Context

A shift towards more sustainable transport systems within Britain has been gathering momentum over recent years. Exacerbated by increased costs associated with driving - petrol, insurance, environmental and otherwise, have been steadily influencing policy and more recently individual choices. According to cycling Birmingham "26,000 people get on their bikes every day"; with Sustrans reporting that "2 out of 5 local journeys are made by bike". This is likely to see further rapid growth as pressures increase and individuals are increasingly reviewing how they travel in an effort to reduce outgoings during this economic downturn. Birmingham has actively encouraged this growth supporting the 'bike to work' scheme, an annual car free day (22nd September 2011) and it has many active agents which consistently push to build on these changes and promote long-term change in the city.

Despite this the city has not currently responded satisfactorily to the barriers reported by individuals which would facilitate the transfer of strategy to action; including the

"lack of adequate (bicycle) parking, change and washing/ storage facilities at work"

Proposal

Introducing a central 'cycle station' would reinforce national and local strategy and policy and eradicate current issues & barriers, whilst at the same time act as an income generator. The 'cycle station' concept has been designed and developed on, the basis that there is a need to provide centralised, secure bike storage and associated facilities including:

Other complimentary services that could be resident include:

Creating a central cycle station will build upon the recent growth in commuting cyclists, both enhancing their experience whilst providing a highly visible focus for cycling within our city; reinforcing the physical relationships between cyclists an the public at large.

Model

There is currently very little competition in Birmingham and only a few examples nationally which are in early stages of establishing themselves. The most prominent example in London - H2, Carnaby Street, provides josta cycle racks and CCTV giving provision for 230 bikes stored at one time. In this example the bike park is adjacent to club facilities including a retail element and service centre providing 39 showers, changing rooms and lockers for hire (personal and public). They operate a concierge system including dry-cleaning, puncture repair and towel/ laundry services.

Another example in Leeds, based at the station - Cyclepoint "offers secure and fully staffed storage for over 300 bicycles. In addition, it offers maintenance and repair services on a 'bring in the morning, collect in the evening' basis, as well as bike and accessory sales, a bicycle rental scheme and local cycling information."

Other examples across Britain which partly meet this demand are:

Who provide a mixture of the proposed components including refurbing and servicing/ selling old bikes, hiring out workshop space for others to mend their own bikes and providing cycle friendly café and bar facilities services but no washing or retail element currently.

Management and Operation

There are a number of possible options which could be explored dependent on the outcome of investment and aligned interest (i.e. community interest, private or publically owned/managed) Essentially each component could be run collectively as one business or as individual interests aligned by an agreement which builds on their co-location (which should be reinforced in the design/ build of the space) and the associated principles of the scheme.

The cycle station will operate as many of the proposed facilities that can be accommodated with priority areas being the bicycle station/ storage, lockers, washing facilities, concierge services and café. Looking at similar business models the best system appears to be based on a membership agreement with monthly/ annual subscription fees to a staggered level of service - standard, premium, deluxe, influenced by when and what the member accesses. The basic charge would take into consideration an overall management/ administration fee to account for the access card, security set-up, costs of running and maintaining the shower rooms, storage facility/ CCTV and one member of staff. Other components including the café, retail unit etc would be self sufficient in terms of impact on the membership fee so additional items to consider, and dependent on uptake, would include the concierge element (e.g. towels/ laundry). Revenues could potentially be increased by introducing a different price band for high or low frequent users or those 'on-peak' or 'off peak' users; although a flat rate may be more preferable to simplify the membership process and encourage uptake.

The option for 'pay as you go' access would be kept available to encourage initial use with a view to converting to longer-term membership. Additionally on-line booking facilities should be made available to minimise administration and to ensure services are fully accessible and inclusive.

Noting local and national strategy and policy it would be an opportunity to approach local businesses for a corporate membership to which they can then evidence as fulfilling their requirement to provide appropriate services to their staff.

Investment

There are a number of possible local businesses that may be interested in residing/ investing in one or more of the cycle station components who should be approached as part of a next stage to consult on any outline proposal.

A stakeholder group should consider wider interested parties such as bike companies, gyms and also potential end users such as those that could be found from the increasing bike polo scene emerging within Birmingham. (Birmingham Bike polo)

Birmingham City Council would be instrumental in the future of the proposal noting the influence on land use and ownership and possible funding available under cycling promotion initiatives under its portfolio.

There is also some mileage in Birmingham utilising a section 106 agreements in gaining a contribution, or accommodation from one or more of the large inner-city developments that are anticipated over the coming months and years.

In essence other models appearing nationally indicate that the mixed-use development provides a viable and profitable business opportunity with many other long-term benefits for both individuals and the community.