Amsterdam runs out of bicycle parking

Photo Credit: P. Prokopchik for The New York Times
Photo Credit: P. Prokopchik for The New York Times

It’s a problem that most cities can only imagine…to have exhausted the supply of bike parking!

It could only be Amsterdam, a city of 800,000, whose inhabitants own an estimated 880,000 bikes — four times the number of cars in their garages.     The ridership statistics are impressive – reportedly 58% of the population use a bike daily and 43% commute to work by bicycle.

Heralded as one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities, Amsterdam must now contend with the consequences of its successful cycling campaign, which has resulted in a 40% increase in cycling activity in the last two decades.  Cycle-related accidents have expectedly increased, but the major issue for the community is the severe lack of bicycle parking, reports Citylab.

Planning the infrastructure required to support those remarkable statistics has been on the agenda for several years.  According to recent announcements, the city has pledged to spend €120m over the next eight years on bicycle infrastructure, which will bring an additional 38,000 new parking spaces for bikes around transport hubs.  There are plans for a major underground (partially underwater) facility which will provide an additional 17,500 spaces within the next five years.

Meanwhile, commuters that have given up on finding legal parking places are just chaining their bikes to whatever stationary object they can find, littering the already cramped city. Despite attempts to control illegal parking, the economics are making this a difficult method of enforcement.  Reportedly, the city removed 73,000 illegally parked bikes in 2013.  While it costs the city on average  €50 to €70 per bike to remove,  the owner pays only €10-12 to pick up the bike from the impound.  Raising the fee might sound logical, but the reality is that bikes are cheap in Amsterdam, and there’s a tipping point which would ultimately discourage retrieval.

It is mooted that some commuters leave bikes parked in multiple places around town, as there are few restrictions around length of stay.  Add to that thousands of abandoned/unused bicycles, and you start to understand the city’s dilemma.  Dare we say, as with cars, there’s no such thing as “free parking”, and it is now up to the City of Amsterdam to uncover the best and fairest way to allocate what has become a scarce resource.

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