The City of London plans to fill a Crossrail access shaft with 2,250m3 of concrete rather than permit a 240-space automated underground bike parking unit, claiming the area could become ‘dominated by cyclists’ and citing a 100 year old law restricting use of the surrounding park.
A City report discussing the proposal for Finsbury Circus was found to contain “a number of defects”, including an overestimation of the unit’s footprint by ten to twenty times, along with arguments described by one London Assembly Member as “deeply questionable” and biased against cyclists.
The decision to reject the proposal was made despite a 27,000 cycle parking shortfall within the Square Mile, according to one City of London (CoL) report, for the approximately 10,000 people who commute there by bike daily, plus suppressed demand and future growth. London Assembly Member, Caroline Russell, wrote to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, this month about the proposal, after errors in the CoL report were repeated by the Mayor’s office.
The proposed cycle parking unit, produced by Eco Cycle, is an automated subterranean bike parking facility, as demonstrated in the below video.
A 2015 draft report, produced in 2015 by Burns & Nice, Tom Stuart-Smith and Duggan Morris Architects for the City of London and Crossrail, discusses options for the access shaft. It lists under “cons” for the cycle parking the “potential for the cafe to be dominated by a single demographic associated with the cycle facility and/or feel like the domain of cyclists only”.
It incorrectly states the unit’s above ground footprint as 150m2, almost twenty times the actual size of a single 240-bike unit, 8m2. It is believed the report included an access path in its footprint calculations.
The report discusses the cycle parking unit replacing a proposed café, while Eco Cycle says its units can be integrated within a café building (see image, below). The report also suggests the combined footprint of the café and the cycle parking would “substantially increase the built footprint of the site”. Eco Cycle points out a pavilion formerly on the site of the shaft was 397m2, 389m2 larger than the unit footprint.
In a letter to the Mayor of London dated 3 May 2017, following a response on the issue by Sadiq Khan from Mayor's Question Time in March 2017, Green Assembly Member, Caroline Russell, said the City of London/Crossrail report, titled Finsbury Circus Crossrail Urban Integration Design, “appeared to be biased against any cycle facilities and people using bikes”. She pointed out a number of what she describes as defects within the report, describing the argument cyclists could dominate the space as “deeply questionable”.
She wrote: “Cyclists are not a separate demographic, they are simply Londoners who use bikes and I can clearly see a positive symbiosis of having a secure place to park bikes next to a café that would only benefit from more footfall, especially at commuting times.”
Urging the Mayor to reconsider his support for the “unique” proposal, Russell added: “The report has been criticised for being misleading, ignoring a Cycle Parking Strategy report compiled by the City of London in July 2011, which recommended utilising the Crossrail shaft for cycle parking.”
According to Russell's office the Mayor has not yet responded to this letter.
The City of London’s own 2011 Cycle Parking Strategy identified a shortfall of up to 27,000 cycle spaces in the Square Mile, and specifically recommended the City “instigate discussions with Crossrail regarding the possible use of Finsbury Circus shaft and the Moor House basement for cycle parking and options for including cycle parking in over-site developments at Crossrail stations”.
It also recommended the City “incorporate cycle parking as an integral element of appropriate future environmental enhancement, pedestrianisation and traffic management schemes”.
An email to road.cc from the City asserts it provides 10,000 cycle parking spaces when its own Strategy, from which this figure was taken, estimates there are in fact 10,000 cycle commuters, parking formally and informally in the Square Mile - not that there are 10,000 formal cycle parking spaces. The City has not since responded to requests for clarification on how many formal cycle parking spaces there currently are in the Square Mile.
According to a more than 145 page report, produced by Crossrail and the City of London Corporation, detailing three possible options for the site, the cycle storage option occupies four pages. The report’s “high level cost estimate” of the project is £2,954,000, including £742,500 for the unit itself, a figure Knight believes could be reduced by more than a third with a private contractor.
The City describes the installation of the cycle parking “ultra vires”, i.e. beyond its authority or legal power, citing Section 8 of Part II of the City of London (Various Powers) Act 1900 Act requiring CoL to “keep Finsbury Gardens as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the public”.
It adds while cycling may be in some cases a recreational activity, the storage of cycles is not for the purpose of enjoying the park, and therefore not compliant with the Act.
Nick Knight, EcoCycles Managing Director, told road.cc the City’s draft report on its decision was “full of factual errors”, adding “it’s outlandish how they stated in their report that the café could be dominated by a single demographic”.
According to Knight, three buildings on the South side of Finsbury Circus house around 6,500 employees, with just 48 bike parking spaces.
Knight says: “There will be many people in these buildings that would cycle to work, but they won't as they can’t park. It’s not just the dangers of the roads that are keeping new cyclists from getting on their bikes.”
Knight also questions why the City asserts the unit would require 24 hour access, when he believes swipe card entry or restricted access are viable options.
The City did not answer any questions put to it by road.cc pertaining to the discrepancy in the unit’s footprint and its own calculation, its 2011 cycle parking strategy and cycle parking figures, or to clarify its statement on cyclists dominating the space, or the 24 hour access issue.
Instead a City of London Corporation spokesperson said it is “committed to encouraging more cyclists in the Square Mile”, including its 450,000 workers.
“We recognise the need to make sure that there are suitable and numerous cycling parking facilities within the City,” the spokesperson said. “That is why we provide over 10,000 cycling parking spaces including over 360 free public cycle parking spaces in all City off-street public car parks."
However, when asked to clarify the 10,000 figure, the City sent a report estimating there are 10,000 cycle commuters “parking formally and informally” in the Square Mile, not that there are 10,000 formal cycle parking spaces.
The statement said: “With regards to the EcoCycle storage unit proposal, this measure would have resulted in a loss of precious City green space, unsustainable ongoing maintenance liabilities and issues related to 24/7 accessibility at the site which meant adopting this proposal was not possible.”
The spokesperson cited cycle-friendly initiatives, including a borough-wide 20mph zone, contraflow cycle routes on one-way streets and “working closely with TfL on the delivery of Quietways for less confident cyclists”, as well as with City businesses and the City of London Police on road danger reduction initiatives.
Next week the City of London is introducing an experimental safety scheme at Bank junction on Monday, which will give pedestrians, buses and cyclists access through the junction, while restricting other traffic 7am-7pm.
The London Cycling Campaign’s Simon Munk told road.cc: “We know there’s a serious shortage of cycle parking in the whole of central London, including the City – public, secure residential and workplace parking. The City, as with much of central London, has a lot more to do also to make cycling feel safe on its streets. The welcome changes at Bank junction coming next week are a big step in the right direction.”
This article was updated on 18 May to clarify details of the City of London's Finsbury Square report.