More than a third of Scotland’s households have limited or no access to a safe place to store their bike, a report has shown.
Research by the country’s national cycling group Cycling Scotland found of the 2.6 million residential properties in Scotland, about 37% (980,290) are flats in tenements, high-rises and apartment blocks that have no private outdoor space for sheds or garages where people can safely store their bikes.
That is an estimated 1.5 million people.
The report found people living in areas where the percentage of flats as a proportion of all residential properties is high, such as Glasgow (72%), Edinburgh (65%) and Aberdeen (55%), notice the storage issue more.
In the absence of safe spaces for storing bikes, residents are forced to lock them in communal closes, stairwells, hallways, balconies, railings – or in their homes.
With regards to social housing residents, who are, according to the report, four times less likely to own a car, almost half of them – 46% – are unlikely to have somewhere suitable to store a bike, Cycling Scotland said.
This can make jobs, education and other important services less accessible.
The report noted there is currently little detail about minimum standards for residential cycle storage, nor is there a requirement to provide it in national planning and transport policies.
And planning policies and guidance among Scottish local authorities on cycle storage vary significantly, with most only making brief reference to provision and few giving any detail about cycle storage standards.
Kath Brough, head of behaviour change at Cycling Scotland, said securing safe cycle storage across the country could have “a transformative effect” on the number of people cycling in Scotland.
The report made recommendations to improve conditions for bike owners.
These included improving and creating more residential cycle storage on a national scale, which involves developing plans for retrofitting – the addition of new technology or features to older buildings.
And it warned the differing needs of people who cycle – particularly those who use non-standard bikes or who are disabled – need to be recognised more.
Brough said: “Lack of safe, secure, covered, accessible and conveniently located cycle storage is a barrier to owning and using a bike.
“We know from research that a third of people in Scotland say not having somewhere to store a bike prevents them from cycling for everyday journeys, and this particularly affects those from lower socio-economic groups.
“As we face a cost-of-living crisis, it’s urgent that we do everything we can to make it easier for people to make affordable journeys – and a bike helps people to reach employment, education and essential services reliably and cheaply.
“Residents in high-rise buildings, tenement flats and apartment blocks cannot reasonably be expected to keep cycles within the property and the availability of suitable secure cycle storage nearby is often scarce.
“This issue has become more prevalent in recent years as fire safety policies – which understandably prohibit the storage of cycles in common areas such as stairwells – are being enforced more consistently.”
She added: “We aim to work with the Scottish Government and partners at a national and local level, to make sure that everyone in our country has a safe and appropriate place to store their bikes.”
Queens Cross Housing Association has used funding from Glasgow City Council and Cycling Scotland to install five separate secure storage facilities which provide parking for 96 bikes over recent years.
The standalone structure is in a central, street-lit location, close to people’s homes, with motion sensor lighting inside.
Jamie Ballantine, of the association, said: “Staff and residents alike have often told us how the lack of cycle storage is a barrier to bicycle ownership and active travel.
“Our new cycle stores were in regular use from day one, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive with all spaces now booked.
“Some residents have even said that they have been able to buy a bike for the first time, now they have somewhere to store it.
“The stores have removed a barrier: residents no longer have to carry bikes upstairs or store them in their flats.
“On-site secure cycle parking makes choosing to cycle an easier option for residents, and it also makes it easier for people to own and store bicycles for their children.”
Minister for active travel Patrick Harvie said he welcomed the report and said the Scottish Government will “look closely” at the recommendations made.
He added: “The Scottish Government is providing funding to local authorities and registered social landlords, delivered through the expertise of Cycling Scotland – and we continuously look at the effectiveness of our funding approaches and how we can build and improve.
“With record funding now available in Scotland, and a commitment to investing £320m or 10% of the transport budget on active travel by 2024/25, we’re committed to building an Active Nation and making it easier for people to walk, wheel and cycle for everyday journeys.”