Friday 16 January 2009

A long commute and a LOT of cycle parking

This is the first ever blog post to feature one of Mark Wagenbuur's videos. He later also made guest posts on this blog before beginning his own blog a few years later.

Mark Wagenbuur, who lives in 's-Hertogenbosch sent me this video of his commute from home to his office in Utrecht. It's a distance of around 50 km ( 31 miles ) in each direction. He has tried driving, but this city centre to city centre journey takes over two hours by car. Mark's solution to the commute is similar to that of many Dutch people. He walks to the station, takes a train, and cycles at the far end. This usually takes Mark about 50 minutes

The cycling in this video starts at about 2 minutes in when Mark retrieves his bike from secure cycle parking in Utrecht railway station. After a short ride he parks his bike in the secure parking at his office. This is quite normal. Everything is provided for. Note the communal bicycle pump visible in the parking area.

The video was shot in January and the commute is in darkness at below freezing temperature. Nevertheless, you will see hundreds of other cyclists going about their daily business.

Utrecht is currently planning to build a new cycle park which will accommodate twenty thousand bicycles at the railway station. You can see why this is needed by looking at this second of Mark's videos which shows many thousands of bicycles parked around the station area. These bikes are all in addition to thousands more which are already stored inside secure parking like that which Mark uses:

16th January a bit later. Update with figures...

Mark sent me further email with some figures for the number of cycle parking spaces in Utrecht at the moment. You'll see further down that the total is currently over 14000. Viewed in this light, a new 20000 space cycle park doesn't seem all that extravagant. If there were a few more places, maybe Mark wouldn't have had to wait so long for his space in the indoor park. A little over 40% of all journeys are by bike in Utrecht. It is quite a high figure. Higher than that of any city in any other country, but not quite the highest in this country. Here's Mark's comment:

I tried to get some background figures for you. Since they are usually so telling.
But it was not easy to find out exactly how many bicycle parking spaces there are around Utrecht Central Station! Still, I think we can make an educated guess now.
First this data about Utrecht and inhabitants and commuting
Utrecht is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands
Number of inhabitants: as of 10-01-2009: 300,000
(Figures from 2003 from:
Number of employees from outside the city who work in Utrecht 122,000
Number of employees from Utrecht who work outside the city 58,500
(page 8)
Number of travelers per day at Utrecht Central station 114,000
(page 9 caption of the last picture)
Bicycle parking facilities / racks
From 2006: since then many more outside racks were placed*!
Table 2. Current capacity of the guarded parking facilities around Central Station

Total number of parking spaces
Number of places for people with season tickets
Number of places for one day parking
NS facility Stationsplein
NS facility Sypesteynkade
NS facility Jaarbeursplein
U-stal (city) Stationsplein
Table 3. Number of bicycle parking spaces and shortage in 2006 and in 2025 (guarded and unguarded)


Prognosis 2025

Number available
Number essential with an 85% use
“The number of parking spaces around Utrecht CS was raised by almost 1,800 places in the past 12 months. In 2008 an estimated 2,500 places will be created.”
(These were all created in outside racks. Even two stories high, as can be seen in my video: from the street they are three racks deep and the one closest to the building is even double layered. Bikes in two layered racks is a rarity outside really… but Utrecht has them).
Today’s Figures
Total Unguarded Parking spaces
Adding the 2007 figures and expected places for 2008 (which I think were indeed created since I now see racks where there weren’t any before) we come to this:
added in 2007
added in 2008
Total Guarded Parking spaces
no change there since 2006 around the station, new facilities were created by the city but they are for shoppers (as well) so I wouldn't count those.
6,416 (of which 4,934 for season tickets holders and 1,482 for day use.)
I would round both off to:
  • Guarded and indoor places circa 8,000
  • Unguarded outdoor places circa 6,500.
But maybe you are more precise ;-)
Note: 15 years ago when I tried to get a place in the NS facility (what would "Fietsenstalling" really be in English?) I had to wait 3 months (so I had to buy a month ticket 3x before I could get an annual ticket). Now I have the annual ticket I stick to it and renew it every time since I would have to wait again if I ever loose the rights to that annual ticket!

"Fietsenstalling" in English ? I think we'd just call it cycle-parking. However "stalling" suggests "stabling" (as for horses) and suggests that it is sheltered and that your bike will be protected, as it very often is over here.

A glimpse of another route to work in Utrecht, with a 50 km each way ride, can be found here. Click for many more examples of integrated transport and cycle parking on this blog. We passed through Utrecht on the 2006 Study Tour.


Kevin Love said...

We're going through this in Toronto right now. Toronto Union Station is a hub for the local streetcar and subway service, regional rail, national rail and international rail.

Currently all the bicycle parking is unguarded. A new guarded and staffed facility is under construction and will open this spring.

I note that the annual operating cost to the City is about $300 per bicycle. That's a lot more than the annualized cost of buying and maintaining a bicycle in Toronto.

Is this common in the Netherlands? That the parking cost is higher than the bicycle ownership cost?

For details, see:

David Hembrow said...

I don't know whether the cost to the local government exceeds the cost that people pay to park. However, parking costs to the user are considerably lower here in Assen than are proposed for Toronto. €1.10 for a day (no registration required), €4.30 for a week, €11.30 for a month and €92.00 for a year. I think those rates are pretty close to what you would pay anywhere in the Netherlands.

In this country the average price of a new bicycle is €603, which is pretty high by most country's standards. As a result, I doubt that the cost of parking is greater than the cost of guarded parking here.

Perhaps it is cheap because even in this small town we have some economy of scale. While Toronto is building 180 spaces for a population of 2.5 M people: one per 13000 residents, Assen has 754 spaces for 65000: one per 86 residents. That's low compared with Utrecht where it is one per 37 residents and expansion is already planned.

There are also far more free parking spaces outside, of course.

Quite a lot of guarded cycle parking is free of charge in this country.

Kevin Love said...

Yes, 180 spots is grossly inadequate. It is safe to predict that it will be overcrowded on day 1.

I certainly agree with your statement about relative pricing. The proposed Toronto price is $180 per year (= three X four-month passes). I see the current dollar/euro exchange rate is 1.653, so this works out to about 109 euros per year. A fair chunk more than the 93 euros you're paying in Assen.

Both where I live and where I work provide free guarded cycle parking. It is a legal requirement for all buildings (both commercial and residential) since July 20, 1993 to provide free parking. 80% of the residential parking must be in a secure room or guarded - the rest is "visitor" parking.

New City parking guidelines have been released. Although they are "officially" still in draft form, City council has directed City planning staff to use these guidelines in the review and approval of all new developments. They may be seen at:

Elle said...

This post reminds me that I need to investigate how to use the parking facility at our train station as I intend to start cycling there in the mornings.

Thanks for posting the video. It makes me glad that we live in a small-ish place and that in the morning there are only a few people on their bikes on the way to work. I think it would have been hard for a new cyclist like me to contend with busy cycle lanes. :)