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The bicycle metropolis. Why still investing in car parking?
Transportation Transportation Cycling

The era of the bike has arrived

Bicycle paths have become much less safe in recent years, according to Veilig Verkeer Nederland (Netherlands) last week. Bakfietsers (cargo cyclists), racing cyclists, speed pedelecs, Sunday cyclists ... it's getting busier and that trend is continuing. It underlines the topicality of the theme choice for the second Leiden Architecture Week, which starts Thursday: the bicycle metropolis.
many bicycles parked
The Netherlands has been known for years as a cycling country. Most residents have one or more bicycles and regularly use them. For the environment, for health, out of necessity or just because it is fun. But all those bikes are now pretty much in the way.

"After the time of the car and the pedestrian, the time has now come to start thinking seriously about the bicycle", says Michiel van Poelgeest of Rijnlands Architecture Platform (RAP). The platform provides a Leiden architecture week for the second time and this time focuses on the question of how the city can be better equipped to offer space for the bicycle. And that is badly needed, thinks Van Poelgeest. ,, Because the bike is currently going down a bit at its own success. ''


For a week there are activities around (and on) the bike, but it starts tomorrow with a big congress. Five speakers from the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia are going to work with the conference participants to come up with solutions for major issues that urban planners and governments are faced with when they want to turn their city and region into a 'bicycle metropolis'. "What the city would look like if you were fully committed to cycling," says Van Poelgeest. ,, And we think you should want that. It is actually the only sensible way out of the questions that come to us in terms of sustainable mobility and energy transition. For the simple reason that everyone has a bike and everyone can do it. It's in our DNA."

"Of course, the larger mobility map also consists of public transport, electric cars, self-driving cars, etc.", says van Poelgeest. ,, But you have to make choices, determine where you spend your money. Why should you give priority to large parking garages in this time, to a kind of ultimate comfort for the motorist? There is a lot happening already, that is true, but it is important that you have to continue. There are other municipalities that are much more ambitious. Where they just do everything for the bike. In one town they simply laid a 'red carpet' straight through the city, for the bicycle. ''


One of the issues is the big difference in speeds. It is not just about numbers. Cargo bikes, racing bikes, speed pedelecs, electric bicycles, touring bikes and wrecked city bikes all go through the city at a different pace. Simply widening a cycle path is not enough. "Why is it dangerous in some places? Because the city is not equipped for it. For example, Leiden is a city that is dictated by how water runs. Sometimes you have to cycle around a lot, so you can build more bridges. And you're dealing with the heritage story. Some places look very nice, but are extremely uncomfortable for cyclists. ''

More parking facilities also have to come, because those tens of thousands of bicycles are often hopelessly in the way. In some places there is almost no chance of getting through. But the cyclist also has to look at himself, according to Van Poelgeest. "Everyone thinks that if you want to go to the Flying Tiger, you can put your bike there for the moment. That does not make any sense at all. That kind of behavior has to come out of it. ''

Bike sharing

White Bicycles Group Provo many people balck and white
Bicycle sharing 'Witte fietsen plan' in the 60th in Amsterdam

Despite earlier failed trials in the Netherlands with free 'white bicycles', Van Poelgeest sees opportunities for sharing  bikes. "I find it very interesting that around thirty thousand people park their bicycle every day at the parking facility near Utrecht Central Station, and thirty thousand other people come to pick up a bicycle. If someone who arrives gives his bike to someone who leaves, you do not need a garage. Sometimes a spatial problem can have a non-spatial solution by simply thinking differently. ''

The bicycle metropolis not only consists of the city, but expressly also from the region. ,, Of course the region must connect. Due to the electric bicycle, the region has also become a lot smaller. From Zoeterwoude-Dorp to Leiden center is ten minutes, you're standing in the city in fifteen minutes on the beach. ''


This is one of the reasons why the province of Zuid-Holland is also sponsoring this edition of the Architecture Week, says deputy Floor Vermeulen (VVD, accessibility). "It fits very well in our cycling ambition," he says. ,,We want more people on the bike, invest a lot in that. It turns out that we do not all work from home with our laptops, but we have all started to travel more. ''

Vermeulen sees possibilities in combining traffic flows. ,, That you sort at speeds, but not only for the bike. Otherwise you will have six bicycle paths next to each other. Cars can best ride together when they drive slower, the Fietsersbond also thinks. All parties have to compromise. If you try to approach it a bit rationally, it is also and-and. You cannot just say: everyone needs to get out of the car. The question is how we, and that is the fun of this week, will be a beautiful and accessible Randstad. How do we become an example? "

By: Binnert Jan Glastra,