Image 01Guest blog by Nicholas Jones
Industrial Designer/Director Indemic

[Editor’s note: our recent blog about the AT bike cage trial – which Cycle Action supports – led to some people weighing in who felt that this really “wasn’t all that”. Here’s a guest blog from one of them with some thoughts and design alternatives.]

I’ve been following the discussion on Auckland Transport’s proposal to trial 2 bike cages at Papakura and Papatotoe train stations. I was somewhat offended by the pictures of the proposed cages, so took heart from the comments questioning the design, as well as the location, security and need for the cages.

Everyone agreed that our bikes deserve protection from the elements when parked all day at a train, ferry or bus station, and while we all want our bikes to be safe from theft, it’s not agreed that the cages are the only way to provide effective security.

I can’t help questioning why we are copying a decade-old design from Melbourne. The only thing we seem to have changed is to remove the colour. Sadly, this highlights the grim, prison appearance of the cages.

Scanning the web for alternatives to the Melbourne design was a reality check, as it highlighted that largely there is no silver-bullet solution. These two designs show some lateral thinking, but still miss the mark in their effectiveness and suitability to our unique requirements here in Auckland.

Bike cages do not come cheaply ($80,000 – $90,000 all up). Think of the number of train and bus stations across Auckland and you can see this will be a costly retrofit. This led me to defining what is needed for bike parking at train and bus stations.  Before proceeding any further, we need to ask Auckland’s bike parking users (present and future) if cages are the only way to provide undercover and secure parking, and develop a robust set of requirements addressing the specific needs of cyclists, and conveying the future vision of our city.

Included in this we should consider:

  • Image 02Bike parking to convey the positive image of cycling and its part in a smart, liveable city.
  • It’s a vital part of our transport infrastructure and will be all around the city.  If it’s well designed, it will be welcomed, respected and more wholly integrated, wherever it is sited.
  • It must be cost-effective and applicable/adaptable city-wide.
  • It’s there to do a job, so has to be highly functional, easy to use and maintain.
  • The form of the bike and the need to keep it safe from twisting, falling, scraping, corrosion and theft.
  • We want shelter from the rain as we park and lock our bike, and empty/ fill panniers.
  • Space and siting are important, as bike parking should be convenient for regular users and seen by visitors.
  • Passive supervision helps protect bikes from vandalism and theft.

Finally – there is no question we value innovation and design in New Zealand. Think how Aucklanders have embraced the ingenuity and creativity at the Wynyard Wharf . Do we really have to accept mediocre hand- me-down bike parking for train, bus and ferries across Auckland?

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20 responses to “Are those Bike Cages the best we can offer Auckland?

  1. They are pretty grim boxes, and seem pretty expensive considering how few bikes they fit. Of course that’s all relative, they’re a bargain compared with what would be spent on increasing capacity for a few cars on the motorway. However, I don’t think they’re really appropriate all over the network. Surely building more capacity in public areas e.g. in Mt Albert up next to the main street where they are visible would be a better option.

    1. While racks and shelters are obviously a good thing to have, they only need to be provided at stategic places where there is an obvious need. I cycle a lot around town, and usually I can find a place to lock my bike safely. Nor is it always raining in Auckland!
      My point is that having them in a few select locations is all that is necessary to keep costs down. I think most people have trouble understanding one can have too much of a good thing.There are so many examples of this I could give, but they have nothing to do with cycling.As always,the goal should be to have the optimal number of goods, not the maximum.

    2. How come something so ugly costs so much? $80K with a capacity of 20 bikes. Or $40K per 10 bikes, where 10 bikes equates to one car park space.
      Well it shouldn’t.
      It seems to cost twice as much on a per car park space basis than the recently completed Manukau parking building. Cost $14M for 680 spaces or approx. $21K per car park.
      Simplistic comparison I know but a cage is a lot less sophisticated than a multi-level building

      1. Hi Shorty – as discussed earlier, the cages would have CCTV and electronic, remotely-monitored locks (or at least will have, if they are close to the Parkiteer mold, which are even more expensive), and need to be reasonably tough if they are to do what they are supposed to do, and be vandal-proof too.

        Also, larger jobs reduce in unit price. If we built bike cages for 200 bikes, or built 20 bike cages instead of 2, we probably could bring the price PER BIKE down a lot too.

          1. After all, we’re not expecting the number of people riding to stations to decrease.

  2. I think it all starts with the way we have viewed PT stations until recently. They were not ‘people’ places at all, more just a place for the poor to go and get PT. Perhaps, the lock up area should be incorporated into other facilities like cafe’s? Or bike shops maybe. All I need is somewhere that is covered, easy to use (ie; lock the bike to), is well lit and have a connecting cycle path nearby. Location wise, I think incorporate any facilities as part of the main entrance where there are most often people. Perhaps a combination of what is shown above and these
    for people who want a bit more security and are willing to pay for it

    1. I saw these ones used in the UK recently- whilst not addressing all the points you mention, the thing I liked about there use was their ubiquity- at a large hospital there was 4 or 5 between every wing/block, at main entrances etc etc.

    2. That locker looks neat, I like that you can chuck in a couple of bikes, plus luggage.

      I’d pay for that if I was combining a ride with PT.

      I used to partly disassemble my bike & lock it 2m up a lamp post in the UK when nothing else solid presented itself. Saddle post and any lights came with me.

      We are fortunate to have far fewer petty thieves and vandals here.

      1. Such lockers were used to be provided at New Lynn, and at the Northern Busway. Apparently, they were a real failure (very few users!).

        Now, I haven’t ever used them, so I can’t discuss why – but experience from elsewhere shows that these individual lockers suffer from very low up-take, and mis-use (homeless people sleeping in them, people storing non-bike stuff…). Also, people often rented the individual lockers, but didn’t use them (which takes it out of circulation – and required use of high payments to discourage “renting one just for the rare case you might need it” etc…)

        Then there’s the clunkieness of having to apply to get a key etc… If they didn’t require a key (and just made you lock the door with your own lock) the lockers were then often mis-used (i.e. the above homeless examples etc…)

        I understand bike cages are actually a concept developed partly because the individual lockers often did badly – because in a bike cage, you don’t have a fixed spot, its (to some degree), first come, first-served, which allows much better uptake.

        1. Sure, hence the option of providing a ‘free’ basic rack type solution and the locker. Choices.
          The company that makes the lockers indicates there is the option of a proximity card version so I wouldn’t imagine it would be too difficult to tie it into the HOP card. Mucking around with an actual key would be the thing that would put me off them. Also, with lights and a good location (under cover)they could work. This was just the first version I came across :-). Perhaps a room incorporated into the station building (as opposed to a cage), with access via HOP card, could be a nice idea?

          1. I think designing better-looking cages, maybe with some weather-sheltered “outdoors” parking around – maybe a bit like the images on Nicholas’ post, arty and pretty – is the way. I am not sure the locker boxes are the way to go at all.

            I mean – if some people are allowed to say the cages remind them of prison, then I am allowed to say that the individual bike lockers remind me of a row of industrial storage shoeboxes! 😉

          2. 🙂
            So on thinking about this a bit more, and looking at some other examples from other parts of the globe, I’m siding with the non-cage / non lockers idea. Bang for buck, we could get more very cool and easy to use shelters / racks for the pricing of the options suggested by AT. I think we would see greater benefits with more money spent on cycle friendly road crossings / paths to get to the stations.

  3. This is such a useful and timely discussion, as Cycle Action is about to start a collaborative project on bike parking with AT. Nicholas’s blog has highlighted that we need a lot more feedback from cyclists thru’out this process. I see from these comments you want us to focus on value for money, a high degree of functionality and well designed infrastructure that contributes to the urban setting. Thanks for your comments!

    1. Yep, Julie, there are bike parks at the AT Park and Ride. They comprise bike racks in the open, with no weather shelter or security and bike boxes which need keys to operate. Cycle Action has just finished doing a survey for AT on public perception of these – and the overwhelming response from cyclists and non-cyclists is that they are disliked. The simple answer is all day bike parking needs to be undercover, secure and easy to access. The Park and Ride facilities tick none of these requirements.

  4. With a decent bike lock, I don’t see security as an issue.How can a thief steal a bike? I mean, with a four digit combination it should be practically impossible to crack the code in a normal time frame, and who is going to use a hacksaw to cut thru a bike chain? Maybe I do not have a criminal enough mind, but to me it seems almost impossible.
    As for shelter, surely a simple design similar to a car port should be adequate, enough to keep the rain off anyway.
    I would just like to add that because they are already into exercise, cyclists don’t mind a bit of walking to a secure location, unlike some motorists who seem to have an aversion to walking, for some strange reason (disabled, infirm and elderly excepted,of course)

    1. “With a decent bike lock, I don’t see security as an issue.How can a thief steal a bike?”

      With a decent metal saw? If the bike is expensive enough, and the location invisible enough, a couple minutes work will net a bike thief a good haul…

      1. Alternatively, a massive set of bolt croppers will do the job in seconds. Being in a very public, high footfall area is good security. It also tends to put you close to what you came for. I might have ridden in, but that doesn’t mean I want a hike as well, John Austin.

  5. This is a very useful article and the following comments are very pertinent:
    Bike parking to convey the positive image of cycling and its part in a smart, liveable city.
    It’s a vital part of our transport infrastructure and will be all around the city. If it’s well designed, it will be welcomed, respected and more wholly integrated, wherever it is sited.

    At Birkenhead Wharf this week, one of these cages has just been plonked in the middle of the view of the upper harbour. People drive the elderly down here to enjoy this view. Now it has an unsympathetic blot in the middle of the view.

    Another point that is important at some wharves – such as Birkenhead and Northcote Wharves – the salt spray is vicious in a sou’wester.

    The cage design is inappropriate for the edge of Birkenhead Wharf – the structure should be removed to a more suitable location.

    But weather proof parking is essential for motor scooter riders to avoid salt spray getting into the engine and other components. The new cage design is not however weather proof! it has perforated metal on at least one side.

    Apparently this structure is also intended for motor scooters – a very important concept to be applauded as half a dozen scooters can fit in the space of one car park. But this cage will not fully protect the engines and bearings of scooters from the keen horizontally swirling blast of salt spray in 30 plus knots.

    Thank you Auckland Transport for providing a budget.

    You used to hold a forum for consulting with the public – but this has been stopped. Please start consulting with the community again to avoid mistakes like the Birkenhead Wharf cage.

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