The Dutch have done it again!

Erik Kjærgaard | 09 Mar 2015 | Comments

For many decades, the Dutch have been far ahead in bicycle parking, even compared to my cycling country, Denmark.

I first visited the Netherlands in 1990 to study bicycle parking at stations. The Dutch had, even then, many more bike parking at stations than in Denmark. Back then, they inspired us to pilot the Dutch model Cycle Centres at a few stations but unfortunately it was not taken up as widely as in the Netherlands, where about 100 stations had Cycle Centres with parking, bike sales and repair shops. It also meant they could monitor the use of cycles.

The Dutch Cycle Centres were mostly situated in cellars below stations and the number of bicycle parking spaces were huge compared to similar sized stations in Denmark. The situation is the same today – the major Dutch stations accommodate two to three times as many bicycle parking spaces in proportion to the number of passengers as there are in Denmark.

At the major stations in the Netherlands, around 10-15 per cent of the passengers use the bike to get to the station. In Denmark at large stations in Greater Copenhagen it is only four to eight per cent. At major stations in cities outside Copenhagen, there may be up to 10-15 per cent and quite extraordinarily, in Denmark’s third largest city Odense, it is 30 per cent. But the corresponding figures in the Netherlands are up to 60-70 per cent. So in general two to three more people in the Netherlands compared to Denmark use bicycles as transport to and from stations.

What is also remarkable is that in the Netherlands there are ambitious plans to expand the number of bicycle parking spaces at major stations. For example at Utrecht Central where there are currently approximately 12,000 parking spaces, the new station centre will be fully integrated with 20,000 parking spaces for bicycles, and therefore by the “cycle rate” will increase to 20 per cent from 13 per cent. In Denmark’s largest station Nørreport which is currently being redeveloped, the number of bicycle parking spaces are increasing from 1100 to 2000, equivalent to cycling rate increase from about two per cent to four per cent.

My main point is that in the Netherlands, many travelers combine the bicycle with the train for their daily commute, not only because the country is densely populated, but because there is a longstanding tradition of establishing adequate bicycle parking spaces (although not all stations in Netherlands have enough). It is much better to encourage travelers to bike to the station rather than face the unwelcoming and totally overcrowded stations as in Denmark.

The Dutch understand that a traffic terminal is first of all a place where people are switching between different modes of transport, and that it requires sufficient capacity for bicycle parking. They are investing billions into this in a major program to ensure very large expansions of the number of bicycle parking spaces as close to the trains as possible not only in Amsterdam and Utrecht, but at a number of other major stations as an integrated part of the station centres. I have also noticed that bicycle parking is becoming a highly visible problem in London, despite efforts that LTR are making with all kinds of measures such as two-level bike racks at major stations. In dense city areas there will always be a struggle for the same square metres – it´s a matter of prioritising bicycle parking as an important part of the station or terminal.

Large towns and cities which want to attract more bicycle traffic will have to take bicycle parking much more seriously and invest in the same professional way as has been done with car parking over many decades. Whether it is a parking garage for bicycles, using existing well-located buildings, building new high towers with automated bicycle parking, finding creative solutions underground …. and now also underwater as in the Netherlands, this depends on the capabilities of the sites, for example, not only at stations but also at shopping centres or educational institutions.

The bike’s great strength in dense city areas of being fast, flexible and taking up little space have become its Achilles’ heel. Cities mistakenly believe that they do not need to consider organised bicycle parking in the same way as for cars. But at some point there will be so many bikes in key locations that cyclists simply do not find room and resort to other modes of transport.

Well done, Netherlands – once again showing the way to be ambitious on bicycle parking!