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Secured parking, the core component of a bicycle friendly city


City authorities efforts focused on equipment and cycling lanes...

As a natural response to the sustainable development imperative, public policies promoting bicycle use have flourished since the years 2000, and not without success if you consider that bicycle modal share has increased significantly in large cities. If most measures focus on equipment (subsidies to acquire or maintain bicycles, also free floating bicycle services), and on cycling infrastructure (cycling lanes), actually very little attention has been given to the secured parking challenge. Bicycle usage development must however be thought through with a systemic approach, with all parts being interconnected, and parking being a core part, building what the transportation economist and urbanist Frédéric Héran defines at the « bicycle system ».

Secured parking, core to the "bicycle system"

As Olivier Schneider, president of the French Federation of Bicycle users, puts it, cycling lanes only constitute “the tip of the iceberg”: it’s about time we look into the immersed part, in this case, the parking challenge. The comparison is all the more relevant that it is estimated that bicycles, on average, remain idle 98% of the time! Of course, the idea is not to challenge efforts made on equipment and cycling infrastructure, but rather to ensure that a certain level of attention is given to the parking challenge, which counterintuitively constitutes a key condition to its usage and mobility. A study realised by 6t-bureau de recherche on bicycle use across large cities in France highlights the heavy hurdles that both parking scarcity and theft constitute to a regular practice. Solving the secured parking problem should therefore unlock usage among potential new bicycle users, but should also trigger a more intense usage among existing users.

Thinking secured parking through, beyond commuting, to truly unlock bicycle usage

The more recent surge in bicycle use related to the COVID-19 crisis seems to have contributed to the emergence of the parking topic, but attention remains focused on parking at home, or at the workplace. Work or studies constitute a structuring motivation when it comes to mobility. However, all other motivations are at least as important, such as shopping, leisure activities or any other meetings, with less recurring and spatially more diverse destinations. In other words, the challenge of parking at home and on work premises should not be the tree that hides the forest, which are all other destinations that come with a daily practice. Everywhere else, it is quintessential to offer practical, reliable and publicly accessible parking options. This is the only way to truly make cycling core to urban lifestyles, beyond just commuting. This would also allow for a smart combination of activities, with secondary purpose trips being added to simple commuting loops, without users having to worry about their bicycles parking. Eventually, solving for bicycle parking in the public domain is really about freeing bicycle riders’ mind, and create the missing piece that will contribute to massively unlocking bicycle usage. As a matter of fact, beyond commuting, this would considerable broaden bicycle trips possibilities, which will have a multiplying effect on its usage and overall modal share. The reliability of a secured bicycle parking solution should then be considered a sine qua non condition for a “City 100% bicycle friendly” towards which more and more city authorities are now steering their efforts and finances.