May 1st, 2010

Discussion Paper: secure bicycle parking stations for Newcastle.

Through the comments section below, I am using this page to continue discussions I've been having with community leaders and potential sponsors, on the topic of secure bicycle parking stations in Newcastle, along similar lines to the RBWH Cycle Center in Brisbane. Please feel free to join the discussion. Adding your contact details and any affiliations would be appreciated. I'm too busy to promise close moderation, so be judicious and ignore senseless comments and futile debates.

The need for facilities like this
  • Sprawling cities cannot easily be cycled using cheap bikes like those used in Amsterdam, that can be chained outside unattended.
  • Furthermore, Australians' love of sport, means a love of sports bikes, too expensive to chain to a pole.
  • Longer commutes mean sweaty commuters, in need of a shower when they arrive.
  • Secure facilities dignify, even glorify cycling, thus encouraging people to cycle who may currently think only driving behoves them. 
The past decade has seen the construction of secure bicycle stations in other sprawling cities. The common traits:
  • architect designed to dignify and celebrate cycling
  • peace of mind against theft, by way of attendants and/or after-hours digital keys for club members
  • revenue generation from bike store, repair shop and bike hire lease
  • shower and locker facilities for "club" members
Links to specific examples:
What might they look like?
Such facilities can take the form of: small towers; infill developments; sculptural interventions in plazas or parks; or where underground silos can be used to store the actual bikes, dispensers may be the only above ground trace of the actual storage facilities (although showers and bike shops would add to the visual impact).

  • within 300m (a short walk) of work places that presently lack such facilities
  • triumphal, highly visible locations, that bespeak public sanctioning or cycling as a mode of commuting on par with driving
  • proud entrances, acknowledging users' pride in their cycling and club membership.

Stars indicate some sites to consider: 1. in front of Civic Station; 2. cnr. Hunter and Perkins; 3. cnr. Watt and Scott (Enterprise Park)

To be determined after July envoy to see centers operating in Brisbane.

Determining Capacity and Scale
The key determinant of scale, is the population of potential bicycle commuters within a short walk (say, 300m) of each facility. Since the objective is to encourage drivers to swap over to cycling, existing demand for bike parking gives no indication. Rather, we need to look at the capacity of parking facilities in other cities, as compared to the population of workers within walking distance from those facilities.

Who will benefit?
  • Everyone who switches to commuting by bicycle from commuting by car, bus or train.
  • Casual users who can use these when day tripping to the city by bike
  • Businesses, who will see casual users of the facilities making the city a destination for shopping and recreation
  • Tourism, as cyclists come by bike/train for cycling holidays to enjoy the coast, Glenrock and Fernleigh track, and admire this kind of infrastructure
  • The local economy, as the artistic and environmental character of the stations lures the creative class
  • Council, by reducing burden on car parking.
  • Drivers, for whom car parking spaces will be freed up (momentarily, before they are turned into cycle lanes!)
  • Users' employers, who will have fitter, wealthier and happier staff
  • Investors, who (might) receive carbon offset benefit.
  • Humanity, by reduced carbon emissions.
  • Tax payers, by a less morbid society with lower health care costs.

Who misses out?
  • Because membership is charged for, there is no direct benefit to people who cycle because they cannot afford to drive—they will benefit indirectly, as the boost to cycling leads to cycle paths being upgraded.

Quantitative Brief
Spaces to include, but not be limited to:
  • accessories and clothing shop
  • repairs workshop
  • Club member shower facilities to cope with rush hour demand
  • Locker facilities
  • Best practice with regards to ecologically sustainable design
  • 24/7 member access with smart cards and CCTV
Qualitative Brief
  • Worthy of architectural award
  • Somehow evocative of health, bicycle design, environmentalism, or some other relevant image.
  • High profile and visible
Least resolved questions
  • Can investors use the project to offset carbon emissions?
Where to from here?
My first thoughts on a plan of attack, for the next 6 months, are as follows
  1. Promotion of this forum to gather input from a variety of sources (May 2010) Please share the link!
  2. Preliminary meeting with influential supporters of plan (May 2010)
  3. Envoy to visit Bicycle Centres in Brisbane (14 July 2010)
  4. Generate discussion in The Herald and ABC radio
  5. See who might sponsor a symposium, feasibility study, design competition, exhibition and catalog (ATO? NCC? GPT? University of Newcastle? BVN architects? bike rack suppliers? bike retailers? etc.)   
  6. Newcastle Innovation to handle account.
  7. The launch phase will culminate with a one day symposium in January 2011, to include:
  • presentations by local and international speakers,
  • exhibition of best entries in design competition
  • prizes awarded for 3 best design schemes
  • workshops and facilitated discussion
  • networking drinks function
  • public forum
  • presentation of exhibition catalog including essays by symposium presenters, and feasibility data.

Who am I?
I lecture in architecture at Newcastle Uni, and have conducted some research at the nexus of architecture and cycling (my two passions). I'm not hard to find via the web. However, for discussing anything to do with cycling, I'm more accessible via this blog. Hey, and thank you for reading this far!