Almost a hundred cyclists circled St Pancras International this morning Wednesday 14th November the first day of public services. They were there to protest that cycling seems to have been forgotten in the £800m redesign of the flagship station. The colourful procession started at 8.30am to the words of “I want to ride by bicycle”, the song by Queen coming out the back of a cycle trailer mounted sound system.
The demonstration was called to highlight the lack of safe access to and from the station for cyclists, the absence of cycle stands to park bikes and the refusal of Eurostar to let customers travel with cycles on the trains they are travelling on, which campaigners say shows up Eurostar’s new green carbon-neutral image.
As the station’s slick PR gushed that it has become
Europe’s Destination Station, a place people will want to visit
cycle campaigners replied
…unless they are on bikes. With three cyclists killed within half a mile of the station in the last year, the immediate area has become the blackspot in London’s cycling boom. Last December Italian Emma Foa was crushed to death by a Channel Tunnel Rail Link lorry while cycling to work at Camley Street. The ride paused there for a minute’s silence and was joined by her husband who has been calling for better cycling conditions.
After going round the station anti-clockwise the ride dismounted to travel along one-way Midland Road, highlighting the missing link from the western station exits to the London Cycle Network. Campaigners met Transport for London and the London Borough of Camden last week to call for urgent safety improvements. Participant Mark Whitby, formerly president in 2001 of the Institution of Civil Engineers stated:
‘St Pancras International itself may be a masterpiece of transport engineering but this stops when you walk out of the station. The streets around it are the opposite of European best practice and are an insult to anyone who is walking or cycling. While pedestrians leaving the new station are herded into
cattle pens to cross the road, cyclists are sent round an extended gyratory system.”
Then the station car park was inspected, where last night 100 new cycle stands were rushed in by an embarrassed Network Rail. Previously there were only 30 unsecured
wheelbender loops at the furthest end of the car park. Camden Cycling Campaign co-ordinator Jean Dollimore said:
“Proper stands for 100 bikes is definitely a step in the right direction but the huge demand at other London stations shows we’re likely to need a lot more. Rotterdam’s new railway station is to have 8,000 while Cambridge is being expanded from 2,000 to 3,000.”
Finally the cyclists managed to take their bicycles and banners in with them into the main platform and rang their bells in to join in the celebrations when the first services arrived.
Eurostar have now promised to enable customers to reserve cycles onto the same train that they are travelling on rather than the current “within 24 hours” by early 2008, becoming the first high speed service in Europe to permit cycles on all its trains. However this will be too late for those travelling today to Paris who are likely to find all public transport suspended and huge queues for the popular Vélib rental cycles. City Cyclists co-ordinator Ralph Smyth said:
“What’s the point of saving 20 minutes only to be stuck in traffic jams or face unreliable public transport services? Cycling is not just the fastest and most reliable way around London, Paris and Brussels it’s also the greenest.”
Koy Thomson, Chief Executive of LCC, said: “If Eurostar presents itself as the modern low-carbon alternative to air travel, it must think beyond its stations and help customers make sustainable choices.”
Greenpeace were holding another demo – they had bravely scaled the station building. We exchanged waves as we rode along Euston Road on our station circuits. The photo on the right shows Des Kay’s glorious banner (see Save the World Club) below with the Greenpeace banner above. The drawing on the left was the Ham and High’s comment (29 Nov 2007).
See the news items and pictures at:
Photos by Lionel Shapiro and Ralph Smyth
Read about the results . We have achieved quite a lot already as a result of the demo.