Thursday, 11 April 2013

City of London: Demand for cycle parking in new office buildings outstrips supply by 100%. How the Square Mile is designing cycling into its fabric and where it needs to do better.

Demand for cycle parking in this new building in the Square Mile
already outstrips supply by 100%. And it's not even built yet.
20 Fenchurch Street. Image, courtesy The Guardian
I attended a cycling forum at the City of London last night. Some very clear trends are starting to emerge in the Square Mile and I think they deserve wider attention.

The first major trend is the massive increase in demand for cycling parking. According to the City of London officers, demand for cycle parking in some brand new office buildings is already pre-let to future tenants but those tenants are demanding even more bike parking space. At 20 Fenchurch Street, where the so-called Walkie Talkie building is being built, the owners have already let 50% of the office space. But they have already pre-let 100% of the bike parking spaces. In other words, demand for bike parking outstrips supply two to one.

Fairly standard sight in many City of London office blocks.
Just a fraction of the bike parking within one large
employer in the Square Mile. 
The City of London has had fairly robust cycle parking requirements in place ever since its 2002 Unitary Development Plan. The City demand all new office blocks meet a minimum requirement of "one cycle space for every 250 sq.m. of office floorspace" (and one per dwelling for new housing). The result of this policy has been that off-street cycle parking has boomed from only a handful of new cycle parking spaces in 2002 to 2,100 new spaces in 2008, a further 2,000 in 2010, 1,000 in 2011 and a further 1,100 in the first nine months of 2012. The City of London reckons it has 20,000 off-street bike parking spaces in office blocks, sufficient for 1 in 18 workers in the Square Mile.

The City is going to tighten up its cycle parking requirements still further in its new Local Plan, provided that is approved in 2014. The bike parking requirement will increase from one space per 250 square metres to one per 125 square metres (Boris Johnson's own strategy requires all boroughs to adopt one bike space per 150 square metres of office space). The idea is that the City expects one in 10 of the workforce in the Square Mile to be cycling to work.

My own view is that, if Boris is requiring a minimum standard of one space per 150 sq metres of office space, that the City should be more ambitious than one per 125 sq metres. Even the City of Westminster, a borough that I usually knock for its deliberately antagonistic approach to non private car transport, already has a one bike space per 125 sq metres policy for new office space. In other words, it is already twice as aggressive as the Square Mile and has been ever since 2007.

Both of these local authorities pale into complete insignificance compared to Cambridge, however. In Cambridge, new offices are expected to provide one bike parking space per 30 square metres (ie four times as many as they will be expected to provide in the City of London) and in addition to that, they must provide decent visitor bike parking. For residential dwellings, Cambridge insists on bike parking space per bedroom (ie three to four times more than Westminster). 

Public bike parking underneath a new shopping centre
in Cambridge. None of this sort of thing happening in London.
Another area where things aren't so impressive in the Square Mile is when it comes to on-street cycle parking. There are 2,000 on-street cycle parking spaces and that simply isn't enough. The Square Mile has a real cycle parking problem in the many on-street areas that are partly private space; for example, large employment areas like Broadgate or Paternoster Square. These are private estates with a right to walk (but not cycle) over them and they are dotted all over the Square Mile. No cycle parking for visitors at all, only for people who actually work in the buildings.

More and more new gleaming offices are going up all on these semi-private estates. Think about places like Broadgate, Spitalfields, Paternoster Square, the offices all the way along the top of City Thameslink station platform - all of these are cycling no-go areas. You're not allowed to cycle your bike here and you're not allowed to park your bike here. This means massive swathes of the City are banned to visitors arriving by bike. That's not good enough and the City is silent about this issue in its draft Local Plan which is due for approval next year. In other words, there's little evidence things will change.

In summary, some very good developments that the City of London can be proud of. But it's also clear there are some big cycle parking blind spots. These blind spots are all over the City and growing in number as more new office blocks spring up. It's time to review whether cycling and cycle parking should be enforced in these areas. I think it should be.