Train operator Greater Anglia wants people to stop taking bikes on its trains and is planning a carrot-and-stick approach to discouraging them, except that there’s not much carrot.
Buried at the bottom of the company’s ‘Cycling with Greater Anglia’ page is the news that “Greater Anglia is consulting on its updated Cycle Strategy and we welcome the views of individuals and cycling groups, as well as those of local authorities.”
A link takes you to a PDF that outlines the new strategy, which, if implemented will see the company have to change the title of this page to ‘Cycling without Greater Anglia’.
The document kicks off with all the usual flannel about how wonderful cycling is and how “Greater Anglia is a vigorous supporter of the development of cycling as sustainable transport” and observing that “increasing numbers of our customers are using their bikes for the journey to and from the station.”
You can feel a great big ‘but’ coming, can’t you? Here it is: “We have to bear in mind that cyclists will continue to constitute a minority in terms of our overall customer base. We must be mindful of the impact of cyclists and their cycles on the majority of rail users, particularly at busy stations and on trains, where there are rising concerns about conflicts.”
Then there’s a load of stuff about how fabulous coming to a Greater Anglia station with a bike is going to be. But if you’re planning to take that bike on a train, woah, stop right there, cowboy: “We have to balance [demand to take bikes on trains] with the views of our customers as a whole, some of whom are beginning to voice understandable concerns about the safety of carrying large numbers of cycles at peak times. Our objective for the medium to long term is therefore to reduce the carriage of cycles on trains by stimulating behavioural change.”
Greater Anglia’s proposed solution is “a ‘corridor approach’ where a specific problem exists with cycles on trains, and to provide secure cycle parking and hire at both ends of the train journey so that customers are encouraged to either have a cycle at both stations, or to take advantage of cycle hire”.
However, if attempting to persuade people to park their expensive bikes at stations fails, then the stick will come out. Greater ANglia already restricts non-folding bikes on some peak time services in and out of London. The draft policy says: “We will keep these restrictions under review, but as the use of our services continues to grow, we believe that we and future franchisees will have to consider a
widening of the restrictions to cover other routes and services.”
Ian Hopgood, a regular user of Greater Anglia trains said, “A large number of people use Greater Anglia railways to commute between Norwich-London, Lowestoft-London etc with their bikes. I know that we're a lucky bunch in East Anglia with the ability to still travel with bikes, but it'd be a shame to lose it.”
Caroline Page, Suffolk County Council member for Woodbridge, has also pointed out problems with GreaterAnglia’s plans. She says that the idea of using other transport or bike hire “ will go down a storm with those passengers who need to take a train to and from a rural destination, such as Wickham Market – where there IS no sustainable transport and no likelihood of cycle hire.”
Ms Page urges everyone who uses Greater Anglia trains with their bikes to contact the company, though she says they haven’t exactly made it easy.
She writes: “The consultation relies on one to download a pdf on a website and then make a response in writing, or by email – not that I am suggesting that this is in order to discourage you from responding. No hotlinks are included anywhere – with the possible result that it might discourage all but the most determined. I urge you to persevere despite this.”
Here’s a link to Download the Greater Anglia Draft Cycle Strategy.
To respond by snailmail:
Cycle Strategy Responses
One Stratford Place
LONDON E20 1EJ
Be sure to mark your letter ‘Draft Cycle Strategy’
cyclestrategy [at] greateranglia.co.uk (subject: Draft%20Cycle%20Strategy)
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.