Secure bike parking makes a difference in decision to ride for short trips
August 31, 2010
During a period of unprecedented momentum for urban bicycling in the U.S., the Bikes Belong Foundation is leading a fact-finding trip to the Netherlands to bring home European transportation best practices. Eleven city leaders from the San Francisco Bay Area will spend a week in four Dutch cities between August 29 and September 4. This trip is part of Bikes Belong's Bicycling Design Best Practices Project.
Transportation writer and editor Jay Walljasper is accompanying the delegation on the trip to the Netherlands to chronicle the events, observations, and inspirations gained by the tour. The BIkes Belong newsfeed will feature his blog posts this week.
On tour with a dozen transportation leaders from the Bay Area seeking ideas about how to promote bike travel in their communites, we landed today in The Hague—the seat of the Dutch government.
Bikes account for 27 percent of all trips around this city of 500,000—exactly the average for the Netherlands as a whole. Den Haag (as its known here) is spending 10 million euros a year (roughly 14 million dollars) to improve those impressive numbers.
Hidde van der Bijl, a policy officer for cycling in Hague’s city government, outlined their strategy about improving bicycle speed and safety by separating bike paths as much as possible from city streets and creating bike boulevards where two wheelers gain priority over four wheelers. In spots where there is not space for anything more than a painted bike lane on the road, they intend to color the pavement red so everyone will understand this portion of the street is for bikes.
These are practical innovations that could make a dramatic difference in every American town. But the Hague is not stopping there. Realizing that safety and speed are not the only things that prevent people from riding bikes more frequently, they are tackling the little discussed issues of bike parking.
This might seem trivial to Americans who seldom find it hard to park their bikes when less than one percent of all urban trips around the country are made on cycles. But it is actually a major discouragement for many would-be bikers on both sides of the Atlantic (and the Pacific, too).
“The car is parked out in front of the house on the street, while the bike is stuffed away out back in a shed or they have to carry it down the stairs from their apartment,” van der Bijl explained. “So people choose the car because it is easier.”
People also worry about their bike being stolen from in front of their home or outside work and other destinations. That’s why expanding secure bike parking in residential neighborhoods, commercial districts and workplaces is a priority for Hague’s transportation planners.
The city is busy expanding the number of parking facilities watched over by attendants, building them in the basement of new office developments and strategic outdoor locations throughout the center city. You can park your favorite bike there for a nominal fee, confident that it will still be then when you return. (Groningen, the Netherlands biking capital with 59 percent of urban trips made on two wheels, debuted the first secure parking facility in 1982 and now sports more than 30 in a town of 180,000.)
Meanwhile in high density residential neighborhoods, where most people live in apartments, the city is beginning to install bike racks and small sheds on the sidewalks to make life easier for bike commuters, sometimes taking over auto parking spaces to do it.
Ed Reiskin, San Francisco’s director of public works, likes the idea. “We don’t have the same critical mass of bikes as the Hague,” he noted, “but it’s an issue for me because I always have to carry my bicycle down to the street.”
S. L. The issue of high probability of theft plus lack of safe streets from speeding traffic is the real dampener of cycling over here. Finally it is taken seriously somewhere in the world.
Posted on September 19, 2010