'Bikes in a bog' billboard campaign calls for more storage

The This is awkward Clean Cities campaign is drawing attention to a need for bike storage in Hackney and Islington

The This is awkward Clean Cities campaign is drawing attention to a need for bike storage in Hackney and Islington - Credit: Clean Cities campaign

“It’s really awkward having to store bikes in our toilet,” said Hackney cyclist Frances Cherry. She is calling for more secure public storage to help families protect their bicycles.

“We have bikes in the toilet and also in the hallway,” she added. “We’ve had bikes stolen so we need to keep them safe.”

Her photograph of bikes stored in the toilet features on billboards in Stroud Green Road near Finsbury Park in Islington, highlighting the tight spaces in which people keep their bikes under the #thisisawkward banner.

Pictures submitted include someone who sleeps in a bed next to their bike, a bike stored close to an oven, and bikes hanging over a balcony in a housing estate.

Cherry and her family started cycling more when roads were quieter because of the lockdown and are keen to carry on. They have also ditched their car.

Like other flat-dwellers in Hackney, they say they are limited in where they can keep bikes because storing them on communal walkways is a fire risk.

Hackney cyclist Frances Cherry

Hackney cyclist Frances Cherry - Credit: Frances Cherry

Not all models of bikes fit in lifts and it can be tricky carrying them up and down stairs to reach communal storage in some blocks of flats.

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Hackney boasts the highest number of people cycling to work in London and the second highest number in England after Cambridge.

There are 4,977 cyclists on the waiting list for bike hangars in Hackney according to research by the Clean Cities Campaign, with 3,600 spaces provided in 600 bike shelters across the borough.

Researchers from the Clean Air Wins coalition found there is a waiting list of 60,715 people wanting to hire a bike hangar across London’s 32 boroughs – nearly three times more than the 22,592 spaces available in London.

According to the council, just 30 per cent of Hackney residents own a car, and campaigners say people need to feel confident of keeping bikes safe.

Cherry called on the Town Hall to help by making more space for bike hangars on the streets.

“They should just cut the number of storage spaces for cars on the roads and put bike hangers in their place,” she said.

Aled Richards, the council’s strategic director of sustainability and public realm, said the borough has the most of cycle parking in London with 650 cycle hangars, 2,758 parking stands, 106 bike ports and 414 cycle hoops.

He said: “We also have the highest levels of cycling and this means there is high demand for the services.

“Hackney manages its cycle hangar membership programme in-house, which allows close monitoring and management of demand as well as providing an excellent service.

“The programme has been a success and attracted high demand, which increases with the introduction of each cycle hangar.”

A billboard near Finsbury Park features bikes stored in a bathroom in Hackney

A billboard near Finsbury Park features bikes stored in a bathroom in Hackney - Credit: Clean Cities Campaign

The council is looking at ways to get more funding to provide more, he said.

In Islington there are 6,963 people waiting for a hanger, making it the borough with the third largest waiting list in London. 

But, like Hackney, it is also has a large number of bike shelters (416) and bike spaces (3,287), as well as a high proportion (78pc) of its residents living in flats.

Green Party Cllr Caroline Russell, for Highbury East ward in Islington, said: “If Islington Council is serious about accessibility and getting more people walking, cycling and wheeling round the borough we urgently need more affordable and secure cycle parking for all sorts of bikes.

"Islington council charges more to park a bike than to park a car. People can see this makes no sense, but every year my budget proposal to fix this is voted down in the council."

Eilidh Murray, Cycle Islington campaign coordinator, said more needs to be done to "nudge" people to cycle and walk more.

Elidh added: "While Islington are promoting quieter streets and better bike lanes, we also need to make sure people can use them.

"We can’t expect people to drag heavy bikes up flights of stairs or risk them being stolen." 

Islington Council says its on-street bike hanger programme has been very popular. It adds that it is working to extend the scheme, with plans to provide another 2,000 cycle storage spaces over the next two years. 

A council spokesperson said: “We are proud to have installed more bike hangars than almost any other borough in London."