Baby, can you park your bike?

It’s obvious to anyone, especially a first-time tourist who exits Amsterdam’s Central Station to be greeted by a thick sea of bikes, that the Dutch really do cycle—a lot.  It’s also obvious that parking those bikes is an issue. Aside from the several-tiered bike garage that juts over a canal in front of the station, crammed with hundreds of bicycles, most bikes are locked up against just about everything else—trees, railings, electric meters, each other…

Here’s a hint of the volume:

Evidently in recent years, the explosive increase in cyclists—from 34,000 to 43,000 since 2007—has far outpaced the number of bike racks and garages meant to accommodate them. This leaves all those bikes littering the streets in a haphazard manner, which make for great photos for tourists. But it also infuriates local city council peons, who announced at the end of last year that it was high time people realized they should pay for bike parking.

This is no great surprise to the Dutch. The Netherlands is a mercantile nation that made its riches by continually inventing new ways to make money and has benefited greatly from commercial opportunism over the centuries. Recently, the police have been issuing fines for what they call “wild parking” (wildparkeren) in hopes that they can clean up the streets in front of places such as Central Station.

A quick aside—as an American, the term “wild” makes me think of those Girls Gone Wild videos, in which drunk college girls giddily expose themselves. So wild parking makes me imagine towering, dodgy Dutch girls ready to expose themselves for a drop of genever (the local gin) and a spot in the bike rack.

The only issue is: where to put the bikes when no new bike racks have been installed? To park netjes or neatly, we need more bike racks otherwise cycles become more like random street art, positioned all over the place (which personally, I don’t mind.)  As Hillie Talens from CROW, a platform for public traffic infrastructure, said, “Chaos is a sign that the set up is not logical.”

In a few Dutch cities, bike racks have been installed a few minutes walk from the train station, which has lead to complaints like, “But I have to walk a few minutes to reach the train station!” This is similar to the American whine, “I couldn’t find a parking space so I had to park the car a 5-minute walk away from the gym.”

Here’s a short video discussing parking issues:


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