05 February 2010

Railing about cycle-train awards

Somehow I missed the announcement of the National Cycle Rail Awards on Wednesday night. (We don't have a television, so I expect you all know about it, as it must have been announced live and featured on the evening news.)

The event is sponsored by the train companies, so it's completely unbiased. Just like the forthcoming Cycling Blog of the Year Awards, to be held at my house tonight, and sponsored by my fridge.

The National Cycle Rail Awards have been going since 1997, although they didn't take place in 2000 - presumably there wasn't enough space or it was rush hour and they weren't allowed in - but I'd never heard of it.

Still, I thoroughly approve of this sort of thing: any excuse for a few drinks and a bit of back-slapping in the House of Commons Members Dining Room is fine by me. Leave them alone, they've done nothing.

The awards are all about leaving your bike at the station. The ideal cyclist customer is a commuter who locks their bike at the station's non-existent cycle park instead of driving there. Not one who tries to clutter up that valuable standing space on an actual train with their pesky mobile cattle-prod. How about a National Cycle Awards anti-award for Crossrail, which won't be allowing any bikes on its services at all?

Anyway, congratulations to the winners, and let's hope the pictures in the winners' brochure are not doing them justice, because I don't think they'll impress our colleagues in the Netherlands. There, as we know, every station has two million parking spaces, free massages and a 24-hour hash cafe. Here, a scruffy piece of tarmac by a bush wins a national prize.

The winner for 'most innovative approach to cycle-rail integration' went to the 'world first' of the 'stations made easy' website, which promises an 'interactive cycle parking guide'. Er... right. In fact, it's less like a Nintendo Wii game, and more like a lot of pictures with a brief description, or as we IT people call it, 'a website'.

But thorough that site certainly is, apparently covering every station in the country. At Kings Cross, for instance, the map of station (right), and mouseover snaps of the cycle racks, informs you that there are three cycle parking locations (Platform 1 and around Platform 9) with a total of 102 covered racks. You have to wander round the map a bit to find the cycle logos, just as you have to wander around the station in real life, so perhaps it is quite a good simulation after all.

Actually I think their figure for racks is a guess. As soon as they build the racks, they fill up with with triple-parked bikes before anyone can count them.


  1. Interested to see that "Operator of the year" was National Express East Anglia, despite their complete failure to provide sufficient cycle parking at their second-busiest major station, Cambridge. A recent count showed there were 848 cycle parking spaces at Cambridge station. This might sound a lot but a recent count showed 1295 bikes parked and "fly-parked" around the station (there's no doubt a huge a supressed demand as well).

    I'm also unimpressed by their complete ban on taking unfolded or unbagged bikes on many of the fast services between Liverpool Street, Harlow and Bishops Stortford.

    That said, things are pretty good if you're travelling on their trains from Liverpool Street to Cambridge: their lenient "bikes in doorways" policy means that, off-peak, you can take 16 bikes on any train without difficulty and without booking, making this one of the few routes that you can use as part of a cycle ride with a large group.

  2. The bike parking detail is fantastic! For my local station it shows how many bikes have been abandoned for at least 12 months, how many bikes have been vandalised and subsequently removed, how many cut cable locks have been found, how many quick release wheels left attached to the racks. How many bike marking sessions the British Transport Police have conducted between the peak hours of 14:30 and 16:00 when most commuters are at work. Marvellous stuff.

    Jon, Kingston

  3. Liverpool St station at least has some decent undercover cycle parking, but it is not obvious where it is. The more obvious racks outside are overflowing.
    Plus on the way to the racks (down the taxi entrance) the staff won't open the gate for bikes, so you have to haul yours onto the pavement to get round.
    Its made some progress to being a cycling friendly station, but still has some way to go.

  4. Free massages and a 24-hour hash cafe, now you're talking!* Good luck with the blog awards at your place tonight. It'll be tough, but we all have to start somewhere.

    * (only joking kids)