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Subsidise bike hangar costs by raising car parking charges, says councillor – but opponent warns move would “pit drivers against cyclists”

“As a principle, bike parking should be cheaper than parking a car, they take up much less public space than a car, they don’t cause any congestion or air pollution”

As the City of Edinburgh Council prepares to roll out a second wave of bike storage units across Scotland’s capital, concerns have been raised within the local authority about the cost of storing your bike in one of the hangars – which in some cases is up to three times as expensive as a 12-month car parking permit – an annual price some councillors have described as prohibitive for people on lower incomes.

However, calls to subsidise the £6-a-month bike hangar costs by raising parking charges, especially for the most polluting vehicles, have been criticised by opposition councillors for potentially “pitting drivers against cyclists”.

With the initial phase of Edinburgh’s secure on-street bike parking scheme, established in 2019, leading to the installation of 108 hangars, totalling 1,080 spaces, Edinburgh City Council’s transport and environment committee has now voted to proceed to phase two, which will see 200 units rolled out over the next few years, Edinburgh Live reports.

The new locations included in the scheme, which is outsourced to Cyclehoop and funded by Sustrans, were chosen based on the volume of requests from residents – there are currently over 1,500 locals on the waiting list for spaces – while the council has noted that areas with traditionally higher levels of deprivation will now have priority.

> Sustrans says cycling schemes and 21 jobs are at risk due to potential £500,000 cut to Scottish government active travel funding

However, some councillors have raised concerns about the cost of using the hangars which, including a £25 deposit, comes to £97 a year. In contrast, some annual car parking permits in Edinburgh can cost as little as £34.70.

“While a comparison with parking charges is understandable and legitimate, it is worth noting that the cycle hangers require much more intensive management,” a report to the transport and environment committee published on Thursday said.

The report noted that one option for reducing the costs for residents on lower incomes would be to “introduce slightly higher charges outwith areas of deprivation”.

The committee’s convenor Scott Arthur added: “I do think it is right that we look at reducing the cost of the bike hangars, particularly for people on low incomes.

“I’m in two minds about the comparison between bike spaces and parking spaces in terms of cost, because to a certain extent we’re comparing apples and oranges in terms of the service that’s provided – but then I can’t resist myself making the comparison as well.”

> Council "investigating" after driver outrage at cycle hangar "deliberately" blocking car parking spaces

Green Party councillor Jule Bandel, on the other hand, offered a much more forthright assessment of the comparison between the bike and car parking costs, and said that the end of Cyclehoop’s contract in 2024 gave the council the perfect opportunity to “explore alternative options” concerning pricing.

“As a principle, bike parking should be cheaper than parking a car, they take up much less public space than a car, they don’t cause any congestion or air pollution,” Bandel said.

“If for whatever reason in-sourcing isn’t advisable and we need to find money to fund a subsidy, our view is that we should be funding it by raising parking charges, especially on the most polluting vehicles.”

However, this call to subsidise bike parking prices was dismissed by Conservative councillor Christopher Cowdy, who said the move would be divisive and “pit drivers against cyclists”.

According to Edinburgh Live, a future meeting of the committee will discuss how best to make the storage scheme more affordable for people on lower incomes, as well as the cost of subsidising the hangars to ensure that they are less expensive than car parking.

> “Is there anything that can’t be blamed on cyclists?” Baby hospitalised after motorist crashes into bike hangar – and locals blame the hangar

The debate in Edinburgh isn’t the first time that bike storage units have been directly compared to car parking spaces.

Last November, Brighton & Hove City Council was forced to respond to a backlash from angered motorists, after a bike hangar was pictured installed in a car parking space.

The cycle hangar in Norfolk Square is one of 60 installed in the city since July, each offering secure storage for six bicycles in a space the size of which could otherwise house a single car.

However, the positioning of the hangar — taking up two resident permit car parking spaces — was met with outrage, with one resident calling it “sheer incompetence or the continuing war by Brighton & Hove City Council against motorists”, before later telling the local paper that he “doesn’t have a problem with the hangars”, just the “madness” of one “that takes up two parking spaces”.

Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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22 comments

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cyclisto | 729 posts | 4 months ago
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Charging any kind of state operated bicycle parking doesn't seem good to me. Being able to park practically anywhere is bicycle's key benefit and I would never pay for.

If they want to assign these places to citizens they could be assigned with social selection to people with limited financial recources and no motor vehicle in their household

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chrisonatrike replied to cyclisto | 6799 posts | 4 months ago
2 likes

Nothing stopping you continuing to park your bike anywhere.  This is about additional parking provision.  Ideally taking back some space from motor vehicle parking.

In principle I don't see why people shouldn't pay a small amount for this.  It's "public" in one sense but actually it's "for" the immediate locality.  If I don't live near one it's no use to me.  However for e.g. town centre / station parking free or nearly free is a very good idea - you really want people to cycle to these places rather than driving.

The Netherlands shows there can indeed be "problems of success" with this.  Cycling is so popular that forests of parked bikes can be an issue for access.  Sensibly they've chosen "more carrot than stick" and provided excellent facilities to lure people into parking in a more scaleable way.

For better or worse we tend to value things depending on what we pay.  So "free" can sometimes be too cheap.  However I'd certainly agree there are good arguments for putting more money into cycling provision (e.g. it actually brings you overall economic benefit).

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cyclisto replied to chrisonatrike | 729 posts | 4 months ago
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chrisonamotortrike wrote:

Nothing stopping you continuing to park your brand new Benz Patent Motor Car anywhere. 

Things change as you see, so I do believe paying for bicycle parking can be the norm somewhere in the future, and we may see more people annoyed by what now they don't bother to complain.

PS writing this post I noticed your usename implying that you may use a trike. This of course would be a different question, as sometimes a trike or cargo bike may need more parking space.

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chrisonatrike replied to cyclisto | 6799 posts | 4 months ago
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Part of the problem is that it's still very cheap or indeed free to park the descendents of that motor carriage anywhere.  And there's still lots of resistance to the idea that this might change.

I sometimes wonder if there were say ten times the numbers currently locally cycling (still less than in some places in NL) whether I'd be happy with the change (we won!)  Or instead just annoyed because now there is more traffic on the cycle paths, other people cycling slowly or taking all the cycle parking spots?

cyclisto wrote:

PS writing this post I noticed your usename implying that you may use a trike. This of course would be a different question, as sometimes a trike or cargo bike may need more parking space.

Not literally true - currently I'm on two wheels, although one set is on a recumbent which almost certainly wouldn't fit a cycle hangar.  I think it's correct to say that folks with mobility issues (or maybe just carrying other humans...) may not get sufficient consideration.

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cyclisto replied to chrisonatrike | 729 posts | 4 months ago
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chrisonatrike wrote:

I sometimes wonder if there were say ten times the numbers currently locally cycling (still less than in some places in NL) whether I'd be happy with the change (we won!)  Or instead just annoyed because now there is more traffic on the cycle paths, other people cycling slowly or taking all the cycle parking spots?

That is a big dilemma, as the Dutch cycle path network seems amazing yet these bicycle traffic jams don't seem apealing.

There are always ways to give benefits to people with health or financial issues, as well as to young parents. A flat rate for everyone doesn't work well

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonatrike | 12162 posts | 4 months ago
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chrisonatrike wrote:

I sometimes wonder if there were say ten times the numbers currently locally cycling (still less than in some places in NL) whether I'd be happy with the change (we won!)  Or instead just annoyed because now there is more traffic on the cycle paths, other people cycling slowly or taking all the cycle parking spots?

The answer is for the quicker cyclists to use the road instead if they're impatient

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chrisonatrike replied to hawkinspeter | 6799 posts | 4 months ago
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Indeed - although those who want to make progress in NL don't seem to have much trouble.  With the possible exception of the morning rush-hour in busy urban areas.  I think it's worse right now in the UK in urban areas, even on bike.

Rumination aside I think it's a less likely "nice problem to have".  That's because without cycling being at least as convenient as driving for the current non-cycling majority there won't be a substantial increase in people cycling.

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STATO replied to cyclisto | 595 posts | 4 months ago
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These hangers are supposed to be 'residential' such that they would be used to store a bike, not as a place to 'park' a bike (i know almost the same thing but you get what i mean).  Other than lam-posts or signs there would not usualy have been anywhere on public land to have locked these bikes nearby previously.

The replacement of public accessible bike facilities is an issue tho, in Newcastle they have just replaced some of the standard sheffield stands located in a multi-story car park, with an double-decker style racks within a cage which need a deposit to obtain a fob for access.  While there are other spaces within a few minutes walk, this sort of complete removal/replacement is an issue in areas people visit. 

 

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HoldingOn | 441 posts | 4 months ago
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Why does the bike have antlers?

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mark1a replied to HoldingOn | 1032 posts | 4 months ago
2 likes

HoldingOn wrote:

Why does the bike have antlers?

Perhaps suitable for a new urban sub-brand of a popular Canadian bike manufacturer, I hear they're calling it Cervidae...

(sorry)

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hawkinspeter replied to HoldingOn | 12162 posts | 4 months ago
6 likes

HoldingOn wrote:

Why does the bike have antlers?

Because modern bikes are too dear

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STATO | 595 posts | 4 months ago
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Id love to see a pic of that bike in one of the hangers, becasue I know from personal experience it wont fit!

Everyone wets themselves over these hangers but fact is they dont fit most Large or XL mtbs since most are now 29ers and hence are longer.  My XL commute bike with mudguards only barely fits in the lower 3 of the 6 spaces in each hanger, in the high spaces the bars hit the lid before it shuts.

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chrisonatrike replied to STATO | 6799 posts | 4 months ago
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They could be bigger no doubt - and likely they wouldn't be helpful if you've got a bike adapted for mobility assistance.  Will they fit a bike with a child seat?  I'd suggest that would be a minimum.

Because the UK is still in "early days" of cycling there's much less uniformity of sizes.  Compare this with a place where cycling is a mainstream transport option [1] [2].  I guess there's a bit of churn in bike form factors at the moment also.  There's definitely been some "grade inflation" in terms of MTB handlebar widths and wheel / tyre sizes over - say - the last decade.

If they were made to accommodate MTB sizes they'd be nice and roomy for everyone else - not sure this is a tradeoff we'll see though (e.g. you might then only get 4 bikes per hanger with similar footprint).

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bikes replied to chrisonatrike | 75 posts | 4 months ago
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That's a nice idea: That these are only needed as the UK is in transition with regards cycling. I take it these hangars don't exist in the Netherlands?

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chrisonatrike replied to bikes | 6799 posts | 4 months ago
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bikes wrote:

That's a nice idea: That these are only needed as the UK is in transition with regards cycling. I take it these hangars don't exist in the Netherlands?

I can't recall seeing them (my travels there were a while ago).  On the other hand I only briefly passed through Rotterdam where this company claim they're a thing (they may be late to the party though).

According to BicycleDutch (in his article on domestic bike parking) "Homes, including apartments, built after circa 1950 in the Netherlands must have private bicycle storage rooms that are accessible from the public road".

Obviously there's plenty of housing from before that.  Those bikes live outside *.  However alternative local facilities have appeared to serve the needs of those who must / want to park inside but can't do so at their house.

* The design of bikes in NL reflects that (they're practical anyway e.g. like buying a car you don't then need to buy "extras" like lights, mudguards, locks...)  That's another reason for the rugged frame and minimal exposed small parts - possibly no cables at all, brakes in hubs, enclosed chain case.  As STATO says many people treat their bike as a tool - they get a cheap one and take no more care of it than their wellies!

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STATO replied to chrisonatrike | 595 posts | 4 months ago
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Certainly UK cyclists are often guilty of 'overbiking' for a given task. When i lived in/near a city i rode a £50 15 year old 5 speed bike.  Options exist like dutch bikes, certainly when i worked at Hlafords 2 decades ago we stocked appropriate bikes, but the culture then, and still now, is for mtbs. Ebikes are changing that, but at a cost that makes them difficult to just lock and leave.

The reason you mostly see basic or beaten up looking bikes under the dutch (according to my dutch colleague) is they are so common they are almost immune to theft, and just being transport only the minimum is spent.

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Sriracha | 4078 posts | 4 months ago
9 likes

They could charge the same for bikes and for cars - so all is fair and everyone is happy. Per square inch.

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hawkinspeter replied to Sriracha | 12162 posts | 4 months ago
4 likes

Sriracha wrote:

They could charge the same for bikes and for cars - so all is fair and everyone is happy. Per square inch.

Or per kilo

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marmotte27 | 565 posts | 4 months ago
10 likes

Politics in the common interest:

1) you decide what's right and necessary, in this case more bike parking, less car parking, with bike parking cheaper than car parking,
2) You decide on a way of achieving your end, like raising the price of the latter to finance the price reduction of the former.
3) You go ahead with your decision, explaining it to the population, and facing down any unreasonable opposition.

No?

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leaway2 | 146 posts | 4 months ago
2 likes

"intensive management" lol, is that someone with an oil can once a year?.

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chrisonatrike replied to leaway2 | 6799 posts | 4 months ago
12 likes

Probably a bit more - they'll needing fixing when someone tries to break in, or bends the door so it jams.  And every year several will need a complete rebuild because a driver drove into them and destroyed them / ripped them off their mountings...

Cllr. Scott Arthur's right about apples and oranges though - having car-parking space encourages having cars.  Private cars bring lots of issues and "externalities" (e.g. costs we normally ignore - easy for most as drivers don't directly pay for them).

It's not a zero-sum game but currently those who drive are effectively getting a subsidy (see "externalities" again).  Additionally the more motor vehicles there are the less appealing cycling is.  (Most people don't like cycling among motor traffic).  Finally they take up space which could be used for more efficient modes like cycling.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to leaway2 | 920 posts | 4 months ago
2 likes

It's mostly to do with the management of the waiting lists and the distribution of keys / access. In the above case it mentions there is a waiting list of 1500. And that waiting list grows every day. That will be distributed between the hangars - and not evenly. So someone has to manage the requests, reply to the requests, add people to the waiting lists, open accounts, close accounts, check people's usage, reply to emails from residents / Cllrs / users. And collect and collate all the data. And manage repairs, maintenance, vandalism, theft etc. That's one person's job. If you think about it, councils have entire teams managing parking. Oh, and the struts are hydraulic so they don't need an oil can. But they do need regular cleaning, especially inside where litter and leaves collect. And you have to times that by several hundred. 

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