Bike parking at train stations – what works and what doesn’t

Bike parking at train stations – what works and what doesn’t

Max

Cycling and trains go together well. By using your bike to get to the train station, you don’t need to first wait for a bus that goes there, or drive there your car, hoping that that you can find a car park. Even if you don’t live close to a train station, it’s likely in easy cycle reach (just look at the slide at the right – it shows how much of the Isthmus is covered by just a 3km cycling radius around each train station). So “bikes to the train” should be a slam-dunk choice for many.

But during peak hours, you can’t take your bike ON the train (or at least you can’t DEPEND on them allowing your bike), because the train might be too full. That won’t change, even with the bike-carriage options in our new electric trains. So you have to leave your bike at the train station. And that is where the Auckland experience breaks down.

Overseas, train stations are often surrounded by well-utilised bike parking. Whether in a small village train station in Europe, or the one in an apartment suburb of Japan – acres and acres of bikes parked up there. In Auckland? Maybe a lonely bike or two*. I can’t believe that’s just because we still have too few cyclists. Something else isn’t working.

*(Contradict me if the situation is different at your train station – I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.)

So what is it? Well, I think there are a couple of potential reasons. I can’t prove any of them, and there are likely to be a number of overlapping reasons anyway. But I think the lack of large amounts of bikes parked up could be due to:

  • Kiwis that DO cycle in our current biking climate often have relatively new and/or expensive bikes. Anything from the high hundreds to the several thousands of dollars is tied up in that bike. You just don’t want to leave that sitting around in the open the whole day…
  • Lots of our train stations are relatively “tucked away”, invisible – and so is the bike parking. The station might be located in a deep gully, or in an industrial area that feels deserted even during the day, or the surrounding houses turn their backs on it. The most striking example I saw of this was at Sunnyvale Train Station – surrounded by high vegetation, no houses for hundreds of meters on the access side, and thick planting more than head-height around much of the station. And then there’s two lonely sheffield racks hidden somewhere in all that bush…
  • No safe roads / paths to the train station? Maybe – though I suspect that isn’t the key reason. And except for fixing up the “last mile” directly around the train station, it’s a bit out of scope from this post anyway…
  • The bike parking isn’t particularly fancy (though admittedly in many places elsewhere that doesn’t keep them from piling up). Most bike parks don’t have weather shelter, so you end up coming back to a wet saddle…
  • The tipping point problem. As long as there are only a very few bikes at each station, it feels strange to bike there, and you feel like YOUR bike is particularly exposed to vandalism and theft. If you are one of a big trend, that kind of thought disappears.

So what do you think is the issue? And what do you think is the solution? Auckland Transport has trialled a few, and is looking into bike parking options that have been used successfully in Melbourne. We will talk about some of those in a future post…

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