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“An overly complicated fail”: Station’s double-decker cycle storage slammed as ‘ableist’ and ‘useless’

Manchester Piccadilly’s new bike racks have divided opinion for being less secure and unfriendly for disabled people and pretty much everyone with a non-standard cycle, despite tripling the storage space

After weeks of having no safe cycle storage, Manchester Piccadilly is finally introducing the new two-tiered bike racks. However, several people have expressed their anger at the new storage facilities, which are quite popular in the Netherlands, for not being very user-friendly.

With almost 20 million users annually, the station is the third busiest interchange outside of London, but only had storage space for around 50 bikes.

In February, Manchester Evening News reported that the old facilities had been ripped out as Avanti West Coast planned to introduce 162 new bike storage spaces, in a project funded by charity Sustrans.

However, photographs of the station’s new storage arrangement have popped up, confirming that it is going to be double-decker bike rack system, marking a departure from the previously beloved Sheffield racks.

Andy Smedley, scientist at University of Manchester posted a picture of the bike racks being installed, to which a number of cyclists from Manchester expressed their dismay.

He told, “I used the old Sheffield racks fairly regularly. They’re right by the main railway station entrance so in a really good spot for a multi-mode commute. They seemed secure, easy to use and had the benefit of CCTV and police parking nearby to deter thieves.”

“They were closed several months ago, which practically meant I stopped using them, and hence stopped using my bike to get around town,” he said. “I was glad to have something back after many weeks with no progress, and although it’s higher capacity, it looks like it’ll be congested and quite hard to use.”

Research fellow at the Active Travel Academy Dr Harrie Larrington-Spencer said: “I'm a disabled cyclist and often used the previous Sheffield stands. I can't use this type of cycle stand with either my bike or trike,” also questioning Network Rail about what kind of cycle parking provisions will they be making for disabled people.

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Another Twitter user from Salford thought they were “ableist and inconvenient”, while an active travel advocate ‘Cargo Bike Ben’ labelled them “useless”.

Ben also said: “They also don't hold many eBikes (as their tyres are too wide, often have disc brakes which the wheel benders block), and non-standard bikes like cargo bikes have no hope.”

Many other users also raised concerns about the safety of these racks, as the loops are easier to cut through with angle grinders, making chain locks redundant, while also preventing the use of D-locks along with wheel and the seat post tube.

Amidst all these concerns, several people thought that these racks were simply a way of “ticking boxes”, without bothering to consult with real users.

“Horrendous, they take something that works and replace with something that does not. These people need to talk to users sheer arrogance,” replied a user under Andy’s post.

Andy also mentioned feeling torn at the sight of these, noting that they won’t work with tandems, tricycles or electric bikes and lamented the lack of consultation. “It generally seems a poor choice for such a prime location, and it could have been avoided if Network Rail (who I think run the station) had consulted with users,” he told us.

Previously, a similar two-tiered cycle parking arrangement was also installed in Manchester’s Victoria station last September. Back then, when a Twitter cyclist called for such a scheme at Piccadilly, others were quick to point out there grievances.

A cyclist wrote: “I tried to use racks like that at Stalybridge recently - with a frozen shoulder it was too difficult to use the top rack and using the underneath in order to lock up at the right angle for the tiny loop thingy was difficult, painful (banged head) and my D lock actually broke,” adding that “Sheffield stands are the best”.

Double-decker cycle stands are also already available in many London stations, such as Liverpool Street and Victoria, with the former having them since 2009.

It’s interesting to see the pushback against this system of bike storage, something that’s quite common in the Dutch cycling-dominated landscape. In The Hague or Ultrecht, there are accommodations for fitting up to 12,000 cycles at the railway station with the help of two-tiered parking.

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The news comes as in a separate scheme, Transport for Greater Manchester recently announced £1 million is to be spent on new and improved cycle storage at stops across Metrolink's Bury line, including covered Sheffield stands with lighting and CCTV in highly visible and accessible locations to be installed at eight stops as part of the project.

Dame Sarah Storey, Active Travel Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: “Building these cycle parking facilities at local Metrolink stops, where there is currently no suitable provision for leaving a bike, will give an additional choice to local people who don't live within an easy walk of their local station.”

31/03/2023: After publication this article was updated following comment from Transport for Greater Manchester who clarified it has "not led on the delivery or funded Piccadilly Station cycle storage scheme, it is Avanti West Coast and Sustrans".

Adwitiya joined in 2023 after finishing his masters in Journalism from Cardiff University, with a dissertation focusing on active travel. He's currently living in Cardiff and for the most part moans about the abruptly ending cycle lanes, if he's not cursing the headwind. Adwitiya also covers local and national politics for Voice Wales, and sometimes dabbles in topics related to science, tech and the environment. Cycling became a part of his life just a couple of years ago, and now he can't think of a single reason why anyone would drive if they could cycle. He usually uses his bike for commuting, but he also loves excursions on the Taff trail, however never underestimate his ability to find an excuse to watch something on GCN instead.

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