Bicycles and the new Westgate centre - Andy Chivers
The Westgate centre will open in autumn 2017. Since the planning phase Cyclox has been campaigning for better provision for people arriving at the Westgate by bike. Numerous studies have found that shopping areas are enhanced by good cycling and walking infrastructure. People visiting shops on foot and by bike may spend a little less each visit, but will visit shops more frequently and thus spend more overall. The Westgate Alliance held an informal consultation day in January and, as Cyclox’s lead on cycle parking, I went along.
Cyclists coming from the north will be able to go down St Ebbes’ St as before, but I was told we won’t be able to cycle down Norfolk St on the west side of the development as it is deemed too narrow to be safe (though the original specification did allow for bikes). From the south things will be much worse – the roads are too narrow for the amount of traffic and, cyclists will have to dismount and cross three roads on foot to reach the centre. Cyclox has argued that Thames St/Oxpens Road could have a segregated cycle route to enable it to be used by all cyclists. If buses are re-routed into St Aldates to make Queen St fully pedestrianised cycling will be even more unpleasant south of Carfax.
Parking your bike
It is not clear how many new cycle parking places will be provided. Headlines last year said ‘1000 new spaces’ but our count suggests a slight increase in the overall number of cycle parking spaces from around 950 to 1000. On current plans only 416 places will be available 24 hours a day.
As part of that provision there will be a covered cycle parking hub in Turn Again Lane, something Cyclox has long argued for and Cambridge has long enjoyed. At this late stage the developers still cannot say how many bike spaces there will be in the hub or whether there will be bike repair services, again something that was in the original specification.
It is crucial that bike parking is located close to entrances and not simply placed in an unwanted corner. At present the plans show several groups of bike stands dotted around the perimeter. A lot of the spaces are at the back of the centre away from the main entrances and therefore unlikely to be popular. Some are the other side of Thames St and will probably be ignored completely.
Another big concern is the loss of 230 places at the western end of Queen St and 190 places down St Ebbes’ St with only 30 replacements being visible on the plan at present. At this stage it is not clear how 400 parking places can be found in those locations. Two-tier racks seem to have been rejected apparently because of the risk of accidents, yet there is no evidence for this concern. Covered two-tier racks are working well at Oxford Parkway.
Access to the Westgate by bike and bike parking on the site should have been a non negotiable between the County Council as highways authority, The City Council as the planning authority, and the developers. Unfortunately this was not the case, and we find ourselves trying exploit small opportunities to improve the set up, rather than supporting and feeding into a strategic vision of active travel in the heart of the city.