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Mary Beard: Cambridge train station bike park is ‘scary and seedy at night’

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TV historian Mary Beard has complained that unwieldy bike racks at the city station are preventing her from cycling to catch a train and that the bike park is “scary and seedy late at night”.

Mary Beard
Mary Beard

The 64-year-old University of Cambridge classics professor took to Twitter to explain the problems she has encountered with lifting her bike onto the new double-decker parking racks.

She wrote: “I have stopped cycling to the station... that can’t be uncommon, or good.

“I am 64 and I have a nice ordinary bike but I can’t manage the upper level rack.. so I take a cab. not what I want to do.”

She also wrote in her column for the Times Literary Supplement that the multi-storey bike park has “ unwieldy double-decker bike racks that anyone my age can’t manage, and is pretty scary and seedy late at night.”

She added: “I can’t help thinking that in most European cities (London has just done a bit better with St Pancras and Kings Cross) the area around the big stations is exactly where you don’t want to be. My bet is that in 50 years time no one will want to be anywhere near Cambridge Station Square.”

The comments drew a flood of response from other frustrated cyclists who agreed that many people struggled to lift their bikes onto the high racks and that the lower racks were often full of abandoned bikes that had not been cleared away. Others also said there was no clear cycle route across the front of the station.

A spokesperson from Cambridge cycling charity Camcycle said: "Mary Beard's comments highlight an ongoing problem with the station square, which is that it looks and feels more like a car park than a public space and has numerous accessibility issues for people cycling.

Proposed development at Cambridge railway station (10362596)
Proposed development at Cambridge railway station (10362596)

“We have heard hundreds of times from our members that there is no safe and clear cycle route between north and south, that the cycle park is haunted by thieves and feels unsafe at night and that there are accessibility issues for people with families using cargo bikes, riding together with children, and people who simply cannot push their cycle up stairs or use two-tier stands due to mobility issues. These facilities are not living up to their true potential and we have been campaigning for years now to clean up these problems.

“Currently, there is a live planning application for the next phase of CB1 development that will change the flow of taxis, cutting two new driveways from the square onto Station Road for them. Unfortunately, the plans do not resolve the fundamental problems: that the station square is a car park instead of a public space, there is no safe and clear cycle route across it, and all the pollution from cars clogging up the square and Great Northern Road. We are continuing to object to the planning application and we ask members of the public to contact their councillors with their concerns.”

Camcycle added that Greater Anglia’s obligation to provide and additional 1,000 cycle parking spaces by 2020 appeared to have been lifted by the Department for Transport.

Brookgate, the developers of the CB1 Station area, responded that CB1 was “constantly evolving” in response to local consultation.

A spokesperson said that “changes will be brought into effect when the southern half of the square is opened on the former Murdoch House site, and so cyclists will see great improvements in both the access and signage as this work progresses over the next two years.”

They added that although Brookgate was involved in the development of the cycle parking facility, it was owned by Greater Anglia. The spokesperson said: “Brookgate has been encouraging Greater Anglia to take a more proactive role in the maintenance of Cycle Point to improve security of the Cycle Point, and specifically to address the issue of abandoned bikes in the facility.

“The double stacking bike storage solution at Cycle Point was chosen in conjunction with Cam Cycle and Cambridge City Council, but some of the lower racks are currently clogged with abandoned bikes. Greater Anglia and Brookgate are hoping to introduce a better system for tagging and removal of abandoned bikes, which will free up lower level cycle parking.”

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