Pushing for cycle-friendly train designs

Three members of the York Cycle Campaign set up a meeting with Jim Brewin, the Chief Director UK & Ireland at Hitachi Rail.

The company designs trains for the UK rail operating companies (including Azuma and some TransPennine stock) to the brief and budget of the rail operating companies. Many of the designs for longer journeys in use around the network exclude people who want to travel with their own (non-folding) cycle. 

The problem may arise because someone uses a larger-longer-wider-taller cycle, whether bespoke or adapted. Perhaps it’s a mobility aid and/or a family- or goods-transporting alternative to a car. 

A photo of an upright cycle storage locker designed for cycles. A road bike is already hung in one slot which means there's not enough room for the second mountain bike to fit.
Azuma cycle locker – too narrow to fit in the second cycle

The cycle storage on trains such as Azumas is in a locker. The space is very limited. They are intended for use by two cycles stored vertically but this is not always possible (see photo). If a cycle cannot be properly loaded it can become a safety issue, which is a key consideration when designing trains. A further problem is if you want to travel as a family. Can you book enough spaces? 

A pile of suitcases occupy the cycle locker
Booked a space on LNER but someone got there first…

Another issue is passengers must hang their cycles on hooks. Most of the population would struggle to do this. And as the trend is for e-cycles which are heavier, as people age or simply ‘upgrade’ their cycle, those who could lift their previous design might find they can no longer travel. (On average, e-cycles weigh about twice as much as a standard pushbike).

Juliet, Rebecca and Robyn explained they were unable to lift their cycles onto hooks. Robyn and Rebecca showed Jim Brewin their machines. Each is set up for utility purposes including shopping but is used for the whole range of journeys we need to make: family, fitness, leisure, professional, social and cycle touring.

Juliet explained about the effect of the hooks and the limited spaces when traveling as a family.

We asked that we could be included in future planning. It seems, as Juliet said, that if there was a pre-design discussion about who travels it was based on commuters. We felt it had been assumed that such passengers were likely male (so on average taller and stronger than us) and using lightweight, luggage-free designs of cycle. We represent a range of ages, life styles and levels of fitness. We are more typical of the general population. 

After the meeting Jim Brewin emailed: “I enjoyed the discussion and appreciated the feedback and honesty. As discussed I will send over some details of our inclusive design process in the coming days.”

For several years LNER has been promising a meeting with Rebecca to discuss the lockers and the hooks. She will keep pushing for this and hopes Juliet and Robyn will be able to attend. There’s clearly a need for greater diversity of design.

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