Malvern could do a whole lot better in making the town attractive to cyclists, from Bellevue Terrace to Barnards Green and the Link, schools to work and leisure. Safe cycling routes would surely do the most in getting more people to try out the bicycle as a means of transport, but secure parking is important too and is relatively cheap and easy to action. Note 1.
The new, returning or aspiring bike user (Note 2) should be the person in the back of the mind when devising new cycle parking. Experienced cyclists shouldn’t be ignored, though. Ideally new facilities would be able to accomodate non-standard bicycles, such as those used by people with a disability, but there may not be many sites where a hand-cranked tricycle, for instance, would fit.
Greening the town
Malvern Town Council passed a declaration of a climate emergency in 2019. One way of taking positive action is to consider transport, currently one of the top contributors to the country’s carbon footprint. Even when electric vehicles become the norm and national electricity generation has left behind fossil fuels, micro pollution from tyre and brake wear will remain a serious issue especially for young lungs.
Promoting cycling will support the reduction of traffic in Malvern. Improving the infrastructure will also add to green tourism options.
Will more racks mean more cyclists? It is certain that for more people to use bicycles, more regularly around town, there will need to be more secure cycle parking. If they can’t stop to do what they came for, whether that is spending money in a shop, cafe or pub, exploring the hills on foot or going to the theatre, they will go elsewhere or return to car use.
It has been shown that, although cyclists are assumed by many business owners to be low spenders, evidence suggests that they spend more in local shops than the users of most other modes of transport (Note 3). Local shopping areas such as Malvern Link and Barnards Green would benefit from passing cyclists being able to quickly stop and pick up a few items.
Many ‘bike users’ who don’t see themselves as real cyclists will avoid Church Street in any way possible. One of the ways to help is to have parking available for those coming into the centre of Great Malvern from any direction. Note 4.
Some existing racks are difficult to find – better (any?) signing would assist the casual cyclist, and easy availability of a location map would help across the board. For digital use, at October 2020 Transition Malvern Hills has updated the data on Open Street Map and created a dedicated web page. Also see our matching list of bike racks.
It could be possible to increase the capacity of some current bike parking by remedying poor installation or lack of maintenance. For example, one of the Grange Road car park stands has been bent over (by a reversing car perhaps). There are many examples around town of too tight spacing between stands, making them difficult, or impossible, to use fully. This seems to apply across organisations, with health and rail sectors also not getting it quite right, such as in the images below.
See Note 7 on design standards guidance.
Visibility and security
The visible availability of cycle parking makes existing cyclists feel more welcome, helps new or potential bicycle users realise it is a practical option, and reassures visitors that their possibly quite expensive steeds (or hire bikes) are safely locked.
The need to offer good security through visible and properly installed cycle racks (or even lockers as at Great Malvern station) has increased with the growth of electric bicycles, due to their cost. Electric bike use is likely to increase particularly fast in Malvern given the hilly nature of some parts, and the local age profile.
Racks which are hidden away or in places of low footfall are invitations to thieves. Malvern doesn’t have a high rate of cycle thefts, as far as we are aware, but Worcester appears to have a rising level and this could spill over. Notes 5, 6. Regular cyclists will avoid using these locations and this, along with lack of signage of some others, can give the impression of low demand for cycle facilities. However the evident range of informal parking shows this to be inaccurate.
Converting informal cycle parking
Experienced bike users know how to keep their kit secure in the absence of official cycle facilities, or will have a bicycle available which is less likely to be stolen (elsewhere it is quite common for decent bikes to be made to look grotty on purpose!). But there are limited means of doing this, especially so as not to obstruct disabled access – e.g. by locking to lamp posts on narrow pavements. Cyclists are generally considerate, no different from most of the population, but anyone can slip up and there is always the exception.
These informal arrangements may work OK for existing cyclists, and should be respected where they do, but they are often not ideal in terms of security or convenience. Having to lock the bike up away from the centre of the shopping area could mean that more distant businesses get neglected, for example. And an increase in numbers wanting to cycle into town could lead to problems, such as encroaching too far on to pavements.
With the unusual circumstances of 2020, how things look on the ground now may not be a reliable baseline. Mentioning the possibility of more cycle racks has already had positive reactions, particularly for the centre of town. The demand in Malvern Link also seems clear, with Barnards Green less obvious perhaps due to the very limited informal options for secure cycle locking here.
Cycle Malvern is looking forward to action from local councils soon. This should be a first step rather than seen as the complete answer to increasing bike use in and around Malvern, and needs to be accompanied by publicity and easily available information. Then we should see a gradual increase in new, returning and aspiring cyclists. This should have medium to long term benefits in terms of reduced traffic and pollution, making the area more attractive to visitors and residents, and improved fitness and health.
- See Note 7 to discover the wide range of parking options available. Some cyclists, with customised or expensive machines in particular, will aim for secure storage such as lockers rather than simple on-street racks, but this is unlikely to be practical or appropriate in most places.
- The term ‘bike user’ is relevant as quite a few people don’t see the term of ‘cyclist’ as applying to them, but rather perhaps to those clad all in lycra and having massive leg muscles, or at least a toughened band of, usually, men going out in all weathers and able to put up with anything!
- From an official 2015 study ‘The value of cycling‘ (pdf 2MB). Other research published 2018 shows that improving town centres and high streets for pedestrians and cyclists can increase retail sales by up to 30% – pdf 3MB from Transport for London.
- Other ways include increasing fitness through regular cycling and walking, lower gears, and assistance from an electric motor.
- Bike security marking hasn’t proved itself as a major deterrent yet.
- Insurance policies generally require locking the bicycle to a fixed object for cover to be effective.
- Design standards – various guides are available online from a quick search. There is a simple page on Sheffield stand installation from Cambridge Cycling Campaign. Transport for London’s guide (pdf 2MB) could be a good starting point, although not all solutions would make sense in Malvern. Also useful are Design for Security/Greater Manchester Police (pdf 1MB) and the previous government agency Cycling England’s design principles available from Cycling Embassy (pdf 2MB). However, the main document now is the Cycle Infrastructure Design document (LTN 1/20) from gov.uk, published July 2020 by Department for Transport – from page 132 for positioning guidance etc. An extract:
11.5 Cycle parking in town centres
11.5.1 Cycle parking in town centres is most likely to cater for shoppers or those undertaking social or leisure activities. Short stay parking should be located on-street rather than in hubs or shelters. Unplanned or badly planned cycle parking of this type in town centres has the potential to distract from visual amenity at best, and present an obstruction at worst.
11.5.2 Extra care should therefore be taken to position cycle parking in locations that do not impinge on key pedestrian desire lines, but are still sufficient in volume and convenience of location to be of use to cyclists. The position of other existing or proposed street furniture, such as bus shelters or benches, should be taken into account. Stands should not be placed where they obstruct the flow of pedestrian traffic or reduce available footway width for pedestrians beyond the recommended minimum. Bespoke or higher quality designs may help minimise the visual impact of cycle parking.Page 135, Cycle Infrastructure Design LTN 1/20