CyclePoint has just one location so far, but could be rolled out at railways stations in many British cities, hopes Evans, which bagged the rights to operate the first outlet.
CyclePoint is a UK version of the FietsPoint railway station cycle parking units operated by Ned Railways, the Dutch railway company. The FietsPoint in Leiden has space for parking 3,000 bikes; CyclePoint Leeds has 300. It costs just £1 a day for secure cycle storage and there are even sockets for recharging electric bikes.
The Leeds CyclePoint is not a money-spinner. Network Rail, which owns most of the retail space at UK train stations, isn't leasing its land to CyclePoint for a profit: a coffee shop would earn many multiples over what a cycle storage facility could ever hope to earn. Instead, CyclePoint is a statement of intent, a focus on suggesting customers hook up with a form of door-to-door sustainable transport that doesn't expand waistlines. It will be difficult for Network Rail and other land owners to roll out the concept in prime retail locations so CyclePoint units in London have yet to get the go-ahead.
The Leeds CyclePoint is operated by Evans, and there's a small footprint for retail. Most of the space in the small, glass-fronted rotunda building is taken up with bespoke racking.
Evans secured the deal to operate the first CyclePoint after the concept was promoted in 2009 by Abellio, the Netherlands-based owner of Northern Rail, Merseyrail and Ned Railways.
Ned Railways operates 25 FietsPoint bike shops at railway stations across the Netherlands. These bike shops also provide bike parking facilities, bike rental, and same-day bike servicing. They are operated as a means of generating more bike-to-the-station journeys.
MPs and Lords on a 2009 study tour of the Netherlands were told the FietsPoint bike centres were operated to break-even but were initially heavily subsidised, in order to increase the number of train journeys. Ned Railways found that when station car parks were full, the number of off-peak train journeys were reduced. However, when money and effort was pumped into creating thousands of secure bike parking spaces, the number of passenger train journeys increased.
Leeds station is owned by the Government-owned Network Rail. To create the first CyclePoint, Northern Rail worked with Network Rail, Leeds City Council, CTC, the Department for Transport and the West Yorkshire PTE in a joint venture which cost the DfT £500,000.
CyclePoint Leeds was opened in late September by Transport Minister, Norman Baker; Abellio CEO Anton Valk; and the Dutch Ambassador, Pim Waldeck.
Baker said: “It’s vitally important we make the beginning and end of people’s journeys as simple as possible - that’s the couple of miles from home to station - so that the bike and train option becomes as easy as jumping in our cars for long journeys.
"More and more commuters are wanting to cycle to and from the station which is why expansion of cycling facilities, like this Government-funded project, are so important. And, of course, better cycling facilities at stations not only helps tackle congestion and promote rail travel, but will also help people develop healthier lifestyles and protect the environment.”
Abellio's Valk said: “The launch of the country’s first CyclePoint has put Leeds at the heart of a revolution that is taking place across the nation. Recently, there has been an explosion in cycling throughout the UK. I have seen it myself as I cycle to work each day.
“At Abellio, our aim has always been to provide transport services which improve quality of life for passengers and across the communities we serve. We believe it is part of our responsibility to make our passengers’ door-door journeys as stress-free as possible. By providing secure storage in a new building manned by dedicated staff, CyclePoint removes the anxiety we know passengers feel when leaving bikes at stations.”
Steve Butcher, Chief Operating Officer of Northern Rail who will be responsible to customers using CyclePoint said: “The ultimate goal is for passengers going to cities and large towns to be able to ride to their station, leave their cycle, travel to their destination and then hire a bike to complete their journey."
Transport journalist Christian Wolmar - an expert on both trains and cycling - gave a speech at the opening, praising the Department for Transport: "This sort of initiative is important. It says cyclists have a right to be on roads. The cycling culture has changed immensely in the last 10 to 15 years. CyclePoint is the sort of stimulus that could move things forward even more. This morning on Radio Leeds, Norman Baker was asked if CyclePoint was a waste of money because people don't cycle in the rain. This sort of silly question won't be asked when there a lot more people cycling every day."
Mike Rice, MD of Evans Cycles was also at the launch and said: “We think this is a huge step forward for cycling in the UK and we're excited to be a part of this from the first steps. We hope to see more and more of these popping up around the country.”
The Leeds CyclePoint is close to a new Evans store on Station Street which opened in mid-October. Rice said customers who couldn't be helped at CyclePoint – which sells only a handful of accessories – will be directed to the new store.
Where next for Cyclepoint?
The expansion of CyclePoint is now on hold indefinitely thanks to the Coalition Government's austerity measures.
When Lord Adonis was in charge of transport during the last administration there had been plans to create CyclePoint hubs at Waterloo, Victoria, St Pancras, Sheffield, York, Hull, Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Liverpool Lime Street, as well as Leeds. The Department for Transport had wanted to get 2.5 million more people cycling regularly.
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis was converted to the bike-parking-at-stations cause during a visit to the Netherlands.
While some Dutch people may laugh at Britain's feeble attempts at replicating a Netherlands-style cycling culture, Dutch folks who live in the UK have noticed big changes in just a short period of time. Peter Lensink, a London-based executive of Ned Railways, said cycling in the capital is at a tipping point:
“There’s been a change in perception, not just people in Lycra. Biking is becoming part of mobility. I pedal on a Dutch roadster and cycle everywhere in my suit. There are now lots like me. Who would ever have imagined the junction between Tavistock Square and Tavistock Place would have cycle congestion in the mornings?”