Bike Parking – An Overview
Across the United Kingdom an increased focus on sustainability strategies and better urban planning, combined with societal factors like rising fuel prices and rail disruption, have all contributed to an increase in cycling rates. Whether utilised for leisure or a means of transport for commuting, cycling is a practical and cost-effective activity that appeals to a wide demographic of individuals.
Annual cycle mileage in the UK has steadily risen since 1993, with the events of 2020 an anomaly that saw a drastic spike in usage. In London, specifically, figures in 2019 found that around 6 times as many people cycled across the central district compared to 1977. More considerable increases over the last 20 years have coincided with the development of greater cycling infrastructure, such as dedicated bike lanes and improved passing at junctions.
In the early stages of 2022, cycling rates rose steeply and were able to principally maintain that positive trend into the early summer, with figures demonstrating a 150% increase in comparison to the early stages of 2020. Records of the first quarter of 2022 found that people in the UK spent £514m on bikes, the highest quarterly figure since records began in 1985.
The Department for Transport confirmed on 2nd January 2023 that a new £32.9m Government scheme will be introduced in order to encourage more people to walk and cycle as a means of exercise. Known as Active Travel England, the substantial figures will be invested to create a national network of specialists to work alongside communities in order to develop and enhance high streets, with the ultimate goal to encourage more people to walk and cycle by increasing accessibility for everyone. The scheme also falls on the back of the Government’s Covid-19 recovery initiatives, which raised the Ten-Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, with specific funding set aside for uplifting and developing cycling infrastructure across the country. Eligible options include infrastructure on high streets, safety zones around schools and roads appropriate for pedestrians and cyclists, in addition to wheelchair users.
In addition to concerns around road safety and poorly maintained bike lanes, one of the key deterrents to cycling is bike theft. In England and Wales, 74,421 bike thefts were reported to police between July 2021 and June 2022, amounting to an incident of bike theft every 7 minutes. Cities hit the hardest included London, Cambridge and Oxford, with a staggeringly low 1.7% resulting in a suspect being identified and charged. Very few victims of bike crime actually report the theft to police and are ultimately discouraged from cycling in the future. A YouGov survey published in 2022 reported that 77% of UK respondents wouldn’t expect an incident to be properly investigated by the police.
This data suggests there is a vastly increased requirement for secure bike parking options in the UK. Providing secure and well-planned bike parking facilities can provide solutions that encourage more people to cycle and reduce the likelihood of vandalism and bike theft. Bike parking also plays a vital part in any plans to improve cycling infrastructure, whether in public, commercial or residential settings.
Bike parking is a valuable resource for a wide variety of sectors and establishments. As a commodity, it has developed considerably over the years. The earliest forms tended to offer a simple means of bike parking that secured the front wheel only via grooved concrete or a forked piece of metal. These were ineffective for deterring bike theft, whilst also not offering much in the way of stability for the frame and opposing wheel of the bike, leading to the term “wheel benders” among cyclists.
The modern equivalent, known as the Sheffield stand, named after the city of Sheffield in which it was pioneered, was developed to provide a solution to this problem. The first gas-assisted two-tier rack system was developed by Dutch company Jan Kuipers in 1929 and now demonstrates extensive use across Europe in the modern era, while the city of Toronto is credited with introducing the first post and ring bicycle stands in 1984.
While the suitability and manufacturing quality of bike parking can often vary depending on location and user-demand, new-build developments in the UK will often require provisions for bike parking. While there is currently no fixed national policy in regard to requirements for bike parking in residential buildings, local councils will often have their own specific guidelines and standards for residential bike parking facilities. As such, it is important for developers to plan in advance and consider bike parking as an imperative factor in their plans.
A good general practice to establish for bike parking facilities is to determine who the users are most likely to be, how they will use the facility, and where the facility is going to be located. It’s also pragmatic to determine whether the facility will enable short-term or long-term bike parking.
Short-term bike parking should provide convenient access and offer an appropriate level of security for users. Ideally, the facility should be installed in close proximity to buildings to provide a good level of visibility and passive surveillance. In contrast, long-term bike parking should prioritise security and a dedicated, secure mode of access for users, with features such as CCTV coverage offering an aid to this criteria. In addition, it should offer shelter from inclement weather if installed in an external location.
Bike parking should consider the following factors:
In June 2021, the Bicycle Association and Cycle Rail Working Group published their new Cycle Parking & Security Standards for public bike parking in the UK. This is considered to be any building or environment that encompasses high-traffic and interchange, forming a fundamental part of cycling infrastructure. The minimum requirements for public bike parking in the UK fall under ‘Guidance’, ‘Absolute Requirements’, and ‘Context Specific Requirements.’
Considerations for bike parking should focus principally on accessibility and security. The standard suggests Sheffield stands and two-tier racking as the most appropriate and well-utilised forms of bike parking in the UK as they provide easy access and assisted lifting, if necessary. In addition, providing information on locking systems is seen as advantageous.
Bike parking facilities should be appropriately designed to permit effective maneuverability of varying standard and non-standard bike forms. Ceiling heights should be considered if installing two-tier racks, while facilities should convey clear information to assist with access and provide intent.
As a fundamental responsibility, maintenance and cleaning to all bike parking facilities must be provided on a regular basis. Facilities need to be well-located and provide step-free access. A section of the facility must also be dedicated to cater for those with visual or mobility impairments, while the design process needs to consider alternatives to standard bikes, such as those with wide tyres. Two-tier racks should be gas-assisted with secure locking of both wheels and frame.
The minimum security requirement for bike parking should enable opportunities for separate locking of both the frame and wheels of the bike. Facilities must be capable of passing Secured by Design Level 2 testing, or Level 1 when the facility is located in a secured environment.
Minimum requirements for spacing between individual Sheffield stands are 1000mm and 600mm to any walls or kerbs. Bike parking on shared pedestrian and bike paths needs to provide 3000mm spacing between aisle widths, while two rows of Sheffield stands should provide 2500mm of space between aisles.
For two-tier racks, 2500mm of space is required if the stands are installed at 90 degrees to the aisle, with 2000mm of frontal space when installed at 45 degrees. In addition, there needs to be a minimum ceiling height of 2700mm for the upper tier.
While each location will comprise specific circumstances, a bike parking facility should be installed as close to the site’s main destination as possible. Facilities should be within 15 metres of a single destination for short-term bike parking and 25 metres if serving multiple site destinations. Long-term bike parking facilities should be within 50 metres.
Appropriate lighting must also be provided to assist with access and the prevention of theft, with clear signage to assist with direction. If installing a larger facility, such as a bike hub, colour coding of spaces should be utilised to assist with the locating of parked bikes.
Spacing requirements can be contested if specific circumstances enforce restrictions, however, these are considered to be rare cases, and general requirements will need to be provided to pass the standard. For facilities with two-way bike access, 3000mm width must be provided, with a minimum 2000mm aisle width for access on foot. In addition, if the facility intends to provide bike lockers, a 750mm by 2000mm footprint must be provided.
For new-build developments, meanwhile, the relevant local council will usually enforce a planning decision notice that will include specific conditions that ascertain both the type and capacity of bike parking spaces that are required to pass. Spatial requirements will be determined by the available footprint and operational height, which can often present a challenge for high-density developments.
A wide range of bike parking solutions are available that an establishment or organisation can select, ranging from stands and racks, to larger facilities like bike stores and hubs. In order to find the best option for bike parking provisions, a consultation with industry specialists is a must, as they will provide the expertise to advise on the most appropriate type of bike parking to meet specific project requirements.
Below, we provide a brief overview of some of the main types of bike parking while highlighting some of the key considerations for each solution.
The Sheffield stand is the traditional bike stand, offering a classic, minimalist design that provides value for money and low maintenance. They can be found in a wide variety of locations but are often utilised to provide quick-access bike parking in public spaces or in combination with bike stores, hubs or shelters.
In use, the stands enable separate locking of both the wheels and frame in order to keep the bike stabilised. The tubular metal form is anchored to the ground at two points in an inverted U-shape with radius corners that avoid injury from sharp corners. Minimum spacing between individual stands must be considered, while it is also essential to allow spacing between rows. There may also be restrictions on space if the available footprint is at a premium.
Sheffield stands usually offer 3 distinct fixing formats. Rail fixed stands reduce the number of ground fixings required, restricting potential trip hazards. Base plated stands enable ground fixings and root fixed stands are cast in below ground level and are often utilised where a clean surface finish is required.
Sheffield stands are a cost effective solution for environments that require small to medium capacity storage, with a durable build that covers an extensive lifespan. They are ideal for short-term bike parking if utilised as a standalone fixing or in bike shelters to provide cover from inclement weather, while long-term bike parking can be established through incorporation into larger facilities like bike hubs.
Often utilised for quick access outside high-traffic environments like train stations and shopping centres, Sheffield stands utilise right-angled fixing in order to prevent parked bikes from rolling. They offer great versatility for users and can be utilised as standalone fixings, or in small groups or rows to provide bike parking for larger quantities of users.
Semi-vertical racks are often installed in residential developments and commercial establishments, in addition to the education and healthcare sectors. Ultimately, they are utilised to provide bike storage in locations where space is restricted as they offer highly effective footprint utilisation for both width and length.
Providing space-efficiency, semi-vertical racks provide an optimum combination of rack cost and the number of bikes stored. They are designed to offer multiple capacity formats with the semi-vertical positioning requiring minimal storage depth, enabling bikes to be secured in close proximity to one another.
Semi-vertical racks utilise a trough-like design that supports both the front and rear wheels in use. They are designed primarily to maximise the available floor space with fixed capacity designs offered alongside bespoke capacity designs in order to meet individual requirements.
Semi-vertical racks are designed to be utilised in larger facilities like bike stores, hubs and shelters. In response to the diverse variety of bike ranges on the modern market, semi-vertical racks enable varying wheelbase bikes to be secured in order to provide access for larger bikes with wider tyres.
A primary consideration for semi-vertical racks, however, is that users are required to lift and bear the weight of the bike in order to secure it safely, which can hinder access for those with mobility restrictions.
Two-tier racks are designed to achieve the maximum quantity of bikes stored per square metre. Two-tier racks will often have height requirements and, as a result, are more likely to be installed in facilities that offer larger dimensions with proportional ceiling heights.
With users required to lift their bike to the upper-tier tray in order to store it, access can be hindered for those with mobility restrictions. However, two-tier racks will often offer an integral gas-assisted lifting system as standard in order to enable ease of use and allow for smoother storage of bikes to the upper tier tray. Integral locking frames will also enable varying bike sizes to be stored securely.
Two-tier racks enable bikes to be parked and locked across two levels, making them ideal for hubs, shelters and environments where large quantities of bikes require storage. Where the available footprint is restricted, two-tier racks offer close to double the capacity in the same space, establishing them as an ideal solution for bike parking in high-density environments.
Often installed in schools and workplaces or any environment that encompasses a high footfall, bike shelters provide a sheltered bike parking facility and are used in combination with bike stands to afford protection from inclement weather.
Bike shelters tend to utilise Sheffield stands as standard but can also offer two-tier racking, with a single or double row system usually installed. Their structural shape is either symmetric or asymmetric with a semi-enclosed design that can be supplemented with additional modules to form an enclosed bike shelter compound.
Bike shelters are a reliable and cost-effective option for covered bike parking, providing protection against both rainfall and UV rays. While utilising durable materials that ensure they can withstand damage, they offer limited options to enhance security and are typically more appropriate for enclosed sites and short-term parking where quick access for multiple users is a requirement.
Bike lockers are usually installed in any location that requires individually secure parking, finding use in workplaces, industrial and commercial sites as well as public and residential locations. They are often combined with larger facilities like bike hubs in order to enhance security.
Bike Lockers encompass a format that combines secure use and easy access for on-the-go users. If installed externally, they are often positioned close to on-site buildings in order to enable clear lines of sight and provide passive surveillance for users.
Particularly advantageous for owners of high-value bikes, bike lockers provide individually secure parking that affords protection from inclement weather. By shielding the bike from view, they also act as an effective deterrent for bike theft.
Bikes are parked individually in an upright position which helps to ensure they remain stable when stored, avoiding any forms of sustained damage. If the available footprint is restricted, bike lockers can be aligned in a connected series.
Bike stores can be utilised in any location where cyclists may require the benefits of secure, easily accessible bike storage that provides shelter from inclement weather. Specifically, residential environments or workplaces that offer cycle to work schemes, in addition to transport hubs. Public car parks in towns and cities might also utilise bike stores in an effort to reduce traffic in the area.
Bike stores offer a highly configurable facility for bike parking that enables either vertical, semi-vertical and level housing of bikes. They provide opportunities to incorporate multiple stores in a sequence with individual door access to each unit. The footprint required for this design is minimised by enclosing only the bike rack space, usually accommodating a single-row layout with options for Sheffield stands, semi-vertical and two-tier rack types.
Bike Stores offer highly-effective footprint utilisation, offering a versatile format for in-line storage. They are ideally positioned to enable a clear line of sight for users, ensuring peace of mind when storing their bikes, and, by providing an enclosure for bike parking, bike stores lend themselves well to security, with the potential to incorporate durable cladding materials and a range of options for access control. Bike Stores are designed to offer consistent use and long-term storage. In addition, the incorporation of bike stands as an alternative allows access to bike parking for those with mobility restrictions.
A bike hub refers to a location where bike parking is provided in broad capacity, often contained within a secure and covered structure. As a platform for bike parking, bike hubs offer multiple options & configurations and can be paired with additional facilities, such as lockers, bike repair stations and maintenance points.
They provide the means to incorporate high-capacity bike parking and are designed to accommodate the optimum number of bikes within the available footprint. Rainwater systems can be incorporated to ensure reliable water drainage if the facility is in an external location. In addition, the potential to incorporate e-bike charging points is advantageous to the growing demand for this modern commodity.
Ideal for high-traffic or high density environments, bike hubs offer a variety of options for access control, providing multiple user access and enhanced security measures through strong manufacturing build, ensuring bike theft opportunities are restricted.
Bike hubs also offer a highly effective, secure facility for long-term bike parking, such as for commuters in urban areas. They can house extensive bike rack layouts, easily accommodating single and double-row layouts with stand, semi-vertical or two-tier rack types. As an additional feature, bike hubs can incorporate practical features such as bike pumps and repair tools to offer users on-the-go maintenance.
Bike modules are a modern commodity that is designed to provide safe and secure bike parking in street scene locations. They enable a convenient and individually assessed facility that utilises panelling systems to enclose the unit.
Affording protection for bikes against inclement weather, these units additionally enable compact footprint utilisation for a location, storing several bikes within the space of a standard car parking bay. They can be also be combined in sequential rows to form a larger store.
These units are a highly effective means for reducing the risk of bike theft and vandalism and are therefore ideal for incorporation in more high-security applications or environments that usually contain high-value bikes. Encompassing a secure, low profile design and strong manufacturing build, the units are purpose-built for bike parking in urban environments.
One drawback of these units is that their compact nature means they are often not suitable for cargo bikes or bikes with accessories, such as baskets or child seats.
The type of bike parking facility required for a specific project will largely be determined by the setting and the environment it will be placed in, as well as the needs of its users. All these factors combined will raise their own points of consideration.
Each form of bike parking will incorporate specific qualities that may be better suited to one location over another, and it’s therefore down to the individual, establishment or organisation to decide which is more appropriate and best suited for their requirements.
By following the guidelines and requirements outlined in the Cycle Parking & Security Standards guide, in addition to the points explored in this overview, it should be possible to select the most appropriate type of bike parking that will provide users with a safe, secure and well managed facility.