It was said once, by someone who knows about these things, that the best designs excel in both form and function.
A product needs to both look beautiful, and work well. And be easy to use.
Just occasionally something comes along that fails so spectacularly in both departments that it merits some kind of Epic Design Fail Award.
Yesterday, I came across one of these. It is a new bicycle parking facility at Cambridge station. When once considers that the word 'facility' derives from the Latin, facilis, meaning 'easy', I think it is used very generously indeed in this case.
For anyone else who ever comes across one of these Epic Design Fails, I have written the following helpful guide to using them.
Step One; Parking your bike.
1. Spend 18 minutes looking for a free rack. Miss your train.
2. Find one free rack, up on the higher level. Sceptically ponder the likelihood of ever getting your bicycle on it, given that even when the 'ramp' is dropped down it's still at least a foot above the ground, and then you need to hoik it up above your head. And your bike weighs approximately 3 billion kgs. Miss another train.
3. Decide that there is no way on this earth that you are ever going to get your bicycle up there without breaking your neck, back and spirit.
4. After further searching, now half a mile from the station itself, find ONE empty rack, on the bottom level. Do a victory dance.
Miss another train.
5. Start trying to squeeze your bicycle into the tiny gap between the two other bikes on either side, and underneath the ones above your head. Destroy your wicker bike basket as it gets wedged and scraped between the other bikes. Only manage to get your bike about three feet in, before it gets stuck.
6. Decide to leave it there, as you are about to miss a third train.
7. Realise that all of your bags are still in your bike basket, which is now unreachable, what with being buried several feet in front of you under the stack of bicycles, helmets and D-locks, and those metal racks above your head.
8. Duck down and crawl between the bicycles, smacking your head on the metal racks above several times, ripping your tights and getting oil and blood all over your coat, until, using a long pole, a fishing rod and your new-found Arm-Extending Superpowers you manage to JUST reach the handle of your bag, yank it out and drag it towards you along the ground.
9. Spend five minutes picking up all of the things that have fallen out of your bag during this maneuver. Decide not to crawl all the way back in to retrieve your mascara and granola bar, which you can see, covered in dust, near your front wheel.
10. Attempt to lock your bike to the rack, but realise that you can't because that would require fighting your way back down the alleyway of head-banging, clothes-ripping hell. Leave it, and run for train, wiping blood off your lapels along the way.
Step two; collecting your bike.
1. Leave the station after a long, exhausting day, and spend ten minutes trying to remember where you finally abandoned your bike twelve hours ago, while bleeding from the head.
2. During your search in the pitch dark, walk straight into three of the higher level racks, which have either fallen down or just been abandoned there, presumably by other Epic Fail Bike Rack users who just want to GO HOME NOW PLEASE. Break shin bone. Swear loudly.
3. Find bike! Cry with joy.
4. Move to put all of your bags into your bike basket so that you can unlock your bike, but realise that you can't because your basket is still completely unreachable, deep inside the mess of metal, handlebars and WD40.
5. Put all of your belongings onto the ground, where they get covered in dust, urine and discarded chewing gum.
6. Hit head on metal rack again, while trying to unlock bike. Swear again.
7. Finally manage to reverse bike out of rack. Notice that basket is now ripped in six places.
8. Attempt to balance your wobbling bike with one hand while bending down to pick up all of your dirty bags, and put them into basket. Bike falls on top of you three times while doing this. Swear again. Cry from exhaustion and desperation.
9. Get all of your belongings into the basket, carefully negotiate the huge metal racks that are still jutting out into the dark, and start to cycle home.
10. Decide never ever ever ever ever ever to try and use the new, shiny, unspeakably ugly, utterly impractical £200,000 bike racks again, and lament the loss of the beautiful trees that used to throw shade on the lovely, simple, USEABLE bike racks of old. Refrain from saying 'I remember when this was all fields!', or spend any time thinking about what you'd like to do to the moron who created this Epic Design Fail. Or the people who decided to buy it....
Good luck. Remember; cycling is good for you. It's just the parking that half kills you.