Amsterdam city taking on the challenge created by needs of bicycle storage in railway stations

Last decade the role and relevance of the bicycle in Dutch mobility
has improved. In cities like Amsterdam, the bicycle share in the
modal split has grown at the expense of the car share and that
of the public transport. In the city of Amsterdam about 800.000
inhabitants live who togehter own about 880.000 private bikes,
so there is 1.1 bicycles on every inhabitant. This growth partly
results from a compelling cycling transport policy in cooperation
between the regional government and the local governments.
Albeit also some challenges have to be mastered. For instance, in
the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area the first traffic jams for cyclist
occur in the major cycling routes. Also a growing demand for
parking facilities for bicycles in public streets occurs, at public
transport nodes and especially at railway stations. This article
focuses on the bicycle parking at railway stations.

The position of bicycles in chain mobility
The bicycle is undeniably an important mean of transport in the
Netherlands. The bicycle itself is especially useful for short journeys
up to 7,5 to 10 kilometres distance. However, combined with
public transport it is even more successful. In 1990 only 6% of
the users of the Dutch Railway network travelled to the railway
station by bike. This percentage increased up to 30% in 2000,
40% in 2010 and a record 42% in 2012. At the railway station
of arrival about 15% of the users of the Dutch Railways continue
their journey by bicycle.

Bicycle parking at Railway stations and public transport

Based on the Dutch legislation there are both guarded and
unguarded bicycle parking places at Railway stations. The ratio is
about 30% guarded and 70% unsurveiled. At the biggest
railway stations the guarded bicycle storage is done in a building
or in a basement, the unguarded on the forecourt of the railway
station. To use the guarded facility a cyclist has to pay a fee of
about € 1,25 a day or € 103,00 for a year subscription. Due to
some technical innovations the quality of the unguarded bicycle parking facilities have improved to meet the demands of the
cyclist. And the unguarded facilities are also free of use. So the
increased demand for unguarded facilities is a major issue,
leaving most guarded facilities with unused capacity.

To estimate the needed numbers of bicycle parking places
ProRail (Dutch rail infrastructure manager) modulated forecasts
for the years 2020 and 2030. These forecasts are based on
counted bicycles near a railway station, predictions of passenger
growth and trends in transportation. The table illustrates the need
for bicycle parking places at the two biggest stations in the
Amsterdam Metropolitan Area in 2020 and 2030.

To raise the capacity of unguarded bicycle parking places at the
railway stations new storage facilities where added to the forecourts.
However, nearby most railway stations, especially in
dense urban areas, there is not enough space to continue
adding cycle parking places to cope with the growing needs.
Besides, most cities have the ambition to improve the attractiveness
and quality of the public space on forecourts, whilst removing
thousands parked bicycles that interfere with this ambition.

This asks for new ways of facilitating the unguarded bicycle
parking places like in dedicated buildings for the bicycles of
building big cellars (sometimes with a capacity of 5.000 bicycles).
These facilities demand new methods to manage and supervise
in order to safeguard the user compared to the bicycle parking
places on forecourts. This sometimes results in facilities with a
usage fee creating tension between the need to facilitate the
demanded capacity, the increasing costs of the management and
surveillance (for the municipality or operator) and the policy
to stimulate the usage of the bicycles.

To make sure that the cyclist use the big, guarded bicycle parking
places instead of park their bikes at bridge railings, trees or
lampposts, there are two options:

  • Seduce the cyclist to use the facility or
  • Cancel the need for subscriptions or fees.

Dutch Railways (NS) who mostly operates bicycle parking facilities
have experimented on some bicycle parking facilities with new
ways of bicycle parking. They created options like valet parking
and “premium parking” experimenting with the yield of fees.
After a year and a half they cancelled the experiments due to a
lack of demand.

In other stations the municipalities created guarded facilities
with no usage fee. These are well used but put even more
pressure on the remaining guarded facilities with a usage fee.
At the Amsterdam Amstel Station the Dutch Railways,
Amsterdam, Stadsregio Amsterdam and ProRail started a pilot.
Amstel Station, on the eastside of the city has a guarded facility
in the cellar with a capacity of 1.300 parking places which was
only used for 30%. Cyclist needed to pay a fee to use it. All of the
unguarded, free to use, bicycle places on the forecourts are fully
used. Some pedestrian routes were seriously blocked by wrongfully
parked bicyclesand made the quality of public space suffer.

Quality of public space suffered. From December 2013 the guarded
bicycle parking facility is free to use and cyclist are seduced by
advertisements to use to station’s facility.

Also unsafe or badly parked bicycles are removed. The municipality
of Amsterdam pays the operator. Evaluations show that bicycle
parking facility now has an occupancy rate of 70%.
All cooperating stakeholder organisations now try to implement
this solution on other railway stations and main (future) public
transport nodes (like at some metro stations) in Amsterdam.

Contact: m.bakker

  • Updated : April 29, 2014

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