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On Yer Bike

The bicycle is one of the most potent symbols of freedom. Just ask some older children who have been given a bike and can suddenly set out to go where they want, when they want on a route of their own choice, at a pace that they set themselves and in the company of whomsoever they choose.

If you need further evidence, take a look at the classic 1948 Italian film “Bicycle Thieves.” A man needs a bicycle to move around Rome pasting up billboard advertisements which provides just enough income to support his struggling family. His bicycle is stolen jeopardising his family’s survival and he sets out with his son to find the thief.

If you’re still not convinced, remember that 43% of London’s residents have no access to a motor car which may help to explain why the introduction of the “Boris Bikes” has been so successful. In cities like York and Hull, the common sight of cycles has not diminished and is generally recognised as the speediest and most economical way of travelling around town. This is hardly surprising as the number of cars on Britain’s roads has increased ten fold since the start of the Queen’s reign with ever more difficult and expensive parking arrangements the inevitable corollary.    

Bicycle sales, on the other hand, have also increased and there are now around 3 million cycles sold each year, far more than cars and on average every other person owns a bike. Even more significantly, expenditure on cycling (which includes repairs and accessories) has increased by 25% in the last few years whereas expenditure on cars has declined.

With all this interest in cycling both for day to day commuting and also for leisure and exercise as well as in recognition of the environmental benefits to society at large, it is all the more surprising that there are such poor storage and parking facilities for bicycles. If you live in a house with a garage or shed or have space for a purpose made cycle “pod” then these become the logical home for your bike but if you don’t have one, your bike ends up blocking up a porch, in the hall or if you live in a flat, propped up in a corner. There are endless individual solutions to this dilemma involving pulleys to hoist the bike above head height (alright if you have very high ceilings), wall brackets like the “Cycloc,” or slotted stands but most take up some valuable space and are simply in the way.

On a Sunday morning, you often see riders returning from fields or the woods with tell tale splattering of mud all over their bikes and down the backs of their snug lycra tops. The riders can take a shower but where do they conveniently and safely wipe down and wash their 2 wheeled trusty “steeds?” The same problem arises when the bikes go out to work or come home through the pouring rain and if they have to be stored inside a flat or carried through to a balcony (if you’re lucky enough to have one), you’ll suffer puddles of dirty water and even tell-tale tyre tracks. There are imaginative solutions including oversized pet trays, plastic sheeting and giant plastic bags each of which has its own complications.

Planning Departments have begun to recognise this need and are beginning to insist that residential developments provide some cycle storage. The same goes for developers. However, this is not always under cover and often hidden around the back of a building or in a remote corner. This can be insecure so all too commonly bikes end up chained to lamp posts or railings in a more visible spot as if there wasn’t any such provision in the first place or in large apartment buildings, cluttering up the entrance.

With around 30 million bikes in this country and various schemes to encourage cycling, you’d think that the lobby for more thoughtful, safe and covered cycle parking would have been more strongly voiced by now.

We probably owe it to our home to host a proper anniversary celebration and treat it to a special anniversary gift. This may even prove to be a sound investment but will certainly give us the opportunity to have some fun which in turn will give us the opportunity to recollect fond (and sometimes not too fond) memories.