Dutch bicycle parking facilities don’t mess around. At Utrecht train station, the parking garage has capacity for a staggering 12,500 bicycles.
To put that into context, Cambridge Rail Station – the UK’s largest bike cycle parking hub – has a 3,000 bike capacity.
When we say Utrecht parking ‘garage’, what we mean is a purpose built facility that can only be compared to our vast multi-storey car parks in the UK. It’s split on three levels, designed to filter natural light across the garage, and has clear wayfinding throughout.
And how are they fitting so many bikes in one place? Well, two-tier bike racks – a double stacking system designed to maximise bicycle storage.
We’re seeing more two-tier racks in the UK, so we thought we’d ask our Dutch partner’s and cycle parking specialist Klaver why they’re so popular in the Netherlands, and how they’re working for the UK too.
Cycling in the Netherlands
Firstly, however, we need to understand why there is such high demand for cycle parking.
When most people think of cycling friendly countries, the Netherlands likely tops your list. With cities like Amsterdam synonymous with relaxed city cycling, the Dutch are the envy of urban city planners.
But Dutch life hasn’t always been that way. Car ownership in the 50s and 60s meant that pre-war bicycle trips were replaced by motor journeys. Roads became congested with cars, and tragically led to more and more accidents.
During 1971, over 3,000 people were killed, including 450 children. The campaign movement which translates as “Stop the Child Murder” was launched in response.
This pressure, coupled with the 1973 oil crisis, sparked the Dutch government to invest in change. Urban planners began building an ambitious network of segregated bike lanes, with their own traffic lights and priority roundabouts.
Fast forward to today and the bicycle is an integral part of everyday life. Small children travel in child seats or cargo bikes before they can walk, and grow up to see cycling not as optional, but integral to getting around the city.
Enter: two-tier parking
Two-Tier Bicycle Parking at Rotterdam Station (courtesy of Klaver)
So what about bike parking? With thousands of journeys in The Netherlands everyday, whether that’s to train stations, shopping, or work – how are they storing them?
Klaver are a Dutch supplier of specialist bicycle parking – including two-tier racks, shelters, and lockers. You can find their solutions all over Europe, and in the UK via Turvec.
The dilemma, say Klaver, is meeting surging demand while keeping cyclists happy. In the case of Klaver – and Turvec – the direct customer is typically the train network, landlord, or property developer installing the parking. But, of course, the end-user is the cyclist.
“When it comes to priorities, there are a few differences between the two groups. Most customers prefer higher capacity, whereas cyclists prefer simplicity,” says Gerben Hofsté of Klaver.
“When it comes to two-tier parking, Dutch cyclists would never prefer these systems, especially not the upper layer of it. But to create the most bike spots, it’s a necessity.”
Especially in cities, space is at a premium. For a central train station in The Hague or Utrecht, fitting 12,000 bicycles needs a clever, efficient use of space. But you can’t just design cycle parking on that principle alone.
“The solution has to be user-friendly parking for cyclists, otherwise the facilities won’t be used, no matter how many there are,” explains Gerben.
So, what’s the answer?
“In The Netherlands we try to make two-tier parking as simple as possible. So we created the 2ParkUp system, which is both space-efficient as well as easy to use – it’s the best of both worlds,” says Gerben.
The 2ParkUp rack features gas-assisted lifting, ergonomic grips, and protective sleeves to prevent frame damage. So while still maximising storage space, the rack has been designed with usability front of mind.
It’s about more than just the racks
Having cyclist-friendly racks is one thing, but there’s much more to Dutch facilities than that.
“We don’t just focus on the bike rack, but on everything around the parking system too. It’s a big part of the solution,” says Gerben. “Together with our clients we think about creating a nice environment for cyclists. We try to influence ‘positive behaviour’ in parking facilities.”
This extends further than you might think. At Amsterdam Beursplein, natural stone and glass are used throughout the impressive underground parking facility. This mirrors the natural stone of the town square above, and creates a bright and clean environment to store your bike.
The whole system is designed without dead-end corridors and obstacles, making it a pleasant place to navigate. Natural light is designed to filter throughout, and screens show the current number of spaces available.
Could we see similar uptake for two-tiers in the UK?
There are certainly encouraging signs that the UK is beginning to catch up to The Netherlands.
Propelled further by the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, pop-up cycle lanes have become permanent in many places, and schemes like Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are prioritising cycling and walking over car journeys.
Two-tier racks remain relatively uncommon, but even though Cambridge Train Station cycle park may pail in size compared with Utrecht, it’s part of a sign things are changing.
As cycle lanes extend commuting distances and inspire confidence in more cyclists, demand for parking will naturally increase. Meeting the required capacity with user-friendly, quality two-tier racks is likely to be a big part of that picture.
It’s worth noting that as part of every storage solution, you’ll need a variety of different racks and stands. This is to accommodate non-standard bicycles, such as tricycles, recumbent bikes, and cargo bikes.