After spending at least £300,000 in three years on staging the under-sponsored Croydon CycleFarce road races around the town centre, the council’s “commitment” to encouraging cycling in the borough remains only a virtual reality.
As Tony Newman, Jo Negrini and other Town Hall figures pat themselves on the back and sip their cheap Prosecco in the VIP tent during the bike races this evening, the irony of the location of the start and finish area on the High Street will be lost on them. For it is on a stretch of road where council works have managed to eliminate an established cycle lane.
Another sign of the lip service to cycling by Croydon Council is the fate of a pair of specially commissioned bike racks just up the road, on South End, which cost tax-payers more than £6,000 but which now, according to Croydon Council, languish unused – unwanted? – on a building site.
In fact, the only evidence that these bike racks were ever installed is in virtual reality. Last year’s smart phone craze, Pokemon Go!, has one of the bike racks as a point-scoring Pokestop, even though it doesn’t actually exist at the location, after it was removed by council contractors barely a year after it was installed.
And irony of ironies, the bike racks were “branded” in the colours of the council’s “Connected Croydon” scheme – the series of roadworks which managed to obliterate the cycle lanes on Croydon High Street, to be replaced by more car parking bays.
And these were the specially designed, vastly over-priced bike racks, made in the shape of a car, which were meant to illustrate that in the space on a single parked car, 10 bicycles can be racked up. Ahhh, if only the council roads department had managed to absorb and understand the message themselves.
According to a Freedom of Information response from the council, the bike racks were paid for in part from the Mayor’s Riot Recovery Fund and partly from Transport for London’s Local Implementation Plan. The work was carried out in 2014-2015.
“This included the design, construction and installation of a bicycle rack, which was positioned outside what was then a branch of Lloyd’s Bank,” the council’s FoI response states.
“Two CycleHoop temporary cycle racks were installed in June 2014, one outside Zizzi, which was moved to outside what was then a branch of Lloyd’s Bank. This was not financed through the South End project budget but from Transport for London LIP money designated to On-Street Cycle Storage, which would have otherwise been returned to TfL.
“The aim was to provide cycle parking during construction of South End and other Connected Croydon High Streets projects in a form that could be permanently located in the borough subsequently, while promoting Connection Croydon when in use.”
The council does not elaborate on why there was only a temporary need for cycle storage in the area. But it demonstrates once again that, like so many aspects of the DisConnected Croydon project, this was another triumph for style over substance.
According to the council, the two bike racks each cost £2,200 (including VAT), plus £190 each for delivery and installation.
None of this procurement or price negotiation is recorded in any correspondence, the council says, because, “Arrangements with this local supplier for a one-off purchase were made by phone.” Cushty.
The bike racks were removed almost as soon as the Connected Croydon roadworks were completed. Perhaps it was a reflection that, with the cycle lanes on that stretch of road effectively removed, there would no longer be any cyclists visiting the shops nearby. “The moves were instructed within the Connected Croydon programme, as and when temporary cycle storage was required.” So cycling was not considered by the council to be a long-term option, then…
The FoI response also provided details of what has happened to Croydon’s true attitude to citizen cycling for the other 364 days of the year when Tony Newman is not basking in the dim glow of an ITV4 camera light.
“Since their removal the two Car Bike Ports have been kept at the Connected Croydon materials compound on the Taberner House site,” the council response advises.
“The Strategic Transport team has identified a number of potential locations and received a quote for removing the Connected Croydon branding, which is no longer used…”, which amounts to £350, for each rack, for the paint-spray job, “and re-installing them,” which would cost another £900 for the pair.
“The re-use of the Car Bike Ports is being fitted into a wider programme to install local public cycle storage, paid for using TfL LIP and Section 106 Sustainable Transport funding. So suggestions for alternative locations for the ‘car bike port lite’ or other form of cycle storage appropriate for each location will be given serious consideration.”
So, if you would like to tell council leader where to stick the over-priced and under-used bike racks, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you send it today, he should be able to read it on his council-funded smart phone while filling his face with canapes at the Croydon CycleFarce.
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