Erik Kjærgaard

UK & Europe

Erik is a bicycle expert at Atkins, working in Denmark, and consults in mobility management with a special focus on cycling and coherence between public transport and cycling.

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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!

Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, North America, Rest of World, UK & Europe,

There was a recent article on the BBC website about the pile of bicycles plaguing Copenhagen – and I agree, it’s true; cycle parking is a great problem for Copenhagen.

However, it is not only a problem for Copenhagen. London, where cycle traffic has increased from one per cent to two per cent of the total traffic in the past five years (i.e. 100 per cent more), is increasingly experiencing the problem as well, particularly near stations. And trust me, the issue will only increase as cycling in London is set to grow around five per cent over the coming years.

The bicycle is sure enough a very flexible transport solution and takes up only a tenth of a parking space when compared to a typical car. However, as the number of cyclists increases, it becomes necessary to enable cycle parking within a distance of no more than 30-40 metres from the end destination, e.g. the entrance to a train station. The fundamental idea of cycling is that you can get as close to your final destination as possible – so any thought of having the cyclist walking more than 30-40 metres from their parked bicycle to their end destination can be wiped out.

Cities that wish to increase cycle traffic – and luckily there are a lot of those around the world – need to take the issue of cycle parking facilities very seriously. Consider how much space cars take up in our cities, not just in terms of road infrastructure, but in terms of cars parking in the streets. Try doing a survey of your city; you will be surprised when you see how much of your city is used by cars.

The greatest challenge is finding new and creative solutions for ensuring sufficient cycle parking facilities exist at the necessary locations in the city, e.g. near stations, traffic terminals, educational institutions, shopping centres, concert rooms, pedestrian streets, theatres, workplaces and residential areas. The Netherlands is probably the country closest to a solution. Japan, despite their low number of cyclists, is used to having a small amount of space available, so they know how to make compressed cycle parking facilities. The areas available in a big city are often desirable (and expensive) so every square metre must be used in the best possible way. Thinking only of the design is of no use in this instance. The best solution with regards to design and intelligence is one that holds enough space for a large number of bikes and takes up the least amount of city area – while still keeping user-friendly cycle parking in mind of course.

During the past five decades, cars have taken up an increased amount of space in our cities resulting in billions of Danish kroner being spent on the construction of parking garages – also in Copenhagen. However, not a single parking garage for bicycles has been built in necessary locations, which indicates that bicycles are not taken as seriously as cars in our big cities. This needs to be changed if we want to increase the number of cyclists – whether it is in Copenhagen, London or elsewhere.

Cities need to grow accustomed to bicycles taking up space and requiring investment – particularly with regards to the streets, in terms of constructing separate bicycle lanes and appropriately sized cycle parking facilities wherever they are necessary. It may be that we even have to dispel the myth that cyclists, as opposed to drivers, are not willing to pay for parking.

The challenge of having cycle parking near all the important locations in the big cities is capacity, capacity, capacity – i.e. too many bicycles in one place. In some cities you need to make parking garages under the ground or up in the air (the Netherlands), on water (Malmø, Amsterdam), using the canopy on stations or traffic terminals (Japan), and in other cities you simply have to use the existing building stock available at each location. For instance, in Tokyo it is a requirement that contractors building high-rise units reserve some of the lower levels for cycle parking facilities, and if they are not reserved for this purpose, the build will be declined.

Although intelligent cycle parking facilities are often referred to as the innovation that will solve our problems with new IT solutions, in the critical and important areas of our cities technology may not always be the answer. Rather we need a back-to-basics solutions in terms of sufficient cycle parking facilities in all the right locations in a city.

UK & Europe,