Saturday, 9 September 2017

Dutch Heaven - UK Hell

ABOUT a month ago I was again reminded of Britain’s inadequate provision for cycling on the roads when I saw another great film celebrating Dutch cycling. It was provided by Cycling UK in their regular email to members.

Tens of thousands of people of all ages cycling on all manner of bikes, along superb cycling paths in towns and around. Cycling to work, to the shops, to school, cycling in pairs, hand in hand, with children perched on shoulders, or sat in trailers.

All going anywhere you care to mention and enjoying right of way across junctions. And not one cycle helmet in sight!
As for their cycle parking facilities at railway stations - well. It takes my breath away.

Brilliant, inspirational.

Utopia, whereas in Britain….Oh, GOD!

Other than some small well designed facilities, a few kilometres of segregated cycle route here and there, Britain’s roads are designed to process fast moving traffic with little thought of how vulnerable road users are to cope.  Let’s be blunt. The road system, especially at roundabouts, remains hellish.

The Dutch approach to providing safe conditions to encourage cycling is well known and I never tire of hearing about it.  Their work has become the benchmark by which transport planners in this country ought to at least try and emulate, but they don’t.  Instead, Britain’s lamentable progress to provide decent cycling conditions is a sad reflection of a very deep political and social divide.

There is simply not the political will to provide a decent integrated transport system in a country where the car is king/queen. 

Take the provision for cycle parking at main line railway stations, embarrassingly low compared to Holland.

Mind you, the Dutch are not without their problems! (I write with tongue in cheek.)  Provision for cycle parking at Utrecht, for example, simply can’t keep up with demand, according to The Guardian last month. 

Today at Utrecht’s railway station there are 6,500 parking spaces for cycles. How many? 6,500!

By the end of next year this will be an additional 6,500 spaces, doubling to 13,000!

How many?

It will be the biggest of its kind in the world.

Yet this huge provision for cycle parking – there is nothing like it in the UK - won’t be enough, say the Dutch cycling organisation Fietserbond.


13,000 bike parking spaces at one station not enough?

Correct. This is simply because so many more people are taking up cycling to get about town and country. In Utrecht cycle journeys have increased 40 per cent from five years ago.

In The Hague a bike park for 8,500 cycles is due to open next Spring. There is a 5000 bike park at Delft. Amsterdam plans to excavate a 7000 bike park beneath the waterfront.

There are a staggering 22.5 million bicycles in Holland – and 17.1 million people!

28 per cent of all journeys are by bike. In Britain, despite big increases in the numbers cycling, utility cycling remains at around *2 – 4 per cent.

You may wonder how it is cycle stats remain so low in the UK,  with such a big rise in numbers cycling in London and other cities, notably Cambridge. Well, according to a survey a few years ago the low overall percentage for the UK is due to a drop in cycling in rural areas.

However, cycle parking provision at UK rail stations is improving, but not fast enough, evidence all the “fly parking” – bikes left locked to railings all around the stations.

There was a “big” increase in cycle parking provision at some main line stations in Britain a decade ago, as a result of Labour Peer Lord Adonis promoting the idea.

I seem to recall transport minister Lord Adonis, himself a bike rider,  persuaded Leeds – with grand aid -  to put in a 300 space cycle parking hub at their main station.

 I think a few other stations may have followed suit.

Dave Holladay, an Independent Transport Specialist working for Transportation Management Solutions, who also advises Cycling UK (formerly CTC), provided me with latest information on cycle parking at London’s main line termini.

Back in 2002 there were 30 spaces on two platforms at London Waterloo, the busiest station in the UK.

 By 2010 cycle parking at London Waterloo had increased to 300 in 2-tier racks. Today there are 650 spaces. Not many when you consider Waterloo has close on 100 million people a year rushing through.

There were also 124 docking points issuing 500 Santander hire bikes every morning. The hire bike system is one of the truly successful cycle projects to date.

A number of years ago the total number of cycle parking spaces across all of London’s main line termini was put at about 1000. Holladay tells me this has since improved with some individual stations boasting 1000 spaces.

However, none of this parking is secure.

“No one has yet delivered secure parking, although with modern phone apps, q/r patches, or RFID cards the public are equipped to engage with automated systems,” says Holladay.

And yet there is a system available, he says, citing the one used in 1996 for the Portsmouth hire bikes. This is an unmanned secure entrance enabling user’s access to the bicycle storage area. - 

He tells me there has been a long promised bike hub at Waterloo.  Caverns exist under the station, including a massive and empty car park vacant since Eurostar services moved to St Pancras.

But he also tells me of poorly audited waste of public money on cycle parking at stations by some Train Operating Companies (TOCs)

It seems that just as Local Authority highway planners often engage with local cycling campaigners in their preparatory work, when they come to making final decisions they generally go their own sweet way, paying little attention to guidelines and building sub-standard facilities with limited appeal.

In providing for station cycle parking there is, I understand, often poor project preparation, resulting in building either the wrong thing or failing to properly survey the site. I know a man who can give me chapter & verse on the missing/misspent money.

Here follows the latest cycle parking scenario for London’s other mainline stations, besides London Waterloo, already detailed.

Euston is probably close to Waterloo’s provision, with some 600 spaces across five locations. 

At Paddington there is a compound for 400 bikes on Platform nine/10.  

Marylebone has just over 400, all on Platform four.

Victoria has cycle parking by a taxi rank and the bus station, also in nearby Hudson Place. 

At Liverpool Street, there are maybe spaces for between 100 and 200 bikes near the taxi road between One Bishopsgate and the station.  

London Bridge is being rebuilt and is chaotic at present

Fenchurch Street has minimal provision.

St Pancras has between 200 – 300 spaces in the car park, considered to be the wrong place!

Kings Cross has perhaps a couple of hundred on platforms one and eight.

There is also Brompton cycle hire. 

Santander provides 500 plus hire bikes at Kings Cross, as they do also at Waterloo, in addition to many locations across the West End and, I think, a few outside the central area.


According to figures provided by Cycling UK, a European Commission survey found

 only 4 per cent of UK respondents cycled daily, the lowest percentage of all EU 28 countries – with the exception of Cyprus, 2 per cent, and Malta, 1 per cent.

The figure is 43 per cent in the Netherlands; 30 per cent in Denmark and 28 per cent in Finland.

Some UK cities buck the trend. London has seen big increases in the numbers cycling. In 2015, there were 610,000 cycle journeys a day, or 23 million per year.

Other cities recording substantial increases in numbers of people cycling include Cambridge where 29 per cent of working residents cycled. Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield have also showed substantial increases.

Typically, the increase in cycling is more often than not due to personal reasons, such as avoiding costly public transport and/or disruption to services, rather than to any notion of improvements to infrastructure. 

AND FINALLY… funny quip of the week from Eurosport TV:

Scene: Tour of Spain. As one of Alberto Contador’s many valiant escape bids comes to a premature end, he looks back down the road to see the Team Sky express once again bearing down on him. Cue for Eurosport TV commentator Carlton Kirby to remark:  “The Sky train is now approaching….stand well back from the platform edge.”


  1. When we were transitioning from the quick and cheap 100 Brompton bike hire scheme set up at Waterloo at the insistence of Brian Souter - Big Boss of Stagecoach - in 2009, I reckoned on having a target of 4 bikes hired out for every hire bay in the unit and more than that would see a deterioration in the level of service - lockers would be full or empty when users wanted to return or hire a bike. This does seem to be proving the case at Kings Cross where a 12 bay unit really needs to replace the current 8-bay one.

    Prior to the automated system which first appeared at Guildford in 2011, the low cost launch showcased the pragmatic genius of the South West Trains team. Users paid their hire fees and deposit in the Travel Centre, where the tills were available, and then went into the vaults under the station to the Lost Property Office, where bikes were stored (very rarely) on 50-space storage shelving (imagine a car parking space turned vertically up a wall)

    As with the bike scheme at Milton Keynes (Nextbike) and possibly a few of the others, the popular Brompton hire locations manage to cover their operating costs. The key issues being the chunk of capital required up front, and the agreements for locations to place bikes or Brompton Hire Dock.

    The first station to hit 1000 bike parking spaces was St Albans and then Cambridge reached 3000.

    But if you really want to get something noticed - nominations for the cycle-rail awards close next week - so get a look at the website and sling in a few nominations

  2. Provision at St Albans and Cambridge would seem to put the London termini in the shade. Thanks for the info on the Brompton hire services.

  3. 300 secure cycle parking space at Leeds station thanks to Cyclepoint. £1.50 per day.
    I’m unlikely to use it. Why would I cycle 7 miles from home to the mainline station for an onward journey?
    I would cycle the 1 or 2 miles to the local branch line station and take the train into Leeds and be ready for the onward journey.
    Last time I looked there were 4 secure lockers at Horsforth station. Would our Dutch friends find that amusing?