Abandoned Cycles Clogging Cycle Parking at Babraham Road Park and Ride

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009. 2:19am

Bikes are Parked All Around the Babraham Road Park and Ride Site

There are lots of bikes parked around the Babraham Road park and ride site’s car-park, the official bike parking area is full. In the mornings as many people now cycle or walk from the site as get the bus.

I recently visited the Babraham Road park and ride site and was a surprised to see a very large number of bikes parked along the fence around the edge of the car park. As I had photographed the haphazard bike parking the site manager came out to chase me saying he gets “nervous when people start taking photographs of things”. When I explained what I was doing he was able to let me know some interesting facts about the current usage of the facility.

  • It is now common for the site to reach capacity, for all the car parking spaces to be full.
  • During the first three hours of opening in the morning (0700-1000) about 900 people park on the site, only 450 or so take the bus. Of the remainder about half walk out, mainly to Addenbrooke’s, and half cycle.
  • There is a large problem with abandoned bikes blocking the formal covered cycle racks. A registration scheme has been tried; this has enabled the manager to call up known owners of some of the abandoned bikes. He found that often people want to leave them their unused, typically claiming they’ve not been using their bike recently for some temporary health reason. Even owners of bikes which have deteriorated to a clearly unroadworthy condition insisted they were planning to return and use them soon. Some owners who were called had left Cambridge permanently and had abandoned their bikes.
  • Bikes which are determined to have been abandoned are either scrapped (if they are in poor condition) or auctioned via the police. On rare occasion people come looking for bikes they parked six months ago and hadn’t touched since so have been removed.

The site manager thought there was a need to charge for bike parking to deter people from abandoning their bikes; he suggested a £1 a week charge would be the right level. He thought that simply providing more and more racks would not be the answer, they would just be filled up with under-used or abandoned bikes. Unlike at the Madingley Road and Newmarket Road sites there are no cycle lockers at Babraham Road.

Thoughts and Ideas:

  • While lots of people parking then walking / cycling is something to be encouraged; if so many of the parking spaces are taken up by those not paying to take the bus – does that threaten the commercial viability of the bus service? Presumably at some point it will if the non-bus using fraction increases.
  • The numbers of cycle lockers at the other sites is relatively small, and I can’t imagine people paying for “plain” cycle parking. Perhaps a middle-way alternative would be a cycle parking “cage” such as that at the University of Cambridge chemistry department at Lensfield Road. Would people be prepared to pay a small charge for that, which would ensure cycle parking within it was always available?
  • The costs of extending the current hard surface, floodlit carpark have been estimated at an incredible £3500 per parking bay. An additional seventy places were provided by using grass strengthening plastic grids in 2008 *.
  • How will new multi-story car parks on the Addenbrooke’s 2020 site affect the Park and Ride? Is there any point encouraging people to park at the P&R for Addenbrooke’s if they can, in future, park on site? While the presence of the P&R makes it easier for Addenbrooke’s to meet its aims to reduce car-use by those using the site, what reason is there those car parking spaces wouldn’t be better located on the newly expanded Addenbrooke’s site itself? There is no point artificially limiting parking on the hospital site, if parking is to be provided at the P&R sites nearby and the same number of journeys are still made by car.

Dealing with the problem of abandoned bikes blocking cycle racks is a problem at many locations in Cambridge. I will be interested to see how the CB1 station area developers manage to enforce their proposed short stay cycle parking area. At the moment I think the best solution is generally simply more cycle parking facilities, with a sensible moderate and well publicised policy for removal of abandoned bikes.

9 comments/updates on “Abandoned Cycles Clogging Cycle Parking at Babraham Road Park and Ride

  1. David Bradley

    They could use a “festival” style band around the cross bars of all bikes warning users that if the bike is still there after such-and-such a time period it will be removed to a better place…

    I can see problems with such an idea, but it’s a suggestion for working through…

  2. ferg

    Divide the cycle area into zones (say 4). Close a zone for a fortnight once a year, so that nobody could park there, but could only remove bikes. That way anything left at the end of that closed period is not regularly used. Together with a ‘condition of parking’ that you only had 14 days of free cycle parking in any one uninterupted period would enable bikes to be removed to another place or dealt with as seen fit.

    It is a significant problem here. I’m sure every person in Cambridge knows of at least one person who has lost a bike at the station cycle park, and found it years later :-)

  3. Martin

    The station area already has a system for dealing with abandoned bikes.

    Time and again people are falling into the trap of assuming that clearing abandoned bikes here will solve the problem of cycle parking shortage. It will barely scratch the surface.

    What is needed is simply *more cycle parking* (together with continued regular clearance).

    I expect if the cycle parking at the station area were doubled, in order to try to meet the demands of the railway’s (high-fee-paying) customers, they would be becoming full within a year. But that would be a very good start! Instead we have odd dribs and drabs added every other year.

    Things have barely changed since this video was made in 1998:

  4. John Hill

    Charge them for bike parking. It’s called Park and Ride, not have a free car parking space near your place of work. By not using the bus, these people are working the system to avoid the £3 charge imposed on staff at Addenbrooke’s (which in itself is pretty token amount compared to the phenomenal prices for patients)

  5. Gareth Rees

    The answer to the problem is twofold. First, operate a continual programme of abandoned bicycle removal. This article by David Hembrow explains how Dutch railway stations handle vastly larger numbers of abandoned bikes. There’s no reason why a similar scheme couldn’t be adopted at the Park and Ride site.

    Second, as Martin says above, provide lots more cycle parking. There’s clearly a public demand for it and it’s cheap to provide, so why not provide some supply? You might want to read “The Dutch Railway Station Cycle Parking Crisis to get a sense of perspective on the very minor cycle parking problems we have in Cambridge: “Delft [railway station], for instance, is building a new 5000 space underground cycle park. However, there is already concern that it will be completely full from the first day that it is available”.

  6. John Lawton

    Cyclists using the P&R might be avoiding the car parking fees at Addenbrookes, but they are also getting some additional exercise which is good for health. Don’t discourage this!
    The video from 1998 shows the shameful attitude of the station managment then and since.
    The CB1 development I fear has woefully inadequate cycle parking, so it looks like no prospect of improvement, ever.

  7. John Lawton

    Yes I can understand that. My naivety in assuming they are in the rail business rather than car parking business. Of course more cycle facilities might encourage some extra passengers who can’t afford the high car parking charges, but could otherwise chose to go by coach.

  8. Kate

    There are other affordable options to deal with this. I organise outdoor events and have to constantly provide temporary or semi permanent parking, paths and floors to go on top of grass that wont cause any damage to the grass underneath. I use a company called Grassform – http://www.grassform.co.uk and their solution is quick, easy and affordable. Would reccomend them highly if anybody reading this has problems such as the above that need solving.

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