Thursday 25 September 2008


There are some people -Chris Hutt among them- who believe that the fact that the Squarepeg "cycle houses" will have steps up or down to 16 of the 20 houses they will build 3 m from the railway path means that they aren't cycle houses at all. That in fact anyone trying to get a bike in or out will ignore the steps and their wheel groove, and instead loop round to the garage. And that they are pretending to be cycle houses to justify their acquisition of a bit of parkland and the defacto enclosure of some more.

But like Rowland Dye, here showing the distance between the path and embankment is just over a bike length, that belief that stairs have no role to play in urban cycling is either one of ignorance or a consequence of using drop bar bikes, bikes whose Centre of Gravity on a flight of steps is pretty hairy.


Here's a photo of my son, learning to do stairs at the age of four. I may not be able to teach him how to do wheelies or hard-core BMX work, but doing steps is easy: runout-align-commit
  1. Runout: check there is a clear, flat stretch with no approaching cars or other traffic.
  2. Align: get on the bike, get it stable and don't be mid-turn when you hit the steps.
  3. Commit. Go for it. Don't touch the brakes, keep your weight back. Only slow down on the runout.
That's all it takes. So cycle houses with steps on them could work. The key is getting the design right. Firstly, you need to be aligned and stable before the steps. The houses will need a little porch, and a front door that automatically closes and locks as you ride straight out. Secondly, you need a clear bit of path to come out on.

And that worries me: the path is busy, busy, busy in the morning, and having steps that runout at right angles to the main traffic flow is suicidal. The steps need to be angled so that they feed into the bike lane gently, giving you a clear runout that won't create a collision with someone doing race training from Bath or a group of trials bike riders heading to Castle Park.

If they don't do that, if they don't make the steps fun and safe for even a four year old to ride out on, well, then it wouldn't really be a cycle house and giving up some of the parkland to build them would make no sense whatsoever.


Anonymous said...

Why would a 'Bike house' have a garage? That must be a misunderstanding. surely.

The Bristol Blogger said...

Why would a bike have a house?
There's so many unanswered questions here.

SteveL said...

Garages work really well for bikes, at least in areas where they don't get broken into. When I lived in the US for a few years, I had a remote for the garage in the bike, and could get in and out of the waterproofs (and mud) in the garage, hit the remote and be off with ease. Its also great when towing the child, you get them set up in the dry and head off into the rain. Its a great place to keep bikes and for maintenance. So the question for me is: if they have garages round the corner, why have steps going to the path? Steps over council-owned parkland? As I know that I'd be spinning round the corner to the garage, small child attached to the rear.

Anonymous said...

Fair comment- but why have them being a 'garage'? Why not have a smaller door that would take a workbike but not a car, on both ends so you can access the cycleway from the garage, but it's not usable for a car?

SteveL said...

No valid reason at all. Sarah Eagle thinks that national planning requirements for #of parking spaces per household may be a factor; there's no scope in national rules for low-car developments. By calling it a garage you can use it for bikes and still fulfill the quota.