New IPO foreign correspondent Shiloh Ballard gives us an update to her cycling mission in the Netherlands.
On the way to Utrecht from Amsterdam, the first thing I noticed about bikes was the bike parking. I saw a double decker parking structure and was shocked. That was just the beginning. There were full blown parking garages with thousands of bikes. Utrecht station has parking for 12,000 bikes and 8,000 more planned.
As I looked out the window during the train ride, I was particularly struck by covered bike parking. I thought to myself, that seems kind of strange, unnecessary and even luxurious. The next day, our delegation rode bikes to Utrecht City Hall in the pouring rain, a weather type that is common in the Netherlands and rare in the Bay Area. As I stood in the rain fumbling with my bike lock, I wished for a covered bike parking area.
This realization jives with an overall theme we heard from the four cities
we visited on a bike study tour through Bikes Belong, (Utrecht, The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam). The less convenient you make cycling, the less people will ride. We repeatedly heard that bike parking is the #1 challenge because if folks can’t park conveniently near their destination, they opt for something else. And, since most homes are “high density”, rolling a bike up a flight of stairs for secure bike storage acts as an impediment.
The potential exists for us to face similar bike parking problems. In fact, at the Leadership Group office where I work, we are prohibited from storing our bikes in the building. Secure bike parking is provided in the parking garage which is a five minute plus walk from our office. No one even parks their car there because the walk and time associated with it makes it inconvenient. We cyclists break the rules everyday by rolling bikes up to the office, especially since some of us have expensive rigs and have experienced the heartbreak of a stolen bike.
As we in California trend towards more compact, sustainable development, bike parking will increasingly become a problem. For example, if you live in one of the new highrise developments in downtown San Jose, where do you store your bike?
There is one local developer who has implemented a very creative solution. He calls it a “bike kitchen.” Adjacent to the Diridon Station, a beautifully converted/preserved old cannery called Plant 51 is now a condo development complete with a secure room for storing and wrenching on bikes. This “bike kitchen” is also fully stocked with tubes and tools.
Bike parking is only one of many hurdles to cycling but this trip made me realize it is an important ingredient in the ease of ridership equation. The Dutch still struggle with it but their solutions are ones that are immediately importable for us. Here are some of the things they do:
– They have ample publicly and privately owned bike parking facilities underground. Usually there is a membership fee. And, in many of the Dutch facilities, they pay attention to every little detail to make the experience hassle free, including a groove for your bike tires as you’re wheeling it downstairs.
– Bike racks that are staggered so that more bikes can be squeezed into
more space by preventing handle bars from clashing.
– Gigantic park and ride facilities at transit stations (P&R as they call them.)
– Efforts to clear the streets of disowned bikes. We were told that in Amsterdam, they clear 22,000 abandoned bikes off the streets each year.
Okay – maybe we won’t have to worry about this problem. But for them, abandoned bikes take up valuable bike parking.
– They also require new commercial and residential development to include bike parking.