Lessons from the Netherlands: It’s the Parking Stupid

When the planners in Amsterdam identified the critical factors in making cycling work on a large scale, parking was one of the key bullets. When you think about the amount of parking for 40% of all trips being made by bike, the numbers are staggering as the photos here illustrate. Bike parking must be provided at home, at work, at key transportation points (rail stations) and where people shop.

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Netherlands Bike Parking portlandtransport’s Netherlands Bike Parking photoset

When the planners in Amsterdam identified the critical factors in making cycling work on a large scale, parking was one of the key bullets. When you think about the amount of parking for 40% of all trips being made by bike, the numbers are staggering as the photos here illustrate. Bike parking must be provided at home, at work, at key transportation points (rail stations) and where people shop.

The Amsterdam Central railyway station has a bike parking structure floating in the harbor with three spiral levels. In Utrecht, we were in a room with 3,000 bikes and plans were underway to remodel to create space for 15,000 bikes in the station vicinity.

Parking also factors into the auto side of the equation. Amsterdam caps downtown auto parking, helping incentivize other modes. Rotterdam, more of a commercial city, has taken a different approach, working to make the city accessible by all modes, but using pricing to balance auto parking with other modes (i.e., auto parking is relatively expensive).

When I try to apply this thinking to Portland, there are some obvious disconnects. Union Station is NOT a good analog to the Amsterdam Central station. But the addition of bike parking at PDX is a good step in the right direction.

Perhaps more relevant is bike parking near transit stations. While bikes on bus and MAX are a good idea, they simply don’t scale to the kinds of volumes we see here. So we would need parking for hundreds (not tens) of bikes at key transit centers and MAX stations. Any ideas on what this might look like in Portland’s urban fabric?

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