Thursday, 19 June 2008

How to stop your bike from getting nicked

Among other interests, one of my favourite ways of spending my time (or wasting it, depending on your viewpoint) is motorcycling. I'm not a boy racer by any stretch of the imagination (although my Fazer 600 will do quite a nice turn of speed if you need it...), and I'm perfectly happy pottering around the lanes of Sussex indulging in my various other past-times of seeking out old churches, decent pubs with decent real ale, (below the limit, though!) visiting castles, houses, gardens etc.

The problem with biking, though, is what to do with it when you get home. If you haven't got a garage (and few around Earl's Court have) then it has to go on the road somewhere. The choice is - or at least was - between a free motorcycle parking bay, or getting a resident's parking permit (£80, please) and slotting it in between the cars.

Neither is ideal: a chronic shortage of motorcycle bays means that they are stuffed full, and a great place to get your bike scratched. Most of the other machines around here are actually scooters, and they seem to multiply daily. But the ordinary parking bays aren't always much better: there's usually more room, but it only takes a thoughtless driver to get a bit too close for them to knock the bike over while reversing. (And that's happened to me more times than I like to admit).

Critically, both are very vulnerable to bike theft. This is a growing problem in London, and even a heavy chain doesn't guarantee safety: bikes are often lifted in their entirety into the back of a van, lock and all.

So Kensington & Chelsea's new bike bays are a really interesting idea: essentially, some are set aside for local residents who pay for a special permit, which entitles them to park in a motorcycle bay set aside just for residents, but provided with ground anchors. These are essentially lumps of stainless steel set firmly in the ground, with a robust rotating flip-up metal loops, through which you can pass a heavy bike chain, and so make it that bit more difficult for the thieves to nick your bike. The anchors are also distanced apart to ensure the bikes are set a reasonable distance, ie not hemmed in. A permit for this type of bay is £32 a year. That's still more than the old £18 permit, but at least there's some pay back for it.

At the same time, the Borough is increasing the number of motorcycle parking bays by over 60%, which should help ease the chronic shortage of space. Free motorcycle bays will still be provided for visitors close to major shopping and employment centres.

So, for once, a good news story in a London borough. It's a policy other London boroughs would do well to look at.

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