Sometimes people wonder why in the Netherlands you don't see buses with bike racks on them as in the US, or why people don't take their bikes into the office with them at work. In comparison with the UK, it can be more difficult here to take a non-folding bike on the train.
While Dutch trains have a relatively large amount of space for bikes, non-folding bikes are banned completely at busy hours of the day and you have to pay €6 per bike to take one on a train at other times. The €6 bicycle ticket is for a whole day and for any distance using any number of trains. Folding bikes can travel at any time for free.
Train travel in the Netherlands is actually quite economical - the highest price that you can be charged for a single ticket on Dutch trains, for travel from one end of the country to the other, not booking in advance but turning up at the station immediately before travel, is just €23.50, or €14.10 if you pay about €50 per year for a 40% discount ticket. Adding €6 to this does not actually result in the cost being high.
The reason for the charge is to discourage people from using the train with their bike frivolously. This is an example of something which becomes a problem when you start to scale up cycle usage.
The railway company says that 40% of passengers arrive at the railway station by bike. Imagine if all of them tried to take their bikes on the train in rush hour.
Bus-stops have cycle parking alongside so that passengers can leave their bikes safely. It seems reasonable to think that 40% of all bus passengers might also arrive with a bike. Certainly the bus stops tend to have plenty of bikes parked next to them. A 50 passenger bus would need a rack of 20 bikes.
The same goes for taking your bike into the office. Would it work if half the people in your office had a bike with them ?
This is why cycle parking is provided outside every office, at every bus stop, railway station, school, shop and also in every home, but in places where scalability is a problem they're restricted.
This is also a reason why cycling needs to happen in normal clothing that you can also work in. The sporty idea of cycling to work and taking a shower also only works where cyclists are a minority.
These ideas initially seem very good, but unfortunately some of them only work where few people cycle.
There are other solutions to some of the problems. For instance, there is a scheme called OV-Fiets (Public Transport Bikes) which after paying an annual subscription of around €10 per year allows a bike to be hired for the day for under €3. The service is still growing but currently offers around 5000 bikes spread between 170 stations. It's specifically designed for commuters and is in addition to the already existing bike hire schemes at most stations. This, however, still only provides a very small fraction of the bicycles used in conjunction with trains.
Some stations now have tens of thousands of bikes parked next to them, this causing problems of its own. There are several posts about Groningen's main Railway Station, where there are 10000 cycle parking spaces, and capacity is growing at a rate of 500 per year. At Utrecht's main station they're working towards over 20000 cycle parking spaces. Even smaller towns have large number of cycle parking spaces at the station, including Assen.
The photos were taken on the 2006 Study Tour. Participant's bikes are in the main photo, each train contains several such areas for bikes, and the parked bikes are some of many at Eindhoven railway station.
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