Parking your bike at Oxford station

Parking your bike at Oxford station

By Andy Chivers

Andy is a trustee of Cyclox

Cycle parking at Oxford station is in a woeful state. The knee-deep piles of leaves from last autumn made the station bike parking area look desperately neglected. Forgotten bikes dangle at crazy angles from their rusty locks. The covered area is hard enough to get in and out of even if you find a space, but the open area is like an assault course that you leave with scratched shins and elbows.

Getting your bike to a free bit of rack may be difficult, but what will you find on your return? You hope your bike will still be there (you spent enough on a good lock, after all) but if it is, your exit is blocked by all the other bikes. And as for parking a non-standard bike, like a tandem or a tricycle, that is more or less impossible.

Is it all about money?

Why does Great Western Railway allow this sort of chaos? Of course, the company doesn’t  make money from bike parking. Station car parks generate revenue, whereas bike riders do expect to travel and park for free.

Like the NHS, ‘Free at the point of use’ is the bicycle’s unique selling point.

Just as Park & Ride should be free to encourage behaviour change, free bike parking is a prerequisite for cities wanting to get more people on their bikes.

But free shouldn’t mean neglected and inadequate. Somehow the hidden value of free bike parking should translate into proper well-maintained facilities for bikes – and not just standard bikes but trailers, cargo bikes, tricycles and tandems.

We need a twenty-first century bike park

Some people have taken to leaving their bikes at the Westgate bike hub and making the 10-minute walk to the station. Though the Westgate hub has only 180 places, they are under cover, access is limited to those with a personal keycard and bikes are protected by CCTV. It is a tiny taste of what many Dutch and German cities provide at their stations. Amsterdam station has just opened a 7,000-place underwater bike-storage facility to replace its existing huge parking area. Utrecht has a 12,500-place covered bike-parking facility. Cambridge has recently opened a station cycle park with 3,000 places.

Several London railway terminuses have excellent bike parking on the platforms – Marylebone and Paddington for example. That is probably not practical for Oxford, but it should be a stimulus for thinking imaginatively.

The station redevelopment

The road under the railway bridge is closed to motor traffic until October, while work in advance of the new station takes place. If this makes driving difficult, cycling to the station should be even more attractive and the car park may not be as well used. We are asking GWR to put up 500 covered bike racks in the car park like those at Oxford Parkway.

Bike parking needs to be over-supplied in the design for the new station. We have to build for the future we want, and cycling to a train or bus is the greenest longer-distance commute we can achieve at present.

The last plan Cyclox saw for bike parking at the new station was for about 2,400 places situated below ground level (accessed via the planned high-level cycle path going under the Botley Road bridge). How was that figure reached? Was it based on the amount of space that could be spared or on the anticipated increase in usage with the new station?

It’s time to revisit that calculation and increase the capacity.

As a minimum we want to at least equal Cambridge’s 3,000 spaces – which includes plenty of space for cargo bikes.

Otherwise, there is a risk that, like now, bikes will be left all over the station, locked to lampposts and railings. And worse still, people might be put off cycling to the station for lack of secure parking.


One Response

  1. Kate says:

    All the way with you here. We want easily accessible, secure bike parking, preferably under cover.

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