The office end of cycle commuting

Miriam Richardson, 1 December 2006

Johanna from Hunt Davies Tennant Ltd

Where to put your cycle safely and easily when you get to work is a key issue in choosing to commute by cycle. The days of chaining your bike to a stand in the street ended when the cost of a good cycle rivalled that of a small car. And there are too many small and valuable parts on a bike: you can't chain them all.

Hefting bikes up stairs, contorting them into lifts, stashing them in cupboards: commuting cyclists have used many strategies to keep their bikes safe.

And this comes at some cost to a building, I discovered, talking to Warren Press, the manager of 24 Blair St in central Wellington. Apart from the inconvenience of bikes inside offices, there are nicks and scratches in the lifts and stairwells, and persistent black rubber marks left by tyres, particularly at corners. "It's not my problem" Warren said "storing bikes", but looking after the building is his problem, so he looked for ways to cater for the needs of cyclists and the building at the same time.

24 Blair St is an old and rambling building that has been converted into shops and offices and there are a number of small spaces tucked around the building with limited usefulness - in fact other than storing cycles the only other use could be storing files. Cyclists, Warren has found, are fussy about who they share bike storage space with: they like to know and trust the people who will have access to their bikes, and are reluctant to let in a new and unknown employee of another office. 24 Blair St can cater for this however: each small space can fit about 4 bikes, so each office has its own space. (Well, the spaces can fit six bikes if you are an experienced commuter cyclists with many years experience of jigsawing bikes into small spaces; four, for the rest of us.)

Of six offices in the building, three have cycle storage spaces at the moment. One of these rents space for bikes as they included bike storage as part of their employment contracts. The others get free storage - but they don't get remote controls to access the garage as the fee-paying cars do, so they need to use their access cards to get in and manually activate the garage door.

Andrew Wheatley of Hunt Davies Tennent Ltd is one of the cycle commuters working at 24 Blair St. He has been bringing his bike to Blair St for five years, but is a committed cycle commuter who has been cycling to work for 10 years. Of the 16 people in his office eight commute by bike, and they have two small storage spaces for the eight bikes. Two are new converts to cycle commuting having seen the benefits of avoiding peak hour traffic hassles in a car or bus.
Andrew's impression from his cycling friends is that most buildings now have storage for cycles, and showers too, the other essential part of the equation when cyclists have travelled far enough to get up a sweat.

Should cyclists rent storage space the way cars rent parks in the central city? If car spaces, which have such a premium in Wellington, are converted to cycle spaces, then a parking fee would be likely, and shared amongst a number of bikes probably manageable. But as long as there are small corners with few or no other uses, cycle commuters can continue appreciate the good planning of building managers such as Warren who cater for cycles as well as cars.

24 Blair St, Wellington