, control of the council changed hands.)

Bicycle-enabled public transport can offer advantages to travellers (including motorists) and wider society, so it’s disappointing that aspiration, policy, and action are so badly attuned. In the West Midlands, millions of pounds have been spent on park and ride by transport authority Centro, but almost nothing on bicycle-enabled transit.

Front-mounted bike rack on public transit bus in USA - pic by Buchanan-Hermit, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-2.0Outside of London, Britain’s local public transport is dominated by buses, on which the facility to transport bikes is effectively non-existent. Some cities in the United States allow pushbikes to be transported on local buses, generally by means of a rack mounted externally on the vehicle front. For various reasons, this arrangement is not well suited to the British environment. However, enablement of combined bicycle-and-public-transport journeys should be a priority in urban planning. For city neighbourhoods not served by rail transit, consideration should be given to using large capacity buses, similar to TfL’s New Bus for London, to allow 1 – 2 bikes to be taken onboard.

Objections to carrying bikes on transit are usually about capacity or safety. Even nominally ‘high capacity’ rail transit systems can have total or near-total prohibition of cycle carriage. Sometimes, folding bikes are allowed, but these are less affordable for many people.

On Manchester’s Metrolink tramway, concern about bikes becoming projectiles in an accident led to transport authority GMITA (now TfGM) turning down requests for onboard cycle carriage. And in the West Midlands, Centro has stated that new supposedly ‘high capacity’ CAF trams will not be carrying bikes.

Conversion of railway to tramway has actually reduced green transport options, as can be seen with Metrolink in Oldham. In future British urban rail systems, the facility to carry accompanied bicycles should be designed-in (as with wheelchairs and pushchairs).

Many prospective mixed journeys only require bicycle use at one end, and for these, cycle stowage at the transit boarding point should be ideal. However, where bicycle parking has been provided, it has tended not to be very good. The ‘facility’ at Stechford railway station is an example. It consists of two Sheffield stands, in the open air, at the foot of a flight of steps, insecurely si(gh)ted, with no closed circuit tv coverage. Why public authorities choose to have infrastructure designed by non-cycling non-public-transport users, is unfathomable.

Written by beleben

May 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Good post, I don’t think all places are conducive to having provisions for bicycles, (hilly places like Leeds/Bristol etc) but places like Manchester / Birmingham / Leicester / Norwich / Cambridge / Oxford should all have some way of bringing their bike either on the bus or on the train/tram.

    Having lived in Duesseldorf and Haarlem, it is amazing that we are just so backwards when it comes to integrated infrastructure.


    May 30, 2012 at 9:10 am

  2. Just about a decade ago a transport engineer with a locally based consultancy delivered the prize-winning paper on cycle parking and demand for cycle rail at Sutton Coldfield Station at an international cycling conference, a few years earlier the then Midlands Rail Passengers Committee, had delivered a report on cycle parking and access across the selected stations on their patch, and then a larger revised version a few years later. Mott MacDonald was also commissioned by Centro to review 25 key stations in this respect, finding that even a decade ago there was already a willingness of commuters, in the main, to pay for secure places to park bikes, recognising the key benefits this mode of onward transport offered, when both travelling to catch a train, and making that short onward connection, to the final destination. To my knowledge no significant delivery of any of the desired facilities has taken place. However the pioneers – those who overcome the blocking features in order to enjoy the benefits have steadily succeeded. Occasionally the blindingly obvious benefit has been so great that a mass shift to cycling takes place, for example when the Thameslink tunnel closed for 6 months in 2004-05 the number of bikes parked overnight at St Pancras rose by over 1000% in under 2 months, forcing the station management to manage the situation by engaging the users and providing cycle racks as they could no longer manage a few individuals by confrontation (ie banning bike parking).

    Why do people want to combine cycling with public transport? Well as one transport minister keeps emphasising, it is the end to end journey we need to deliver NOT the station to station, and I can point to dozens of personal time savings that knock spots off the prospective HS2 overall journey times using existing conventional services and the instant measure of facilitation of seamless modal transfer. The Dutch recognised this about 10 years ago – on foot or with a bike you can very accurately know exactly how long it takes you to get from your home to the station, and from the station to your workplace. Elimination of the connection overlap time requirements is by far the cheapest and quickest way to deliver faster journeys, and SWTrains re-writing of their entire timetable in 2004, made most services slightly slower BUT in doing this you could guarantee connections as tight as 2 minutes, and enjoy the benefit of certainty for their arrival time, and often get in a minute or two early. Typically a commuter with a bike-rail-bike journey can cut between 30 minutes an 1 hour from their door-to desk journey times – that’s up to 2 hours per day (or 20 days ‘holiday’ per year). Small wonder that the number of onward journeys by bike from London Termini has risen by 400% between 2001 and 2011 (Onward travel during the morning peak – TfL study 2011, download from TfL website)

    Some typical journey time savings Glasgow to Liverpool – official time 4 hours with change at Wigan – with bike 3 hours 25 min with change at Warrington and 6 minute bike ride. Preston to Gillingham (Dorset) saving an hour by getting from Euston to Waterloo in 12 minutes rather than the 53 minute advised connection time. G Mex to 55 Broadway (door to door) 2h 32m including a 4 minute wait for train to leave Manchester.

    From Marylebone especially around 5% of passengers travel onwards by bike, driven in part by its poor connection to the Tube and bus networks and the 10 -15 minutes it takes to reach West End & City by bike compared to at least twice that time for walking and using the Tube. Interesting that of all the TOC’s Chiltern is perhaps the only one to have had a long term knowledge of their regular commuter users – most have little clue at present but a few are now installing secure parking – with annual charges that provide a return per square metre equivalent to car parking. SWT’s installations at Surbiton have steadily expanded and now they have car park spaces available after 09.30, without having to build a bigger car park.

    The bus detail is one area where Beleben needs to catch up folding bikes almost universally carried and Zak’s Coaches used a glorious double negative to state the cycles which did not fold would not be carried on their vehicles. However cycles are widely carried on express coaches, usually after they’ve been wrapped up and packed flat, and a number of bus services also carry bikes inside the bus – some council contracts include this as a condition for the operator. With a requirement to have all main service buses low floor by 2020 we will have a fleet read 100% to carry cycles outside peak hours, and a great value in rural areas where it is cheaper to get the passengers to the bus than send the bus everywhere hunting down passengers.

    Trams make an even odder picture. The new trams for Manchester and old Croydon ones are near identical to those in Koln with the latter carrying substantial numbers of cycles. Better still in 2007 TfL commissioned TTK the Karlsruhe based leading consultancy on Trams and Tram-Train to review and make recommendations on the potential for cycle carriage (remember a lot of Tramlink routes were rail lines on which cycles were carried). Tramlink has now secured 3 trams in advance of their order from Stadler, by diverting vehicles not yet required in Bergen… and arranging to have the space for bikes, prams and wheelchairs on these vehicles taken out and replaced by seats. You couldn’t make it up!

    Dave H

    May 31, 2012 at 7:12 am

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