Car parks, bike parks and logistics
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What have car parks got to do with bikes? Look around you. Parklets, NCPs, that bike hanger on your side road – all taking space from cars and their car parking for people that just ride the bike. Andrew Brown looks at the latest car park news for bikes. Sort of
Car parks are going to be playing a key role in the future of utility transport in British cities. What does that mean? More and more car parks are going to be used by cyclists and the operators of cycling logistics firms as developers, councils and planners free our streets from vans – fossil fuelled or electric.
One of the UK’s biggest developers, British Land, has appointed architect Harris Partnership to draw up plans for a logistics hub at a former NCP car park in the City of London. British Land paid out £20m in 2021 for the Finsbury Square car park (which lies on the edge of the financial district between Moorgate and Liverpool Street) that it wants to turn into a last-mile logistics complex.
The scheme is still at pre-planning, but the developer has previously said the scheme could go down underground by as much as three levels with electric vans, scooters and bikes arriving to pick up parcels for delivery around the city.
It has two other similar sites in the middle of London which, along with Finsbury Square, total 317,000 sq. ft of space. This echoes the ambitions of the City of London to transformturn what it sees as redundant space in its car parks at London Wall and Minories and turn them over to last-mile logistics hubs. British Land has ambitions in Westminster too aiming to submit a planning application to Westminster council for a new 127,000 sq. ft underground urban logistics hub at 5 Kingdom Street at its Paddington Central campus which has a further 211,000 sq. ft of consented office space, drawn up by Allies & Morrison, above it.
Last mile logistics means more cargo bikes taking goods, services and materials from these hubs that will spring up across all of UK cities, not just London. Amazon is investing in its own hubs and the obvious locations are car parks.
But the car parks are not just for big developers and councils to take advantage of. Two years ago, we reported on Spokesafe. The brand has come on in leaps and bounds since our story in JRTB, but it all began in a car park. Spokesafe appeared below the streets of London with its first secure bicycle storage and locker system in a car park not far from Oxford Circus.
The concept is simple: a deal is done with a car park to use some available space that is screened off and made safe for bike storage. Racks and stands are installed along with repair stations, e-bike charging points and lockers for kit and personal items.
Outside the cities, park and rides are last year's news. Rather, we now have mobility hubs, or transport interchanges. Authorities in the West of England (there are likely to be others in other places) are looking at spaces in which travelers can change mode; rail to bus, bike to bus, electric bike with no charge, to fully charged electric bike, or, if required car to bus or car to bike or car to rail. We are still in a desperate state regarding carbon emissions from transport. We know transport has not decarbonised like almost every other industry has or is doing. Getting people out of their cars and onto sustainable transport, even for the last mile, is proving worryingly difficult. Even when it is not just a nebulous concept such as carbon emissions, but individual costs. In-work poverty is on the rise, not helped by the costs of buying, maintaining, insuring, taxing, parking and fuelling a car. Providing opportunities for people to make better decisions about transport for the last, or first, part of their journey, enabled by mobility hubs, is a good first step in decarbonising.
If you can find a car park that British Land or another major developer isn’t snapping up then there is room for bike riding entrepreneurs to give the cycling community even more value than is available right now.
Watch that space. Literally.
Contact Andrew Brown on 07795 547069
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