Last week, I was walking through Waterloo station pondering (in no particular order) how to beat the rain, whether Eddy Merckx will become cycling’s Pele and how to finish off the “real” work I was supposed to be doing. In my path to the taxi rank, there was a promotional stand for Victory Park – part of the “Olympic legacy” that is the property development made from the athlete’s accommodation for the 2012 games. I was drawn to the symbols they’ve associated with this development: a cream Pashley roadster and Granny Smith apples (with Victory Park stickers). The Pashley even has a wicker basket full of apples and a natty personalised bell.
This is essentially an inner city regeneration scheme with a sales hook that it’s car free. The cynic in me says that by getting rid of the car parking, it’s possible to up the density of the valuable bit: the property. But it’s good to see sustainable transport being put at the heart of urban development.
There’s a snazzy video fly-through showing couples wafting along on bikes (doubtless Pashleys) and the eager promoter tells me that there’s “a bike parking space for every apartment”. Whilst it’s unlikely to be a core buying decision, like price, location or number bedrooms, it adds what the estate agents call “saleability”.
Now as any cyclist knows there’s good bike parking and there’s bad bike parking. Locked to a Waterloo lamppost, I’d be surprised if much of my bike remained after a few days. Conversely I doubt whether high tech storage schemes like this one in Japan are in the offing. I remember the sea of bikes at railway stations in Copenhagen and cities in Holland and I’m curious to see that if in a few years one space per apartment will be enough.
By a strange twist of fate, work has brought me to Milton Keynes. MK is a town which should be the UK’s blueprint for a cycling haven. There are wide tree-lined boulevards, a grid-system road network and it’s pancake flat. Shared use pedestrian and cycle paths, with dedicated underpasses keep cyclists and traffic separate. I’d bet that Milton Keynes is possibly unique in the UK. Many things struck me about MK in the few days I was there; mainly the utter soullessness of the place, but also the absence of people cycling. So it isn’t just a case of “build it and they will come”. Something else is necessary, something that needs both a carrot and a stick. In the Netherlands and Scandanavia fantastic infrastructure and punative taxation on car ownership might be the combination that could make Milton Keynes and Victory Park work.