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Utrecht is too modest about bicycle parking

Utrecht — a city in the Netherlands which is probably more cycling-friendly than other Dutch city of its size or large — is now famed for building the largest bicycle parking unit, which will hold 12,500 bicycles and it includes internal cycle path (pictured above).

The largest unit was half opened last year and the second half is likely to open slightly delayed in the first half of 2019. The unit is already so busy that the average number of bicycles entering it at peak is two bicycles per second.

When the first half of the unit opened, The Guardian reported the local branch Dutch cycling campaigners, Fietsersbond, as complaining that the city is acting too slow. Some think demand for bicycle parking is expected to quickly outstrip capacity — this is possable because the city is also in the process of upgrading its network of cycle routes. I’ve visited the city in 2014, 2015, and 2017 and there’s been striking changes in the cycling infrastructure in that time.

Regardless of demand outstripping supply, I still think Utrecht is too modest on bicycle parking.

Dutch people are usually known for their directness. However, while Utrecht is highlighting 12,500 bicycle spaces in one unit, they are talking less about the wider provision.

Within about 2.5km2 around the largest unit, there will be just under 32,400 public and private bicycle spaces provided by 2020.

Much of the planned capacity is already opened — and overall it will be a mix of parking units run by the Utrecht city council, the railway company and private companies for their employees. It’s largely part of the redevelopment of the train station and linked shopping centre.

The railway company-run units will have a total of 21,250 spaces (shown in blue above), the city council will account for 4,400 spaces (in green), and private companies (in red) will have 6,725 spaces.

There will still be car access and the city and its partners are still going to some expense on providing underground car parking units, but if it was not for the bicycle use and parking, the car parking would be taking up a lot more space and funding.

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Modal share in Utrecht 

Utrecht could also be accused of being modest in not highlighting it’s modal share or just trying to be accurate. Amsterdam in the past was accused of bumping up its modal share of cycling by excluding pedestrians.

In terms of commuter trips (ie to and from work), Utrecht at 51% is higher than Amsterdam (48%), Rotterdam (31%), and The Hague (38%). Details can be found here (in Dutch), and the chart for 2016 and year-on-year percentage change is below:

IMAGE: btm = bus, tram. metro. Source:  Knowledge Institute for Mobility Policy (KiM) as per the in-text link above.

The nearest equivalent figure for Dublin is the ‘city and suburbs’ measure puts it at 7.5% cycling, 21% walking, 47% in a car, 22.8% public transport and the rest other. Note: These are just commuter trips to work and education. If the city alone is looked at Dublin is up to 10% cycling but it seems the city and suburbs figure is more comparable in this case.

The best way to look at model share is not just commuters but ‘all trips’.

The city of Utrecht is again conservative with figures — or again, just accurate. It uses a two-year average (PDF in Dutch), and it also looks at “all trip” (ie commuter, leisure, shopping etc).

With this, Utrecht still has a very respectable 45% modal share. The following image shows the trend using two-year averages, as @bicycledutch notes, this gives a “better figure, eliminating certain fluctuations”.

IMAGE: Fiets = bicycle, lopen = walking. auto = driving, openbaar vervoer = public transport, overig = other. Source as noted in the image and the second last in-text link above.

The data on people traveling to Utrecht city centre shows cycling is even more popular here at 58% done by bicycle, with buses next up with a share of 17% and an exact figure isn’t shown for bus, trams and trains combined but it’s likely around 22-23%.

To not be conservative for a minute: Given all the disruptive works on-going in central Utrecht and notable improvement cycling routes, my guess is that modal share of cycling has increased in Utrecht. We’ll see in a year or two… is reader-funded journalism. That means it's funded by readers like you.

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Cian Ginty


  1. Regarding the map and who builds what, you got the colours mixed up slightly. This is how it should be:
    “The railway company-run units will have a total of 21,250 spaces (shown in blue above), the city council will account for 4,400 spaces (in green) and private companies (in red) will have 6,725 spaces.”

  2. what kind of facilities does the bike park have. is their showers etc? plenty of people who work in smaller offices, shops etc use the we don’t have a shower at work excuse for not cycling, is this dealt with by providing facilities here.

  3. @Brian

    “Dutch” cycling isn’t the kind that warrants a shower. It’s functional, comfortable, and slow enough that you are unlikely to break a sweat.

  4. Most Dutch people don’t ride fast (about 15km/h / 10mph) and don’t work up a sweat. You don’t have to, when there’s dedicated infrastructure that keeps you away from cars. Nobody showers after biking to work.

    (Distances are shorter here, too, as our cities are more compact. Most people wouldn’t ride farther than about 5km.)

    • @Roan some of our cities are just as compact as Dutch cities (ie Dublin has about the same population density as Amsterdam).

      The average speeds are also similar (around 15km/h) — I find a big difference in the Netherlands is traffic light signaling, roundabouts, protected junctions, under/overpasses of major etc are all designed to avoid stopping unnecessarily.

  5. @Cian. In the last sentence of your reply to @Roan you wrote: “I find a big………unnecessarily”. Another reason for these kind of infrastructure measures is safety. Safety to avoid mixing with cars and therefore avoidibg (deadly) fatalities.

  6. In Galway City the council has “provided” around 200 public bike parking spaces in the central zone – so from the current ring road/main bridge inwards. For a university city ………


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