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From our European Desk: Bike parking pilot project at Raamplein

Posted by on October 23rd, 2009 at 8:35 am

Todd Boulanger

[This story is by Todd Boulanger, a former transportation planner for the City of Vancouver who has been soaking up the bike infrastructure of Europe. In this report he shares some views of a bike parking project at a public square in Amsterdam.]

The bike parking options under consideration for Amsterdam’s city center
(All photos © Todd Boulanger)

While traveling around Amsterdam by tram recently I passed a private car parking lot half-filled with clustered bike racks. This is not too unusual for the Netherlands, but my curiosity grew when I saw large notice boards with photos of the racks displayed at each end of the lot. I got off the tram on Marnixstraat to investigate.

The City of Amsterdam and the Dutch Cycling Union are currently seeking public comment on what type of bicycle parking racks should be installed in the city center. They want to find the rack that works best not just for parking, but for minimizing the chaos and clutter on sidewalks.

The city has installed several examples of each rack with background information in a public square (Raamplein). Some of the 18 racks utilize new designs on loan from six companies and specifically developed for this six-month demonstration (you can see photos of all the racks here).

The square will soon be redeveloped to include more landscaping and trees, a fountain, and pedestrian space (all instead of car parking). Under this future park plaza will be a 1000 stall bike garage (you can download the plans for the square here).

After several visits, I found that Amsterdammers tended to like the same racks that Portlanders like: solid ‘staple’ type racks with two points of contact and minimal decorative flourishes. Pretty can be good as long as it does not get in the way of parking or reduce security.

It will be interesting to see which racks are selected. We’ll update this story once a decision is made.

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    Jeff October 23, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I’m always a little baffled by the efforts to come up with “prettier” bike racks. We have so many square miles of absolutely hideous automobile infrastructure — roadways being the biggest example — and there’s never any attempt to switch to violet asphalt, or use adorable stainless steel studs instead of a double yellow line. Even boring old staple-style bike racks seem far less obtrusive than big fat parking spaces and seven-story concrete parking garages. And they work great, especially after you’ve tried locking your bike to some massive steel sculpture of a fish or a train or a woman’s shoe, or whatever else passes for the state of the art in bike rack design.

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    Todd Boulanger October 23, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Hi Jeff – It comes down to such racks being placed in the ‘furnishing zone’ and thus a greater expectation for design within the pedestrian realm by architects and such.

    Whereas racks within the street for bike corrals will likely stay plain for the time being – like most auto oriented furnishings (cobrahead lamps, drive-thru signs, highway bridges, etc.).

    The latter is what I like to say is a ’30 mph design’ element vs. ‘ 3 mph design’ element for the sidewalk zone – slower travel speeds require a richer texture of design. Faster speeds do not generally reward the eye with detail of street texture – it is a blur to the beholder.

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    n8m October 23, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    I lived in Amsterdam on and off for a couple years. Seems the most common rack I saw that fit the most bikes into a space was the ‘tulip’ style that stagers the front wheels up and down. This seems to work best there because everyone is riding the same style bike, and they are solid enough to handle the stress on the front wheel. Only problem is handlebars and brake cables tangle up.

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    Marcus Griffith October 24, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    The staple rack works well. Easy to make, easy to install, secure and versatile. However, call me old fashioned, I have a soft spot for Vancouver’s parking meters; they make great bicycle racks, if for nothing else than the irony.

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    Andy B from Jersey October 26, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Oh! Oh!

    It’s the “Pi” rack(last photo)!! I’ve been scouring the internet to find the link to that manufacture again.

    I think it’s the only rack that functions better than the “inverted U” and looks great too!

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    Dave October 27, 2009 at 10:00 am

    What about locating bike corrals at or near corners? A bike corral–properly protected, such as with a surrounding rail, could benefit drivers as well in a corner location because the bikes would pre-empt the parking of vehicles tall enough to block visibility. It would be great to keep delivery vans, Hummers, giant 4×4 pickup cocks and the like out of parking spots where they can be the worst at blocking lines of sight.

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