Thursday, June 02, 2011

Bath's new cycle racks

They came in the night, silently and without warning. Dark grey, purposeful, skeletal shapes, they embedded themselves at strategic junctions, pierced the streets with their alien roots, locked themselves down firmly, and waited.

Cycle corral, Barton Street, Bath
Few saw their coming. Even fewer saw them change, from their original, other-worldly, insectoid forms into a disguise so eerily accurate that in the cold light of dawn they very nearly blended in with the scenery.

Nearly, but not quite. A few observant souls realised as they trod Bath’s early morning streets that something had changed. Forever.

Enough of this nonsense. The arrival of Bath’s new bike racks is a serious matter, not to be trivialised into a sub-Stephen-King-style tale of tension, horror and catharsis.

Up to a couple of weeks ago, our bike racks, or cycle parking spaces, or whatever the appropriate name is, were rather ordinary-looking affairs. The majority resembled nothing more nor less than an unfolded staple with its pointy ends stuck into the pavement.

(Although in the course of the in-depth preparation for this piece – which involved standing up and looking out of the back window of Bath Chronicle Towers – one researcher did discover some odd spring-shaped stands at the bottom end of Kingsmead Square. But two of them are so badly bent that they could only be used by one of those racing bikes that goes round a banked circuit at 45°. Can a square have an end? We digress.)

The new bike racks, which are apparently known as "cycle corrals", are a much classier proposition. They’re painted the shade of grey you normally find on your very rich friends’ new kitchen units, and what’s really clever about them is that they’re shaped like cars.

Cycle corral, Queen Square, Bath
For a number of reasons, this is a very good idea.

First off, it continues Bath’s long tradition of thought-provoking street art.

Three years ago it was pigs, last year it was lions. This time it’s battleship-grey automobiles.

Second off, real cars will be less likely to drive “accidentally” into the new bike racks. Cars never deliberately attack their own kind (it’s always the other car’s fault), and they aren’t intelligent enough to tell the difference between the real thing and a clever simulacrum. Thus the new stands are less susceptible to attack. Look at the picture: the blue BMW is keeping a respectful distance. QED.

Third, and most importantly, it will sow doubt in the minds of car drivers. “Here’s this bike rack,” they’ll think. “It takes up the same space as my car, but they’ve managed to fit 12 bikes into it. If we all got out of our cars and onto our bikes, wouldn’t life be grand!”

Do drivers really think like that? Well, hope springs eternal...

The new cycle corrals have been spotted in Milsom Street, Queen Square, Westgate Buildings and Barton Street.

There are doubtless others breeding even as you read this, but our researcher was getting tired and had to have a sit-down.

They encourage cycling, they don’t bung up the pavements, they don’t spoil the view, and what’s more they annoy inveterate car drivers.

Bring 'em on - the more, the merrier.


  1. "Even fewer saw them change, from their original, other-worldly, insectoid forms into a disguise so eerily accurate that in the cold light ..." Bwahahahaha!

  2. "...and what’s more they annoy inveterate car drivers."
    Trouble is, that's too easy to do. Thin skinned, that lot.
    Still fun, though.