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Subsidise bike hangar costs by raising car parking charges, says councillor – but opponent warns move would “pit drivers against cyclists”

“As a principle, bike parking should be cheaper than parking a car, they take up much less public space than a car, they don’t cause any congestion or air pollution”

As the City of Edinburgh Council prepares to roll out a second wave of bike storage units across Scotland’s capital, concerns have been raised within the local authority about the cost of storing your bike in one of the hangars – which in some cases is up to three times as expensive as a 12-month car parking permit – an annual price some councillors have described as prohibitive for people on lower incomes.

However, calls to subsidise the £6-a-month bike hangar costs by raising parking charges, especially for the most polluting vehicles, have been criticised by opposition councillors for potentially “pitting drivers against cyclists”.

With the initial phase of Edinburgh’s secure on-street bike parking scheme, established in 2019, leading to the installation of 108 hangars, totalling 1,080 spaces, Edinburgh City Council’s transport and environment committee has now voted to proceed to phase two, which will see 200 units rolled out over the next few years, Edinburgh Live reports.

The new locations included in the scheme, which is outsourced to Cyclehoop and funded by Sustrans, were chosen based on the volume of requests from residents – there are currently over 1,500 locals on the waiting list for spaces – while the council has noted that areas with traditionally higher levels of deprivation will now have priority.

> Sustrans says cycling schemes and 21 jobs are at risk due to potential £500,000 cut to Scottish government active travel funding

However, some councillors have raised concerns about the cost of using the hangars which, including a £25 deposit, comes to £97 a year. In contrast, some annual car parking permits in Edinburgh can cost as little as £34.70.

“While a comparison with parking charges is understandable and legitimate, it is worth noting that the cycle hangers require much more intensive management,” a report to the transport and environment committee published on Thursday said.

The report noted that one option for reducing the costs for residents on lower incomes would be to “introduce slightly higher charges outwith areas of deprivation”.

The committee’s convenor Scott Arthur added: “I do think it is right that we look at reducing the cost of the bike hangars, particularly for people on low incomes.

“I’m in two minds about the comparison between bike spaces and parking spaces in terms of cost, because to a certain extent we’re comparing apples and oranges in terms of the service that’s provided – but then I can’t resist myself making the comparison as well.”

> Council "investigating" after driver outrage at cycle hangar "deliberately" blocking car parking spaces

Green Party councillor Jule Bandel, on the other hand, offered a much more forthright assessment of the comparison between the bike and car parking costs, and said that the end of Cyclehoop’s contract in 2024 gave the council the perfect opportunity to “explore alternative options” concerning pricing.

“As a principle, bike parking should be cheaper than parking a car, they take up much less public space than a car, they don’t cause any congestion or air pollution,” Bandel said.

“If for whatever reason in-sourcing isn’t advisable and we need to find money to fund a subsidy, our view is that we should be funding it by raising parking charges, especially on the most polluting vehicles.”

However, this call to subsidise bike parking prices was dismissed by Conservative councillor Christopher Cowdy, who said the move would be divisive and “pit drivers against cyclists”.

According to Edinburgh Live, a future meeting of the committee will discuss how best to make the storage scheme more affordable for people on lower incomes, as well as the cost of subsidising the hangars to ensure that they are less expensive than car parking.

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The debate in Edinburgh isn’t the first time that bike storage units have been directly compared to car parking spaces.

Last November, Brighton & Hove City Council was forced to respond to a backlash from angered motorists, after a bike hangar was pictured installed in a car parking space.

The cycle hangar in Norfolk Square is one of 60 installed in the city since July, each offering secure storage for six bicycles in a space the size of which could otherwise house a single car.

However, the positioning of the hangar — taking up two resident permit car parking spaces — was met with outrage, with one resident calling it “sheer incompetence or the continuing war by Brighton & Hove City Council against motorists”, before later telling the local paper that he “doesn’t have a problem with the hangars”, just the “madness” of one “that takes up two parking spaces”.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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