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Bike racks for train seats could keep passengers socially distanced

Coronavirus: PriestmanGoode unveils new seat design

Mark Moran
01 June 2020
PriestmanGoode`s Island Bay seat design can accommodate temporary bike racks
PriestmanGoode`s Island Bay seat design can accommodate temporary bike racks
The Island Bay seat concept in conventional use
The Island Bay seat concept in conventional use


Designers are working to make more space for bicycles on commuter trains while keeping passengers socially distanced during the coronavirus pandemic.

London-based PriestmanGoode agency has prototyped a removable rack for bikes to slot in on narrow train seats facing each other. It is estimated up to 36 extra bicycles could then fit into each carriage to “make optimal use” of space while observing social distancing.

With train services running to revised timetables and passenger capacity reduced to as low as 10%, the company has devised flexible new design to make optimal use of space blocked-off to ensure social distancing.

Its idea is that trains would have seating ‘bays’ where the deep seats could be flipped up into a perch-style arrangement at peak times and allow extra standing room, or give more room for bicycles stood upright.

The racks are designed so they can be removed at peak times when there is more of a crush or to make room for wheelchairs and buggies.

The design is an enhancement of designs created for the Tomorrow’s Train Design Today challenge, which was funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB). The competition resulted in the ‘Island Bay’ and ‘Horizon’ seats that increase capacity by up to 15-20% per carriage (based on a standard commuter train).

Paul Priestman, designer and chairman of PriestmanGoode, said: “As transport designers, the ‘first and last mile’ have always been important considerations for us as our design approach considers the entire customer journey. People typically use their own car, buses or underground services to start and end their journey, but many would prefer to use bikes as a lower-cost and more flexible alternative. We have found a way to adapt our ‘Island Bay’ seating design so that more bikes can be easily and safely accommodated onboard commuter trains.

“The space the bikes occupy helps with social distancing onboard and enables the passenger to continue or complete their journey at either end. The flexible nature of the design has allowed us to adapt it very quickly to a different set of circumstances and accommodate bikes safely within each carriage as well as restricting seating to enforce social distancing measures. By installing flexible seating, train operators are able to adapt to changing customer needs from extra space needed for luggage, bikes or buggies to extra standing space at peak time.

“We understand that passengers coming into London are looking to travel at a safe distance during their commute, but the prospect of a crowded bus or underground carriage may put them off making the entire journey.

“As urban planners in our major cities close roads to traffic to ease pressure on public transport systems and move people on to alternatives such as bikes, the revision to the Island Bay seating configuration supports that goal too. We also detect that commuters will be making healthier choices for the first and last mile of their journey as a consequence of this crisis.”

Key features of the seat include aisle rests with padded backs for passengers who would otherwise be standing unsupported and twin USB ports at every seat. The configuration complements existing seating in other carriages to meet the needs of the widest range of passengers.

The seat is manufactured by Transcal Engineering. The prototype has been built and the design agency is looking to work with train operators to test installation of the concept.

PriestmanGoode’s work includes designing the New Tube for London, which is due to run on the Piccadilly Line in 2023. The £1.5 billion fleet of 94 trains will replace current 1970s rolling stock.

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