I’ve deliberated over getting a bike for a while now, but haven’t because I couldn’t work out where to put it. Our hallway is already crammed with children’s bikes and scooters and I know I’d rarely cycle if my bike was kept in my garden, past an awkward gate and a collection of rubbish bins.
But the news that I’ve been allocated a space in a new cycle hangar, recently installed on my street in Hackney, has been the prompt I needed to finally get one. This is one of 211 hangars on Hackney’s streets, each providing space for six bikes protected by key and from the elements. It’s a relatively simple piece of infrastructure, well at least if you compare it to a cycle superhighway or junction improvements, but it is arguably just as important for getting new and existing riders on their bikes.
I know that most London cyclists deal with far worse storage dilemmas than mine on a daily basis. I know that I’m a bit of a wimp. I also know that I’ll never be a die-hard cyclist: I don’t commute by bike, I like reading books on trains and I prefer walking to explore the city. But that’s not to say a few of my journeys could change from four wheels to two. And I’m sure there are plenty of others like me across London – the interested but nervous, the reluctant, or plain lazy – that might only need a simple additional incentive as this to give cycling a go.
Craig Nicol runs the scheme in Hackney and says it has “eclipsed” ths council’s “predictions” with more than 5,000 people currently waiting for a hangar space. He decides on new locations according to level of demand in an area, the density of that area and distribution of existing hangars, whether there is access to outdoor space or storage facilities, if stairs get in the way, if cycle thefts are a problem or if an area has low levels of cycling. Though it seems the demand from neighbours trumped all other criteria on our street since there are few flats with stairs on our street and most houses have back and front gardens.
Not all residents are keen. As Nicol says, the perceived loss of parking ‘is an extremely contentious and emotive topic’ (it’s worth noting that the hangar only takes half the space of one parked car). But he thinks the critical mass towards cycling is changing this perception and helping councils to rethink how controlled parking spaces can be re-allocated to different modes. As he points out, Hackney council’s most recent transport strategy outlines its policy on the reduction of space for vehicles and states that priority will be given to cycle parking on roads rather than pavements in order to prevent obstructions to pedestrians, the visually impaired and disabled.
For me this is a positive change: a simple piece of infrastructure that encourages new riders, makes life easier for existing ones and that shows that it’s possible to share road space among different types of users.
My next step: buy a bike.
- Hackney has the largest cycle hangar portfolio in the UK
- 211 hangars on streets, plus 88 across its housing estates
- 5,000 people on Hackney’s databases waiting for a hangar to be installed
- It costs £3,200 to install a hangar, funded by Transport for London
- Users currently pay £30 per unit, per year to rent a space
- Total rental cost is £60 per unit, with Hackney Council subsidising half. This subsidy will expire in 12-18 months
- Hackney uses Cyclehoop’s Bikehangar
- Bikehangars were first ordered by Lambeth Council in 2013
- Cyclehoop has installed 950 Bikehangars, 570 bike lockers in 19 local councils, creating 6,417 cycling spaces