Thursday 22 September 2011

Cycling and chosing a place to live

A healthy cycling climate is not only about safe and protected cycling infrastructure. That there is much more to it sometimes becomes unexpectedly clear. In a newspaper article about moving to a different home a Dutch couple explains what their motivations were.

'When I can take the children
to school by bike
one car will go.'
They tell us that among other things their wish to move from The Hague to Leiden has to do with the commuting distance. Both work in Leiden, go to sports clubs in Leiden and they have friends and relatives there.

So far it could be a reason for a move anywhere else in the world as well. But the couple goes on: “In the Hague it was too far to cycle back home in the children's school lunch break, that is why we needed two cars. When I can take the children to school by bicycle we will be able to get rid of one car.

The wish to be able to cycle to school as one of the reasons for moving to another home. That is a sign of a healthy cycling climate in a country. Even if the underlying reason here is also to save money, cycling is considered a sensible solution to achieve that goal. And cycling is an important factor in choosing where you live for many people in the Netherlands. They try to live at cycling distance of their every day destinations and a railway station to combine the bicycle with the train to cover longer distances.

Home builders know about this too. When they advertise new homes it is clear they show what potential buyers want to know: ‘where can I keep my bicycle?’ The artists’ impressions show exactly that.

Artist impression of a two bedroom home in the Netherlands. In the red circle bicycle parking with a separate entrance to the street. Parking your bike becomes very convenient like this.
When considering cycling as good alternative transport it is not only necessary to be able to reach your destination safe and conveniently by bicycle and to be able to park your bicycle at that destination, it is also necessary that you are able to keep your bicycle stored well where you live.

Detail of an in-home room for parking your -every day- bicycles. Also with a direct exit to the street right next to the front door.
When a society facilitates all this it changes the mindset of people and they can choose for the bicycle with confidence.


perthcyclist said...

love the bicycles in the plan - I have to say I chose my current housing to be within cycling distance of most destinations (and easy access to separate bike infrastructure), and easy distance from the train station too... but going from all the whinging about the traffic in Perth, not many other people choose where they live with their travel requirements in mind

Anonymous said...

This was a prime factor when we moved: a location where I could easily cycle to work, the kids to school, and all of us could cycle and/or tram/bus to town and the main train station. Add we have a (shared) bike cellar: I would have preferred a room in the flat, but that was not an option !!

jw35 said...

An unfortunate contrast with

Clark in Vancouver said...

I also chose the area I now live in based on wanting to be close to where I work and to where I socialize and shop.
To me it makes total sense.

Slow Factory said...

The problem is that a huge number of homes in probably not too much older parts of cities in the Netherlands have no indoor bike parking, right? When did this become a building code?

It is wonderful that it is a code now but it is not really an example for e.g. many parts of big cities in the U.S., where people are still more or less forced to bring bikes inside, up elevators and lifts...

Portland does some parking corrals on commercial or mixed-streets but a good part of eastern San Francisco, most of Manhattan and much of Brooklyn have no city support for residential bike parking which - if these places are serious about e.g. exceeding a 10% bike mode share -has to be in the street, i.e. in the space formally used by cars.

So it would be good to know the requirements or standards and see examples for this in the older neighbourhoods in big cities in the Netherlands. Even if you have an example that looks and functions the same in Assen, big city officials on the other side of the Pond need to see big city examples on this side. If you look at it rationally, certainly an example from one of the many smaller cities and towns that are known for better conditions than Amsterdam can be applied in the big cities in the U.S., but sacrificing on-street residential parking there is very difficult politically and big cities are often the best example, as they also can involve a known - or at least an imagined - personality who is the mayor.

Slow Factory said...

How come the kids referred to here - and in the later blog entry about the UK Cycling Embassy Visit - don't eat lunch at school? I imagine some have to if a parent is not at home or do they prepare it themselves?

A short cycle ride at lunchtime is nice, of course.

David Hembrow said...

All: When we lived in Cambridge in the UK we chose a house because it was close to a cycling route to shops and schools. I even tried to advertise it as such when we left. However, estate agents knew what was important to actually get a sale and they only wanted to mention proximity to the motorway.

That's what is different here. Estate agents advertise the convenience for cycling. Builders include it in plans, for all buildings not just a few homes aimed at a particular demographic group.

Todd / GIF: There's a previous post on this subject which includes some history. To summarize, you'll find cycle storage of one kind or another in almost all homes.

Every home that we looked at when we wanted to move here had cycle storage of one kind or another. Some of these homes dated back to the 1930s.

Our little slice of suburbia was built in 1972. Cycle storage here takes the form of an over-sized garage, too big for one car, too small for two. There are two doors: a smaller door for people and bikes which we use all the time, as well as a larger one for cars which I think we opened once when we moved in.

A friend of ours who lives on the top floor of a block of flats planned in the late 1960s and built in at the start of the 1970s has a personal locked storage area at ground level which has an area of about 12 square metres. Every appartment in the building has the same, plus a separate indoor cycle parking space (locked against the outside world but not against neighbours). They also have car parking spaces, but these are outside.

The exact regulations have varied over time, and in recent years it's been a bit of a political football, but cycle storage as a part of building codes has been fact here for a long time.

Oh, and on school children: Primary school children go home for lunch. That's just what they do at every school. The video in the blog post from the study tour last week shows it.

Usually a parent is home. There are companies which offer to look after your children at lunchtime if you can't be home.

Slow Factory said...

@David - Seventies, shmeventies... I was asking about on-street parking, because the older neighborhoods I describe are generally very similar to those in a good part of Amsterdam and other larger/older Dutch cities:
No lifts (unless there is a retrofit), lots of stairs, and no possibility of parking at ground level in the building at all, because, for example there is a ground-level retail space. There are tons of bikes on the street, at least in the Netherlands.

So, sorry if I wasn't clear but this is not a building code and I suppose is a street design code. What is the code for on-street bike parking in places where this is impossible in many or most buildings? This is the example needed.


So the couple needed a second car for a lunch run? How much do these companies charge to feed the wee ones? The parents pay it? Do these kids with no parents at home all go to a central dining place?

Branko Collin said...

The obligation to provide space to park bicycles was dropped in 2003, though in 2008 minister Vogelaar was planning to reintroduce it to the building code.

If amsterdam reaiplity is anything to go by, this only applies to new buildings, where sheds are typically built at the ground level.

According to Fietsberaad, the new code says a shed should be at least 1.8 metres wide, 5m2 in surface, and 2.3 metres high, though in some cases a shared storage space is also allowed.

Neil said...

Just back from a holiday in the Netherlands. We visited a friend in Den Haag (near Haagse Bos) where they had no cycle storage unless you partly blocked the entrance way. So most bikes were outside on lampposts.

These were 4 storey buldings that were purpose built as 2 flats. So at ground level there was just an entranceway the width of the steep stairs. And the same presumably for the ground floor flat (though that might widen out to have space). All the buildings in the street were built that way and possibly the surrounding streets.

So there are definitely places where they haven't done much for cycle parking.

David Hembrow said...

Neil: Please note that Den Haag is not known for having particularly good infrastructure by Dutch standards.

It would be interesting to know the age of these apartments, as there was a time in history when things were built without cycle parking. Also, building standards were relaxed in the immediate post-war period due to the need to build many homes quickly.

We were told on a study tour a few years ago that residential parking is a problem in some parts of Den Haag.

However, it's not all bad. In some cases houses in a street have been converted into cycle parking for surrounding homes. Also, they have some number of on street secure parking bays for bikes and a very nice initiative providing secure cycle parking at several locations.

Slow Factory said...

The "on street secure parking bays" link shows the product Fietshangar made in the Netherlands and sold by Cycle Hoop in the UK.

David Hembrow said...

Or here from the original manufacturer.

Slow Factory said...

Another fine detail - which I assume is covered by Dutch regulations - is the necessity of gaps between cars parked in rows -- on streets around here it seems people ride a half-block or more on the pavement (when allowed, or not) only because there is other way to get to or from their destination quickly.

Neil said...

Sorry, 1900s, so quite understandable not to be designed for cycles but I would think there is a fair amount of old property with that issue, although perhaps more normally houses?

And yes, Den Haag did not seem to have the same standards as you show in Assen, but you can still see the basic Dutch design and it is much more accessible (e.g. for my wife) than UK.

Slow Factory said...

Neil, the cycling mode share in the turn of the 19th/20th century was higher than now in most places -- I think they had leeches as parking valets.

David Hembrow said...

Todd: That's a bit misleading.

In 1896, when The USA was the world's leading cycling nation, there were actually not really many bikes. They were a plaything of the rich. This is the background against which the first cycle path in the Netherlands was built.

Videos of Bradford and Amsterdam from a hundred years ago both show streets with lots of people on them, but not really that many bicycles.

By the 1930s, cycling had grown a lot.

Slow Factory said...

David, well... okay I would like to see the goal for every city to have its higher bike more share ever.

At at 1:25 one can see that the share for bikes in Amsterdam was about 50 to 55% percent.