I’ve stayed in Premier Inn quite a few times now. It’s a really convenient hotel to stay in and was especially helpful when I was doing EV road trips over the last few years. They’re all very similar in design. The rooms are virtually identical across the board, they’re good quality but not overly expensive, they’re air conditioned (I’ll get back to that) and they offer everything you need for your stay.
But it was only during my most recent stay in one, at the hotel north of the city of Cambridge that I realised I could live there. Of course you would need to have a cooker and therefore some kind of kitchen, but aside from that, it offers everything I need.
The location is great. It’s super quiet and I was able to cycle into the city centre easily with my Brompton using the guided busway path that runs all the way along it. It could have more separation between bikes and pedestrians but coming from the cycling hell that is Worthing, I was just happy to see no cars and a smooth surface. And storing the bike itself was incredibly easy. The rooms have a corner near the window where you can leave a full size bike or several full size bikes. A Brompton can be left there half folded with a huge amount of space remaining.
Even walking the bike through the hotel was easier than I thought. At first I folded it all the way down, but then I realised no one cared if it wasn’t folded, and so I just rolled it all the way through from my room to the lift, which it fitted in easily. And then straight through the lobby and out front. It was just pure joy. The fact that I was so excited by this seemingly simple revelation probably lends credence to my “cycling hell” comment.
The experience of cycling in Cambridge was great. It’s not Utrecht of course, but it’s a long way from a cycling hell, and for me it may as well have been a Dutch city for those few days I was there. But I want to get back to the subject of the hotel itself.
Premier Inns are generally in low to medium rise buildings, and built to a fairly modern design standard. These are exactly the types of dwellings we need to be building to facilitate sustainable living. It’s no longer enough to build 3 bedroom detached houses, equip them with solar panels and a heat pump and then brush your hands together and say job well done.
Real sustainability is living in the smallest area you can with the least amount of stuff you can. Instead of detached houses, it’s about modern apartment buildings with communal gardens. Or better yet, a street with only apartment buildings, with a giant green space connecting them all to help nature thrive. With no car parking, built for cycling. Secure bike parking garages and bike roads (with the ability for RoboTaxis or deliveries of large goods to get in. Not everything can be delivered by cargo bike after all.)
Last September when I was in Cambridge, I was there during a week of extreme temperatures. Fortunately not as extreme as the record setting time earlier in the summer, but it was still stifling every day. The fact that all rooms are individually air conditioned was so crucial during that time.
Every day I would get up early and get out on the bike as soon as I could. I enjoyed exploring the city and the surrounding area, and I aimed to get back to the hotel before midday, or before it got too hot.
And then I basically just relaxed in the air conditioned room until the evening when I went to get some dinner. Had it not been for the AC I would have really struggled to cope with the conditions. So I was really thankful to have it.
We need to immediately start building these types of low rise apartments immediately considering it takes years to design and build them. And we need to ban our favourite 90s style cookie cutter housing estates and limit the disastrous urban sprawl just as fast.
It’s really hard to be positive right now considering everything that’s going on. We can’t even solve a crisis that simply requires staying away from people and wearing masks. So when you then look everywhere and see basically everyone treating the climate disaster in the same stupid way, I don’t know what to do any more. But if people do smarten the fuck up in the near future and want to do something, then making housing look like Premier Inn would be a good place to start.