Thursday 22 October 2009

The Leytonstone Bike Shed

(Above) The gleaming new Bike Shed in 2005, with a green bollard thoughtfully sited right in front of the entrance and an imaginatively located tree.

‘The Bike Shed’ serving Leytonstone tube station opened in 2005, amid much fanfare. Using a smartcard entry system ( a smartcard costs £5, providing unlimited use) it offered secure and sheltered parking for 48 bikes. It remains one of the jewels in the crown of the London Borough of Waltham Forest’s ostensible commitment to cycling. The Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign is proud of its achievement in lobbying for cutting-edge cycle parking, and the Council identifies the Bike Shed as evidence of its cycle-friendly policies.

On a sunny October weekday at 11 a.m. (last week ) there were just seven bikes parked there (or eight, if you want to count the one which lacked both wheels). Cyclists appear to be shunning this facility. Why might that be?

The Bike Shed is located by two car parks, in a relatively isolated spot, ideal for a bike thief. There is no cycle lane leading up to it. To get to it you stop by the entrance to the car park and lift your bike over the kerb (no dropped kerb, obviously - mustn't make things too easy).

A mildewed sheet of A4 taped to the inside of the shed welcomes new cyclists and tells them where to go to buy a smartcard. It is twinned with a CRIMESTOPPERS notice warning that there have been bike thefts from the shed. An illegible number is supplied, should you be able to assist local police with their enquiries.

It's a mystery why this magnificent facility attracts only seven cyclists after five years, particularly since cycling has substantially increased over that period.

(below) Welcome to the Bike Shed - instructions on where to go to buy a smartcard. And the promise of CCTV at some point in the future, to deter theft.

(Below) ‘recently there have been a few thefts of bicycles from this bike shed’