Too many bikes in Amsterdam?

Shortage of bike parking putting people off cycling, says top official

Are there too many bikes in Amsterdam? Not enough spaces to park them, narrow lanes clogged with swelling ranks of cyclists and a growing tension with moped drivers have raised an interesting problem for the city famed for its love of the bike.

“The bike is threatened by its success,” complained Jeanine Van Pinxteren, chair of the central district, to Dutch newspaper Trouw, adding that a lack of bike bays was a particular bone of contention. She said it was impossible to effectively enforce laws against nuisance bikes bolted to lampposts and drainpipes, which block wheelchairs and prams. “You can only enforce the rules if there are enough parking spaces. And there are just not now."

However, with cycling continuing to flourish in Amsterdam (inhabitants collectively cycle 2m kilometres a day), car users could find themselves further sidelined by the city administration, who said they might look into converting empty car parking bays into bike racks.  

Amsterdam cyclists, it seems, won’t park and walk. Eric Wiebes, head of Amsterdam’s transport department, said a lack of spaces close to where cyclists wanted to be was starting to “build barriers to accessibility. If I told Amsterdamers they would have to walk [to a cycle parking bay] they would probably need the rest of the day to cool off.”

In total, the city plans to invest €120m in bike bike parking by 2020. “It’s an idiotic amount, but justified,” said Wiebes. “Investing in the bike produces more than investing in other types of transport.”

By 2020 the projected 20,000 new bike spots needed around Amsterdam Central Station alone could be placed in underground car parks. A brand new bike park under the Beursplein public square could be launched, too.

Without adequate parking – 10 percent of space is already blocked out with abandoned bikes, said a city official – current cyclists might opt for a car or scooter, which are also in the city administration’s sight.

Scooter drivers, who don’t need helmets and cut in and out of bike lanes, aggravate Wiebes: “They stink, make noise and come whizzing past you. They don’t follow the rules and they’re hazardous, mainly to themselves. They’re annoying.” His solution? Stricter enforcement of the rules and increasing fines.

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