Cycle parking in Kite

Is cycle parking a ‘problem’ in the Kite area of Cambridge and should car parking spaces be replaced by cycle parking?  This is what Cambridge Cycling Campaign asked the County Council election candidates and from their responses there is limited support for this.  Ed Cearns, the Liberal Democrat candidate, thinks there is not a problem with cycle parking because “a number of properties have railings and many other residents have secured loops on the front wall of their property” (he also supports more cycle parking across the city).  Simon Sedgwick-Jell, the Green Party candidate, points out that the “parking of bikes in [the] street [is] a crime problem”.

Informally parked cycles on Victoria Street. Cycles can obstruct the pavement.

Informally parked cycles on Victoria Street. Cycles can obstruct the pavement.

On this wide pavement on Parkside cycles are out of the way.

On this wide pavement on Parkside cycles are out of the way.

There are some 200 cycles parked on the pavement in Kite, I wonder how many of these Mr Cearns tripped over while canvassing the area?  For able-bodied people with normal eyesight a little more care is needed but unfortunately cycles parked against railings and walls in terraced streets are a hazard to those with impaired eyesight (amongst others) in the same way that wheelie bins and cars on the pavement are.  Obstructions and trip hazards caused by cycles are a problem for anyone trying to walk in the streets of Kite.

While many of the cycles are secured to special hooks and railings as Mr Cearns points out, not all are.  Those not secured are at risk of theft with some 163 cycles reported stolen in Market ward in the three months to March 2013.[source]  Due to a concerted effort by Cambridgeshire Police neighbourhood teams cycle theft is falling.  Obviously with many thousands of cycles parked in the city centre theft is not only from residents in Kite.  There are also probably more thefts that have not been reported.

Cycles are not welcome on these railings on John Street.

Cycles are not welcome on these railings on John Street.

The City Council has approved a project to create up to 710 additional on-street cycle parking spaces, in addition to continuing to look for a location for a third cycle park.  However none of these on-street spaces are in Kite.  Market LibDems’ residents’ parking update newsletter says that some new residents’ car parking bays will be added, but there is no mention of cycle parking.

I believe we need some cycle parking for residents in Kite (and other areas of the city).  This parking needs to be convenient and secure.  By providing cycle parking we remove obstructions from the pavement, help reduce the opportunity for crime and make it easier for those who choose to travel by bike.

Cycle parking counts by street

On Saturday 27 April 2013 at around midday I took the following count:

Warkworth Street 36
Victoria Street 27
Parkside (east side, excluding police station) 23
Earl Street 19
Eden Street 19
New Square 18
Grafton Street 17
Warkworth Terrace 14
Orchard Street 9
Clarendon Street 7
Parker Street 6
Prospect Row 5
James Street 4
City Road 4
Adam and Eve Street 4
John Street 3
Elm Street 2
Eden Street Backway 1
Napier Street 1
Total 219
Just a few of the 36 cycles parked in Warkworth Street.

Just a few of the 36 cycles parked in Warkworth Street.

I did not count on East Road, Burleigh Street, Fitzroy Street or the Parker’s Piece side of Parkside because these are more likely to be cycles visiting the area.

The count includes cycles in front gardens as well as actually on the street because I want to estimate the demand.  Note that some properties in the area have internal cycle parking and some have garages that may have cycles in them.  So the total number of cycles parked in the area is unknown but is at least 219.

The vast majority of the cycles counted will be those of immediate residents however we cannot be sure of this.

Update: I did not count formal cycle parking (hooped stands) or car parking.  There is some cycle parking in the area, particularly at the edges, and yet hundreds of cycles are parked on the street.  It has also been pointed out that some bikes may have been abandoned.

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Motorism in the County Council elections

Candidate's leaflets, nothing from the Green Party yet.

Candidate’s leaflets, nothing from the Green Party yet.

What is the most important issue in the forthcoming Cambridgeshire County Council elections? The £2,000,000 per year interest charge for the Misguided Bus that may never be recovered? No. The £1,000 per pupil funding shortfall for secondary schools? No. How Cambridge will expand over the next decade? No, it’s residents’ parking.

There's a demand for residents' cycle parking in Kite, and other areas.

There’s a demand for residents’ cycle parking in Kite, and other areas.

Sheila Lawlor, the  Conservative candidate in Market Ward, makes the astonishing statement that she will ‘Take whatever action is needed so residents can park.’ I would imagine she is talking about car parking, which is a shame as there is considerable demand for cycle parking too.

Meanwhile Ed Cearns, the Liberal Democrat candidate, believes he can ‘…make the city centre an even better place to live by easing parking problems for residents…’

Labour’s Dan Ratcliffe supports the upgrading of the A14, which is likely to ‘set back a long way‘ public transport, cycling and walking in the city centre according to Tim Bick (leader of the City Council).

This motorism, addiction to motoring, is odd since the lack of cars and traffic is part of what gives the city centre its character.  It’s also odd as we may have reached Peak Car so this expansion of parking is beginning to look like a policy from the last century and not one for the future. The candidates also seem to be re-enforcing the idea that residents own the piece of tarmac outside their house.  It’s not the County Council’s responsibility to find you a place to park your car any more than it is their responsibility to find space for your 42″ TV.

It is also surprising as the March 2011 Census tells us that 40% of households in the Market area do not have a car or van.  So who’s going to represent those against the privatisation of the public highway?

Green Dragon cycle traffic

With the recent discussion over walking and cycling on Green Dragon bridge I thought I would take a look at the actual number of cycles on the bridge.  There is an automated cycle counter at the bottom of the bridge although there are no automatic counters for pedestrians.

The headline figures are that there are in excess of 1000 cycles a day are counted at the bridge in both directions and the peak flow is typically around 250 cycles per hour.  That is a lot of people that could be inconvenienced by any changes to the bridge, and a lot to be accommodated in a path of only 2.3m width.  We also see that Cambridge people cycle year round, not just in the Summer.

Please read the notes below about the counters and what is actually counted.  I would like to thank Cambridgeshire County Council’s Cycling Projects Team for providing the data.

Seasonal hourly flows

Here I plot the figures per season to see what seasonal variation there is.  Inbound means towards the city centre, outbound means towards Water Street.

Green Dragon hourly flow SpringGreen Dragon total flow SpringIn Spring we saw:

  • A peak of 350 per hour
  • 366 total in the morning peak
  • 1482 total a day

(average figures for weekdays)
Green Dragon hourly flow SummerGreen Dragon total flow SummerIn Summer we saw:

  • A peak of 300 per hour
  • 266 total in the morning peak
  • 952 total a day

Green Dragon hourly flow AutumnGreen Dragon total flow AutumnIn Autumn we saw:

  • A peak of 350 per hour
  • 392 in the morning peak
  • 1403 total a day

Green Dragon hourly flow WinterGreen Dragon total flow WinterIn Winter we saw:

  • A peak of 310 per hour
  • 302 in the peak
  • 1171 total a day

Totals table

Here is the total counts per two hour period in table form

Time period Total cycles
Spring Summer Autumn Winter
(18 Mar – 11 June 2012) (18 June  – 10 Sept 2012) (17 Sept – 10 Dec 2012) (17 Dec – 4 Mar 2013)
00:00–02:00 12 9 9 8
02:00–04:00 2 2 2 2
04:00–06:00 21 18 16 12
06:00–08:00 153 111 143 101
08:00–10:00 366 268 392 302
10:00–12:00 91 62 95 83
12:00–14:00 81 45 77 78
14:00–16:00 103 55 109 102
16:00–18:00 236 128 243 213
18:00–20:00 243 139 194 166
20:00–22:00 116 73 78 63
22:00–24:00 57 42 46 36
All day 1482 952 1403 1171

Year-round flow

If you thought that people only cycle in the summer, the following chart shows the daily total number of cycles per weekday (based on a 5-day average).
Green Dragon Inbound total by weekThere is a noticeably lower level during the summer, no surprise in a city with two universities and other colleges and schools.  You can also see a pronounced dip over the Christmas and New Year period.

It’s clear that people in Cambridge cycle all year, and over this year we had very mixed weather!

About the numbers

The grey box on the right is the solar-powered cycle counter at Cutter Ferry bridge that sends its data over the GSM network

The grey box on the right is the solar-powered cycle counter at Cutter Ferry bridge that sends its data over the GSM network.

There are a number of cycle counters on key routes around the city that count the number of bicycles passing them every fifteen minutes.  The Cycling Projects Team at Cambridgeshire County Council kindly provided the data for the counters at Green Dragon bridge.  There are two counters here, one on the route to Fen Ditton and one near the start of the ramp to Green Dragon bridge.

Due to the location of the counters and their sensors neither record the number of cycles actually crossing the bridge.  Some cyclists continuing along the river and not crossing the bridge get counted on both counters while those going to/from Fen Ditton and crossing the bridge also get counted on both.  Rather than trying to combine the figures from the two counters to come up with an uncertain estimate of cycles actually crossing the bridge I decided to use just the figures from the single counter.  The typical numbers on the path to Fen Ditton are about 10% of the number at the other counter.

The cycle counter has two channels and on the advice of the Cycling Projects Team I have had to infer the direction of travel from the data.

I have just under a year’s worth of data that I have grouped in to four quarters, the start and end dates of which are somewhat arbitrary.  I hoped to get some insight in to these questions: Are there any seasonal variations?  Do people in Cambridge only cycle in good weather?

A tale of two bridges – path width

A local politician recently decided to stir up the hornets nest that is cycling on the Green Dragon bridge.  This bridge is the last crossing of the River Cam in the north east of the city and a vital link for pedestrians and cyclists traveling across the city (the bridge is unsuitable for motor traffic).  Some people believe it is simply too narrow for cycling on, others believe that it ‘works’ because most cyclists are considerate and with no prospect of widening or replacement we should just get on with it.

Advisory no cycling signs on Green Dragon bridge north ramps

Advisory no cycling signs on Green Dragon bridge north ramp

Tempers are probably frayed because some believe that cycling on this bridge is illegal. At the end of the bridge is a tatty array of signs ‘NO CYCLING’ ‘CYCLISTS DISMOUNT’ which being on a blue background are advisory.  The bridge has a width of 2.3m (ramps are wider) and has a peak flow of around 250 bicycles an hour in the morning peak (more on this in a later post).  The combination of poor signage and a narrow path is causing avoidable problems here, as in many other places.  Pedestrians don’t like shared use, cyclists don’t like shared use and motorists don’t like shared use, so why do we continue to build it?

The Dutch don’t do shared use paths.  They have a cycle track width of (generally) 2.5m for one way and 4m for two way[Hembrow].  I’ve not looked up guidance for UK infrastructure, let’s learn from the best of the Dutch experience.

So I am dismayed that the initial plans drawn up by WS Atkins for the Ely Southern Bypass show a 2m shared use path.  (Check out the video of the bypass that replaces the roar of traffic with peaceful music.)

Excerpt from proposals for Ely station road underpass

Excerpt from proposals for Ely Station Road underpass

What was a two lane road has been narrowed to about one and a half lanes and a sub-standard shared use path squeezed in.  Note also the sharp angles on the path so there is space for ghost islands on the road!  All we need is some ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs and a forest of bollards on the path to keep out cargo bikes and pushchairs and this could be a showcase of dismal UK design.  There will be complaints if this is built as shown.

Fortunately Ely Cycling Campaign are on the case, who have a ‘Go Dutch‘ strategy for infrastructure. There are no details yet but they are seeking to use the approximate 3.5m width of the removed road lane for pedestrians and cycles.  I look forward to seeing the amended designs!

Your Council Tax is £0 – finding a value for a parking space

A young man in an inexpensive suit knocks on a door in John Street.  The householder answers.

Man in suit: Good morning.  Are you concerned about the cost of your monthly bills?  Would you like to save £132 a month?
Householder: Ah, yes.  Are you from the electricity company?
Man: I’m from the City Council.  If you give me your residents’ parking permit then we will pay your Council Tax, that’s a saving of £1593 a year! Sign here and save money right away.
Householder: But where will I put my car?
Man: We have a special offer on, if you sign up now I can give you free membership of the car club and two thousand driving miles.

After listening to the Freakonomics podcast Parking is Hell I began to wonder about the price of car parking in Cambridge city centre.  The podcast describes that in some cities a significant proportion of cars are cruising for parking and not actually going anywhere.  Economists and academics have suggested that the price for parking can be adjusted to ensure there is always one or two empty spaces so there is no wasteful cruising for parking and drivers find parking more easily. A project called SF park is trying this out in San Francisco.

If you ask people what they want in a suitcase they say ‘lighter’ but even a light suitcase filled with 15kg of clothes is still hard to move. The solution was adding wheels to make the suitcase easy to move. The moral is listen to people’s problems and think laterally about solutions.

In the Kite area of Cambridge there are continual moans that there are not enough residents’ parking spaces and yet there is anecdotal evidence that many of these parked cars don’t move from one day to the next or sometimes week to week. Local politicians seem keen on providing more spaces too [Source: Market Liberal Democrats newsletter April 2013]. Although people are asking for more parking spaces I’m not sure that this is actually what they want, here’s why:

  • 30 parking spaces + 0 free spaces = unhappy resident 😦
  • 50 parking spaces + 0 free spaces = unhappy resident 😦
  • 29 parking spaces + 1 free space = happy resident 🙂

Perhaps the price for this value resource isn’t right? Perhaps some people would respond to a financial incentive to give up their permission to park so there is room for others? But what is the value of this (notional) parking space?

What is the value of this parking space?

What is the value of this parking space?

In my post on city centre parking prices we saw that residents are charged £0.11 for all day parking whereas parking in the Grafton East car park would cost £24 for the same period – quite a difference! At £24 per day a residents’ parking permit would cost over £8,000 per annum, wow! But that comparison is too simple because the car parks do not have a utilization of 100% and you might expect a discount for bulk buying a year’s parking, etc.

Cambridge City Council got a revenue of £1,574 per annum per space in the Grafton East car park and more than £2,000 per space in the Adam and Eve Street car park in 2011/12 [Source: Cambridge City Council, response to Freedom of Information request 2142].  So theoretically the City Council could change residents’ parking spaces in to on-street pay and display spaces and receive an additional income of £1,500 per annum. The Band D Council Tax for 2012/13 is £1,512. Hmm.

Would you give up your residents’ parking permit in return for paying no Council Tax?

Park for just 2p in the city centre

Yes it’s true you can park for two hours for just 2p and all day for 11p right next to the Grafton Centre in Cambridge.  Did you think parking was expensive?  Perhaps you are looking in the wrong place.

If you want to park near the Grafton Centre you have nine options:

City centre parking locations. © OpenStreetMap contributors

Parking locations near the Grafton Centre. © OpenStreetMap contributors

And the prices for Saturday daytime are:

Free spaces (subjective) Price for 2 hours Price for all day
1. City Road residents’ bay Low £0.02 £0.11
2. East Road rented garage Unknown £0.13 £1.53
3. City Road residents’ bay (visitor) Low £1.80 £1.80
4. Norfolk Street on-street Moderate £2.00
5. Park and Ride High £2.60 £2.60
6. Adam and Eve Street car park Moderate £3.60
7. Grafton East car park Low £4.30 £24.00
8. New Square double yellow lines Moderate £25.00 £25.00
9. Maids Causeway cycle lane High £35.00 £35.00

City centre parking price chart 4
In my next post I will look at what this could mean for city centre residents.

City Road residents’ bay

Residents' parking bay on City Road

Residents’ parking bay on City Road

If you are eligible for a residents’ parking permit the cost is £81 per year and the bays operate 9am8pm seven days a week. Residents can also get an indefinite number of visitors’ permits for £8 for five allowing parking in residents’ bays for one day for one vehicle.  Neither a residents’ or visitors’ permit guarantees a space however.

East Road rented garage

East Road rented garages

East Road rented garages

If you are prepared to plan ahead and pay for four weeks the City Council will rent you a garage from £8.91 per week plus VAT, assuming there is a space available.  I haven’t been able to find any information on current occupancy.

Park and Ride

Grafton Centre Park and Ride stops

Grafton Centre Park and Ride stops

Parking at the sites on the edges of the city is free and the bus fare is £2.60 for the cheapest return fair for one adult (who can take children with them).

Adam and Eve Street car park

Adam and Eve Street car park

Adam and Eve Street car park

This is a short stay car park so you cannot park here all day.

Grafton East car park

Grafton East car park entrance

Grafton East car park entrance

This is the most expensive of the legal options but there is no shortage of demand with queues outside and one-out-one-in operating at some times of the day.

New Square double yellow lines

New Square

New Square

Unless you have a Blue Badge parking here is illegal.  Civil enforcement officers regularly check this area and you will get a ticket that costs £25 if paid quickly, or the same as all day parking at Grafton East car park!

Please do not park when and where parking restrictions are in force, it is illegal, inconsiderate and can block access for emergency vehicles.

Maids Causeway cycle lane

Maids Causeway cycle lane

Maids Causeway cycle lane

Parking here is illegal and the police could issue you with a Fixed Penalty Notice that costs £35 if paid quickly.  However it’s also likely that the police would not see the illegally parked vehicle or take any action if they did, so the cost could also be £0.

Please do not park in cycle lanes, it is illegal, inconsiderate and can cause danger for cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicles.

Norfolk Street on-street

Norfolk Street pay and display parking bay

Norfolk Street pay and display parking bay

There are a few pay and display parking bays at 50p for 30 minutes, maximum stay of two hours.