Bikes are often damaged, abandoned or stolen (pic: Terry Murden)
Empty shops should be re-purposed as secure parking stations for bicycles, says TERRY MURDEN
Somebody was on the radio saying that if the government and local councils want to encourage more of us to choose two wheels over four they had to think beyond creating a network of cycle lanes and consider where people leave their bikes when they reach their destination. For instance, older office buildings generally don’t have the space, resulting in bikes being chained to railings and lamp-posts, and many of them being stolen. It’s one of the many missing parts in a generally perceived lack of joined up thinking that makes transport policy such a muddle.
The caller got me thinking about how Transport Scotland could use some of its newly-announced £259m “active travel” budget to bring wider benefits to our towns and cities.
There is a lot of talk about re-purposing empty premises now that retailers are shutting up shop. Taking a lead from the radio caller, why not use some of the active travel budget to rent some of these units and convert them into “cycle stations”?
They could be fitted with secure lock-up areas, provide on-site repairs and sell cycling equipment. Many people are put off cycling because it is unsuitable to wearing a suit and that it makes you feel hot and sticky. So put showers, lockers and changing facilities in the cycle station. To help raise revenue, they could offer bikes for hire, as well as food and drink.
Another way to enhance the joined up thinking would be to sell tickets for trains, buses and trams (interchangeable, of course). Maybe even provide booking services for theatres, restaurants and museums.
If the government or councils don’t fancy running these stations, then at least offer a subsidy to help with the rent and put operational control out to tender, perhaps to a social enterprise. I’m sure some of the current cycle and cycle repair outlets could see an opportunity, maybe in partnership with a coffee chain.
Not only would a series of cycle stations offer secure parking areas, they would help fill vacant premises, provide badly-needed income for landlords, and encourage commuters to choose two wheels over four. It’s a winning formula for cyclists, property owners, town centres, small businesses and the environment. What’s not to like?
Terry Murden held senior positions at The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Northern Echo and is now editor of Daily Business