Tens of thousands on waiting lists for safe space to store bikes, figures show

·4 min read

Tens of thousands of city dwellers are on waiting lists for a safe place to park their bikes, figures reveal.

And with many towns and cities providing no facilities for residents to store their cycles, campaigners are calling for more funding for councils to provide safe parking on residential streets to help drive the take-up of clean transport.

Figures obtained by the PA news agency revealed that demand for on-street bike hangars – secure, covered spaces for residents to park their bikes – massively outstrips supply.

There are just 20,000 hangar spaces, with more than 51,000 people on waiting lists.

The vast majority of hangars are in London, where they have proved highly popular.

Some London boroughs have thousands of residents on the waiting list for a spot to safely park their bike on the street.

Only a few other council areas across the UK were found to have hangars, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bristol and Salford.

Hundreds of people were on the waiting list for bike parking in each of the Scottish cities.

Among the cities which said they have no hangars were Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said long-term funding is required to “better cater to cyclists”.

The figures also show that in some areas it can be more expensive to secure a bike parking spot for a year than to pay for the cheapest annual residents’ parking permit for a car, for example for an electric or low-emissions vehicle.

On-street covered hangars typically have room for six bikes and take up the same amount of space as a single car.

They provide a lockable, dry space for bicycles, at an annual charge, for people who might not have room for them at home.

A lack of space can put people off owning a bike or force them to keep them outside where they are at greater risk of being stolen.

More than 77,000 thefts of bicycles were reported in England and Wales in the year ending March 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – equivalent to more than eight thefts every hour.

PA obtained information on bike hangar provision from 77 cities, London boroughs and metropolitan borough councils across the UK.

Bike hangars take up the same space as a single car (Emily Beament/PA)
Bike hangars take up the same space as a single car (Emily Beament/PA)

Greater Manchester’s transport commissioner, Chris Boardman, who has himself been a victim of bicycle thefts, said investment in facilities which give people “a reasonable expectation” that their property will be secure is vital to encourage more people to switch to active travel.

The Olympic cycling gold medallist described the number of people on waiting lists for bicycle hangars as both “deeply frustrating and fantastically exciting”.

He went on: “Just look at the potential there.

“We’ve allowed streets to become dominated by cars. But if you want people to travel differently, then you’ve got to remove the barriers, and secure parking comes up time and time again as an essential part of it.”

Mr Boardman said it he would be “happy to lobby Government” to secure funding for more hangars in Greater Manchester, and believes they should be rolled out nationwide.

Anthony Lau, founder of Cyclehoop, the firm which provides many of the UK’s cycle hangars, said every time one is installed “demand is created for two more units by word of mouth from new members”.

He defended their price, stating that “for roughly the cost of a couple of coffees each month” users get accessible cycle storage protected from the elements and decrease the chance of theft and vandalism.

Leo Murray, director of innovation at climate charity Possible, warned that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ambition for a “golden age of cycling” is at risk of failing because councils are not able to meet “soaring local demand for cycling infrastructure”.

He said: “The prevailing lack of secure storage for bikes is routinely identified as one of the biggest barriers to increasing cycling uptake, particularly for low income and inner city households for whom indoor space is at a premium.”

Mr Murray said it was “absurd” that people with bicycles are sometimes being charged more for storage than residents who park their cars on the road, and a better solution was needed for more deprived neighbourhoods.

He called for the Government to put more funding for cycle storage funding on the table as part of its commitment to active travel.

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