27 March 2009

Raising the Standard for bike parking

Bike parking seems to come in all shapes and sizes, most of them not very good ones. We're all familiar with the flimsy supermarket coat hanger, the toast-rack designed to bend schoolkid wheels, or the overdesigned sculpture that looks great and witty but is actually impossible to lock up to properly. There seems no standard.

Indeed there isn't. British Standards, signified by the kitemark, exist for 27,000 things from specifications of fire hose couplings (BS336) to the vocabulary of terms used in software testing (BS7925-1, though I couldn't find most of the words I use when testing software).

And mathematicians among you will be pleased to know that BS0 is the British Standard for British Standards. (You might need logs for more meta-levels, or minus-infinity, or Cantor dust, or something. I must have been away when we did that.)

But there is no British Standard for cycle parking... yet.

Southwark Cyclists, however, are on the case, and are working to produce one with the British Standards Institute; the Jill Dando Institute at University College, London; and the Design Against Crime Unit at Central St Martins.

Of course everyone hates standardisation and we are all individuals, as we'd all rush to confirm with a reference to the same joke in the Life of Brian. But it's British Standards that have made credit cards a predictable shape and size, for instance. (Which is a bit of a pain, as they all look the same and you end up trying to pay for a wine box in Tesco's with your library card, but you know what I mean.)

It'll take a year or so to produce a working standard (and bike locks are apparently part of the project, too), but we think this is an excellent, practical example of making things a bit better for cyclists one step at a time.

Now, a British Standard for cycle-campaigning: that might be trickier.


  1. hello! nice to see your blog!

  2. And there was me thinking that the size of credit cards was dictated by VISA, Amex et al in the US of A. Who'd have thunk that they were taking instructions from the BSI?

  3. I hope the new standards don't fall for the common fallacy of thinking that a Sheffield stand holds two bikes {despite the sign at London Fields Lido). Many Real Cyclists have baskets on their handlebars or rack, and you can't park two such bikes on the same Sheffield stand without one of them falling over. In fact this happens even if only one of the bikes has a basket (as can be seen at my local Tesco, every Saturday).

  4. Having read the British Standard for making tea - yes it does exist - I'm sure they will have thought of everything...

  5. Excellent - that will (hopefully) ensure there's no more art-driven form-over-function muppetry like this:

  6. Nigel - ever tried putting one bike in backwards?

  7. Tim - Then my own handlebars get in the way (given typically-spaced racks placed against a wall) and prevent me getting to the back of my bike to load my panniers, apply the lock etc.