West Sussex and LSTF money – Horsham cycle parking

This post is part of an ongoing series examining how West Sussex County Council are managing to spend £2.4m of Local Sustainable Transport Fund cash (won from the DfT back in 2012) on schemes of negligible ‘sustainable’ benefit, with a particular focus on cycling.

The aim is to show how the money that councils receive for cycling from central government (tiny amounts, relative to the scale of the overall transport budget) is being dribbled away, thanks to a combination of tight timescales, limited or insecure funding streams, no continuity of local expertise, poor or non-existent guidance, and local prejudice.

Two previous posts have described how

In other words – two schemes that do next to nothing to make cycling a more viable and attractive mode of transport, at a total cost of £310,000.

The focus in this post is on a further £30,000 of that LSTF cash, which has been spent, badly, on cycle parking in Horsham town centre.

This sum is as large as it is because of an underspend in a proposed LSTF funded cycle route across the town. The original budget for this route was £320,000; this was scaled down to £180,000 once it became apparent that very few interventions were actually planned. That underspend has consequently been redistributed to projects like the parking described here.

£30,000 would buy you an awful lot of sheffield stands – the kind of parking that is appropriate in a town centre location. However, most of this £30,000 appears to have been spent on three two-tier cycle parking stands, of this type –

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 21.48.09

This kind of cycle parking is unsuitable for a town centre location, where people will generally be locking their bikes up for short periods of time – to visit shops, restaurants, friends, and so on.

Two-tier parking only really makes sense at locations where people will be leaving their bikes for longer periods of time, and where demand is particularly high. At transport interchanges like railway stations, two-tier parking like this is an obvious choice, because people won’t mind so much the effort of lifting their bikes into these racks if they are leaving the bike for an entire day.

It doesn’t make any sense at all, however, if you are just popping into a supermarket. Yet this is the kind of parking that has been chosen.

Worse still, the locations for these stands have been selected by Horsham District councillors, quite deliberately, with the intention of discouraging cycling in the town centre.

Helena Croft (Con, Roffey North, HDC’s cabinet member for Horsham town, said: “I am delighted that the provision of town centre cycle parking is being improved in this way, making the centre more accessible by a more sustainable form of transport.

“There are currently no covered cycle shelters in the centre of Horsham and cyclists are often seen penetrating areas which should only be used by pedestrians. These new shelters will help clear the pedestrian zones and motivate more people to cycle into town. It will also contribute towards less traffic congestion in the centre so it’s a win win all round.”

The idea, presumably, is that people will lock their bikes up at the edge of the town centre, then walk to the location they want to visit, then walk back to the cycle parking on the edge of town, and then cycle off again, instead of just cycling directly to the location they want to visit and locking their bike as close to that location as possible.

Cycling in Horsham town centre is unfortunately viewed as a problem, and sustainable transport funding has been used to place inconvenient cycling parking in inconvenient locations in a futile attempt to keep cycling out of it.

I say ‘futile’ because most of the town centre is already legally accessible by bike, and where people are cycling in genuinely pedestrianised areas, they are usually doing so either because a contraflow has not been provided on the sensible alternative, or because the parallel road is deeply hostile. Placing cycle parking at the extremities of the town centre will do nothing to change this behaviour, and it’s unsettling that tens of thousands of pounds of DfT cash is effectively at the whim of councillors who can make stupid decisions like this.

Here’s where the parking has been placed. One of the racks has been located behind one of the town’s car parks, tucked away in a corner.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 22.33.31This couldn’t really be much more inconvenient for the shopping areas nearby.

Parking indicated by red dot; shopping areas outlined in blue.

Parking indicated by red dot; shopping areas outlined in blue.

These racks remain empty, while the pre-existing sheffield stand parking nearer the shops (on the sensible side of the car park) continues to be busy.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 23.19.19

The second of these two-tier stands is an even more ridiculous location, plonked right next to a busy shared use path, meaning getting bikes in and out of the rack blocks it –

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 22.41.25

… and also sited well away from the two obvious nearby destinations, the library, and a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Again, this rack remains empty, while the parking at Sainsbury’s and the library is in use – because that parking is near where people want to visit.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 22.46.23The final two-tier stand is actually in a reasonably good location, closer to town centre shops, and next to an existing informal parking area.

But again, it’s being almost entirely ignored, with people opting for the existing (easier to use) railings –

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 22.48.54… or sheffield stands nearby –

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 22.49.41… or even lampposts closer to the shops.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 22.50.25None of this should be surprising. The Horsham District Cycle Forum consistently argued against these types of two-tier racks, and the principle of locating them in out-of-the-way areas. Yet these stands, in these locations, were implemented regardless.

They’re not even very good stands. In fact they’re dire. My (fairly standard) Dutch bike won’t even fit in them.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 22.53.37

There’s also nothing to actually lock your bike to, which needless to say is a problem if you want to leave your bike for any length of time and expect to come back and still find it where you left it.

It’s difficult to roll your bike into their upper tier (thanks to those metal bars that mean my bike doesn’t fit) – the manufacturer’s own video shows that bikes have to be lifted some height off the ground, and deposited in the rack. Not easy for most people, especially those with utility bikes.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 17.06.20

And without any hydraulic or spring assistance, you need to be pretty strong to lift your bike back up to a horizontal position. I can barely manage it, like this commenter on the local paper website

I’ve just come back from looking at the new rack installed in Medwin Walk. I’m an active, fit, burly, six-foot-two-er, and my bikes are light. I’d struggle to load one onto the top deck of the new rack. Unlike the racks at the front of Horsham Station this new one has no spring or strut assistance on the top deck and is missing a dedicated locking point on each rack. So how someone smaller, less strong, and with a heavier bike than me is supposed to cope with using the rack is beyond me.

The final nail in the coffin is that they’re actually quite dangerous.

Which means that they are now taped off, out of use, awaiting some kind of solution. (Entirely different cycle parking, perhaps?)

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 23.08.30Sadly, this looks like yet another waste of tens of thousands of pounds of DfT cash, to add to the money squandered on the projects already documented.

What is frustrating is that some of the LSTF cash has actually gone on good new sheffield stands, in sensible locations, which I have noticed are already well-used, despite only being in place for a matter of days. These ones were being used even before the cones had been taken away.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 23.26.42£30,000 could have bought a lot of this kind of parking, in the right kind of places. But instead it’s been spent almost entirely on impractical parking in inconvenient locations, of such a poor quality I can’t see a solution without the stands being entirely replaced. It’s depressing that something as simple as cycle parking can’t even be get right. The waste continues.

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23 Responses to West Sussex and LSTF money – Horsham cycle parking

  1. Gregory Collins says:

    Excellent cogent analysis. My only comment would be to point out to your readers that, ridiculously, the ‘good’ rack location is somewhere, Medwin Walk, in which it is technically illegal to cycle. So you can’t even legally get to that rack on a bike!

  2. What an utter waste of money! Considering how many sheffield stands they could have got for that or even some of the stands like I’ve seen in central London which are effectively a sheffield stand integrated with a planter pot so you get bike parking and some nice greenery it seems like an utter waste of time and effort!

  3. paulc says:

    if you want to see some other rubbish cycle stands, the new ones outside GL1 (leisure center) in Gloucester are rubbish compared to the perfectly serviceable Sheffield stands they removed… will get a photo of them in use.

    I can’t lock my bike to them in the method that my insurance company approves of…

  4. Terry says:

    Local politicians make these decisions but there is no expectation that they will have any technical knowledge or understanding. Even if they do, it can be trumped by party political considerations. Never mind cycle stands, what are the implications for the rest of the council services?

  5. I love the way cyclists are expected to yomp some distance to shops etc. Compare and contrast to car parking, where drivers would park actually in the biscuit aisle if they could.

    • Gregory Collins says:

      Careful Gary, many cyclists would like to take and lock their bikes up inside shops too, very much like drivers. That point is made above that cyclists prefer “cycling directly to the location they want to visit and locking their bike as close to that location as possible.”

      And my Brompton often comes in with me in the trolley 😉

    • D. says:

      So true. They would never put new car parking a long way from the shops (and if they did, the powers that be would probably put on a free bus service or something to help motorists get to the shops). Is the reason cycle parking is always hidden out of the way or at a distance because the powers that be think cyclists must be fitter than the average motorist and therefore willing to walk?

    • Junia says:

      The positioning of one of these stands behind an existing car park just seems to ram the point home that for a certain kind of politician bikes are essentially just “like cars, except for poor people”. So cyclists get the tradesman’s entrance of infrastructure.

      • Gregory Collins says:

        Whilst what you say is generally true we need to be careful. That stand, even though behind a car park does make sense for cyclists in a particular part of town (though the road they’d have to use is horrid) and is closer to the shops on foot than a good deal of the car park it sits behind.

  6. cyclestrian says:

    Excellent work, hope to see an official response.

    Of all the “sustainable” money the council has received, what % has actually been spent on useful stuff? I.e. is the taxpayer getting value for money? I think there is a case for auditors/ombudsman to take action given what you have documented. If the council has yet to claim for the money, is there a chance their claim could be rejected (as was New Forest PA’s)?

  7. The Horsham Society is a large and well-respected civic amenity society which concerned with the past, present and future of our town. In their latest newsletter they express their concern at a number of local cycling issues including this one and say “Increasingly our councils seem to be spending public money with little though to the public benefit, and inadequate consultation”. Their website is here: http://www.horshamsociety.org/

    • Gregory Collins says:

      They have broadly adopted an anti-HDC and anti-WSCC stance recently, most likely as their feelings were hurt that they were not a part of inner circle who were consulted about North Horsham before the plans were announced. In my experience they are not friends to cyclists in the town and are as motor-centric in much of their thinking as any other contemporary local conservation group.

  8. davidhembrow says:

    Everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon of building two-tier stands, but most of the designs are indeed rubbish. Like this one. The contraption behind the rear wheel dooms it.

    The better designs require only half the weight of the bike to be lifted at once, and then not very far. These better designs can even be used by relatively small and not so young people, as demonstrated by my mother in this video. Talking of which, I need to visit Groningen NS again and make another video. They’ve added lots more spaces again…

  9. I’m still intrigued as to where these stands are coming from. Are they basically cheap generic knock-offs of some other better design (that would have hydraulic or spring loaded upper stands) or are they just something bottom of the range being chosen without knowledge?
    Somewhere in the bowels of the British Library is a research paper FoE made in late 70s/early 80s on bike parking. The conclusion it reached? Sheffield stands were best.

    • They are from here http://www.mansfieldsteel.com/ – I don’t know if they are an entirely home-grown design or whether there was a similar one that was copied. I’m not sure it matters in the sense that this is a product that needs very good detail design whether or not it is new or a ‘copy’.
      As far as Sheffield stands go, I think they are a good benchmark -simple, cheap, durable, look OK and effective. But they are not the only design (even simple railings can be the right solution in some cases). They are not necessarily the best either: small bikes and ladies’ bikes tend to fall through them (need a lower rail) and they don’t work very well with a bike on each side: the bikes push each other over and get tangled up and precious paintwork gets scratched. We don’t expect motorists to put up with that, so why should cyclists? I would like to see a ‘double’ design that spaces the bikes apart so you can comfortably fit a bike on each side. We can afford the extra space -it’s not like we are in the NL, so we don’t need very many racks!

      • paulc says:

        I don’t believe they ever did a proper safety case on that design…

        It fails on manual handling criteria and also on the fact that the racks on the top tier have no securing mechanism to prevent adjacent racks sliding when another is withdrawn next to them…

  10. Roger says:

    I agree with all you say but….. Often the installation of Sheffields can be pretty expensive, especially if term contractors are used, much more than the actual cost of the stands…saying that nowhere near the cost of 2 tiers. Southern have used these 2 tier racks at Peckham which goes to show that whoever specked them has never used one, or looked into it. I would hope the manufactures eoukd know better. If only there was a standard for cycle parking but last I knew no one wanted to pay the big bucks to BSI. So we end up with not fit for purpose equipment. Real shame much needed monies are frittered away due to a lack of understanding and knowledge by officers.

  11. Clark in Vancouver says:

    My theory is that they are secretly trying to discouraging cycling. Why else would they take the advice given them that would benefit cycling and then turn around and do the wrong thing?

    • Mark Williams says:

      You are correct. The people who actually design and implement these schemes are the unelected, permanent civil servants employed by the council, operating without any meaningful oversight and almost entirely according to their own independent agenda which is invariably rabidly anti-cycling. Some of them will even have titles like `cycling officer’, etc. Having spent all of their multi-decade `careers’ pandering to motor monomania and subsidising private motoring, they really resent even the concept of one of `their’ budgets (tiny though it is) being labelled `sustainable transport’ and these crap outcomes are their little attempt at a humorous protest. They do all this knowing full well that there is approximately no prospect of their being held accountable for wasting public money in this way. Welcome to the world of the UK public sector!

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  13. rdrf says:

    There is actually a DfT official note on cycle parking done may years ago stating quite explicitly that cycle parking has to be close to where cyclists wanted to go. At the time we joked about why it was necessary to state the bleedin’ obvious.

    But obviously we were wrong.

    It needs to be dug out and stuck under Councils’ noses again: cycle parking HAS to be close to all destinations. Sorry I haven’t got it to hand – I think it is an Advice Note from the early 90s.

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