Hull sees itself as a cycling city. We’re told that in terms of biking to work, it’s in the top five towns, though they must have done well to find enough people who actually do have a job. This is routinely credited to the flatness of the place: the only place for learner drivers to practise a hill start is a railway bridge near the station.
But as any real cyclist can tell you, flatness actually does have its downside. Flat equals wind, and headwinds on the way there have a curous habit of turning round to be headwinds on the way back too. Every journey uphill puts height in the bank which you cash in on eventually; but wind can be totally unfair and break your heart. Hull is windy and it is cold, so there’s clearly something more to the cycling levels than simple ironing-board geography; probably to do with cycling culture being self-sustaining.
Bike parking may have something to do with it too. Hull’s city centre offers more bike parking than we’ve seen anywhere else in England, over 900 places, their handy free cycle map informs us, ocnfirmed by our researches this week: hooray! Newland Avenue, a trendifying coffee-shop area near the university, even offers you covered bike parking (top) handy for all those student hangouts.
There’s so much bike parking, in fact, that some of it can be left spare for use to prop up signs directing you to local businesses (above right) or, most bizarrely, for anchoring rubbish bins (right). This wasn’t an isolated example – we counted several more. Does the council have a problem with rubbish bins being stolen if not left secured? Perhaps Hull’s unfortunate reputation for crime is worse than we thought.
Yet even Hull’s lavish provision of cycle stands doesn’t convince everyone. Like many other Yorkshire folk (and yes, Hull’s in Yorkshire again, not the hated and non-lamented old Humberside) the people of Hull are easily unimpressed. Railings are still more attractive to some (right).