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When is a Bike not a Bike

By Neil Webster, posted 14 August 2017

Neil Webster, management consultant in the property sector and owner of Cyclo Consulting, finds an un-looked for problem with folding bikes. 

Contact on twitter @cycloconsulting

When is a bike not a bike? In my opinion when it a small folded metallic structure the size of a small rucksack.

When I visited the Helicon Building in the City of London last year I thought my rejection was a one-off and a unique experience, to me, but not so. I arrived on my trusty Brompton and was just about to fold it up when the security guard informed me “you can’t bring that in here, it’s a security risk”. The tone got to me first but this turned to puzzlement as I saw people wheeling suitcases the size of a small house through the reception without being searched! I was ushered to the tradesmen’s entrance where the refuse disposal and other second class citizens were “welcomed”.

In the end I couldn’t face the shame so my friend and I decided to avail ourselves of an external coffee shop where they were more cycle friendly. Having been to a seminar on hospitable buildings a few days earlier the irony of my (poor) visitor experience was not lost on me

Before the next sob story let’s consider the other end of the spectrum. The BCO Market Cycles report references several good practice buildings:

Image courtesy of Neil Webster, 2017

At Legal and General’s Central Saint Giles building in London they have recognised that Bromptons and other folding bicycles are used extensively by their occupants and visitors. Instead of regarding them as second-class citizens they provide a dedicated storage space where they can be left securely. The bike owners feel more like VIPs than refuse collectors when treated like this?

At Quorum Business Park in north-east England they have a wide range of cycle storage including facilities for folding bikes. Likewise, The Foundry development by Bell Hammer in Hammersmith. Whether cyclists arrive clad in the oft quoted lycra, dressed like a Rapha model or in a business suit they are all treated equally and that’s the way it should be - inclusive?

Photo by Jennifer Boyle on Unsplash

And so to experience number two. Heading to a seminar on the importance of the workplace, and within Argent’s Kings Cross development, I didn’t think twice about arriving by Brompton. As I passed the girl practising her hula-hop routine in the reception I thought I might be seen as a tad “old school” at the University of the Arts. Not so, “bikes are not allowed” was the welcome greeting I received! As the trusty steed had already been neatly folded and was no longer to all intents and purposes a bicycle I was rather taken aback. “Is it really a bicycle”? was my first attempt at gaining access passed the barriers. To shorten this story, after discussion with another member of UAL’s front of house my small metal sculpture was allowed access to the cloakroom.

So what have I learned? Possibly that the ArcelorMittal Orbit structure, just down the way from the Velodrome, could probably be interpreted as being several hundred stacked bikes? More seriously, just be careful assuming that your Brompton, even when neatly folded will be accepted as luggage. I have read that some people carry a bin-liner with them in case of emergency to cover their embarrassment. Or tell security that it’s not a bike but a “personal mobility device”!

Neil Webster is a Management Consultant in the property sector, and owner of Cyclo-consulting. 

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