Where should we put our bikes?

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We often talk about how we can get from A to B on our bikes safely and conveniently, but we don’t talk enough about where we put them when we get there.

Fear of theft is one of the key deterrents putting off would-be cyclists, and this is no surprise. We can all name several friends, family members, and colleagues who have had their bikes stolen.

I have had my precious Ridgeback Motion pinched from outside my house (though fortunately it was found and returned within a week by a very smug constable of the Thames Valley Police, thanks to BikeRegister).

On-street bike hangar seen in Surbiton

Reading Borough Council have to their credit made efforts to improve secure cycle storage within the Borough. In 2022, approval was granted to a ‘cycle hub’, to be located in the old Primark on West Street (near the Broad Street Mall). According to the plans, the hub would have had storage for 82 bikes with attendants on watch, open from 7am to 7pm.

Sadly, Primark terminated the lease negotiations at the last minute for no apparent reason, and since then the hub development has remained in limbo. We hope the Council will find another way to open this hub.

I was originally sceptical of the idea of a cycle hub. A recent cycle tour through the Netherlands changed my mind. That’s right, I saw the famed Utrecht stationsplein (train station square) ‘cyclepark’, the world’s largest, with my own eyes, and what a beauty it was to behold.

Thirteen thousand bikes neatly and securely stored under one roof with CCTV and guards. The cyclepark actually provides a neat shortcut cycle route through the station, and I have to commend the designers there, as cycling through it is just pure fun, like a go-kart track.

Off-street bike hangar seen in Surbiton

Utrecht station is the largest in the Netherlands, so it makes sense to construct such an enormous facility there. However, smaller Dutch cities are also well equipped. Stopping at Leiden for lunch, we discovered a free-to-use staffed underground cyclepark right in the city centre!

Even if the Council is able to open the hub eventually, this is only half of the storage problem. We must also consider where to keep our bikes when at home. I can speak from experience here, having recently moved into a Victorian terraced house scarcely three and a half metres wide.

Our living room is small enough as it is without a stack of bikes taking up one of the walls. In my previous home, a first-floor flat, I had no choice but to carry my bike up and down the stairs daily (don’t tell my landlord about those tyre marks on the wall). The #ThisIsAwkward campaign has more examples of the ridiculous lengths people will go to ensure their bikes are safe.

Could bikes instead be stored on the street, just like cars? In an ideal world we would keep our streets free from all parked vehicles, giving more space for trees, and for kids to play.

Outside of nicely spaced-out suburbs, this is not the world we live in. Practically all street space in my Victorian neighbourhood is dedicated to cars, either moving cars or parked cars (and this with only 60% of households actually owning a car, according to the 2021 census).

Bike hangar seen in London

If I owned a car, I could keep it outside or near my house for a modest annual fee permanently without raising an eyebrow. It seems reasonable to demand that I also be allowed to store the two-wheeled vehicle I actually use outside, especially considering it takes up one sixth of the space.

There are a number of residential bicycle storage solutions being installed across the UK. The most common seems to be Cyclehoop’s bike hangars. These can store six bikes within one car parking space, and can be found throughout London, and increasingly in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.

FalcoPod’s bike hangars are very similar and have been rolled out recently in Bath and Brighton. Another provider is Spoke Safe, who provide individually lockable pods big enough even for cargo bikes, though these don’t seem to be intended for residential use, but rather cycle commuters. The latter already exist in Wokingham, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some turned up in Reading soon.

The conversation about on-street cycle storage in Reading has already begun. In a meeting of the Council’s Traffic Management Sub-Committee in 2022, Green Councillor Rob White asked whether the Council would be trialling “on street, secure cycle parking (bike hangars for example) in areas where people don’t have a front garden such as Newtown”.

The Council’s response indicated that they were interested but noncommittal, and no further action has been taken as far as we are aware.

We are calling on the Council to take residential cycle storage forward as an integral part of the strategy for encouraging cycling in Reading. Specifically, we would like to see a pilot programme of ten cycle hangars distributed around the Borough in the areas where they would be most needed, namely terraced neighbourhoods.

A large-scale rollout of cycle hangars would likely incur reduction in parking spaces, which would of course require careful consultation with residents. However, we are confident that space can be found for ten hangars without sacrificing parking space.

Do you know a good place where a cycle hangar could be installed? Get in touch!

Sam Hatfield

1 thought on “Where should we put our bikes?

  1. Great article. More secure cycle storage in town and in residential areas in Reading is so needed. I also have to store my old bike in my house, whatever the weather. Absolute pain, but no other solutions available to keep it safe, dry and accessible. How much do residents typically pay for on-street storage in UK?

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