Safe storage for bicycles should be built into every home
THE bicycle is one of the most potent symbols of freedom. Just ask children who have been given a bike and can suddenly set out to go where they want, when they want, on a route of their own choice, at a pace that they set themselves and in the company of whomsoever they please.
If you need further evidence, take a look at the classic 1948 Italian film Bicycle Thieves. A man needs a bicycle to move around Rome pasting up billboard advertisements, which provides just enough income to support his struggling family. His bicycle is stolen jeopardising his job and his family’s survival and he sets out with his son to find the thief.
If you’re still not convinced, remember that 43 per cent of London’s residents have no access to a motor car, which may help to explain why the introduction of the Boris Bikes has been so successful. In cities like York and Hull, the common sight of cycles has not diminished and is generally recognised as the speediest and most economical way of travelling around. This is hardly surprising as the number of cars on Britain’s roads has increased tenfold since the start of the Queen’s reign, with ever more difficult and expensive parking arrangements the inevitable corollary.
Bicycle sales, on the other hand, have also increased and there are now about three million cycles sold each year, far more than cars and, on average, every other person owns a bike. Even more significantly, expenditure on cycling (which includes repairs and accessories) has increased by 25 per cent in the last few years, whereas expenditure on cars has declined.
With all this interest in cycling both for day-to-day commuting and also for leisure and exercise, as well as in recognition of the environmental benefits to society at large, it is all the more surprising that there are such poor storage and parking facilities for bicycles. If you live in a house with a garage or shed then these become the logical home for your bike but if you don’t have one, your bike ends up blocking a porch, in the hall or if you live in a flat, propped up in a corner.
There are endless individual solutions to this dilemma involving pulleys to hoist the bike above head height (all right if you have very high ceilings), wall brackets like the Cycloc, or slotted stands but most take up some valuable living space and are simply in the way.
On a Sunday morning, you often see riders returning from fields or the woods with splatterings of mud all over their bikes and down the backs of their snug lycra tops. The riders can take a shower but where do they conveniently and safely wipe down and wash their two-wheeled trusty steeds? The same problem arises when the bikes go out to work or come home through the pouring rain. If they have to be stored inside a flat or carried through to a balcony (if they’re lucky enough to have one), you’ll suffer puddles of dirty water and even tell-tale tyre tracks. There are imaginative solutions including oversized pet trays, plastic sheeting and giant bin liners each of which inevitably has its own shortcomings.
Planning departments have begun to recognise this need and are starting to insist that residential developments provide some cycle storage. Developers have also begun to buy into this trend. However, this is not always under cover and often hidden around the back of a building or in a dark, remote corner. This can be insecure so all too commonly bikes end up chained to lamp posts or railings in a more visible spot or in larger apartment buildings, you’ll find them cluttering up the entrance. There are about 30 million bikes in this country and various government schemes have been introduced to encourage cycling. With all this going on, it’s surprising that the lobby for more thoughtful, safe and covered cycle parking has not been more strongly voiced.
Robin and Patricia Silver are owners of The Home store at Salts Mill, Saltaire, www. thehomeonline.co.uk