November 13, 2012 / Christopher F. Schuetze / IHT Rendezvous
What do you give the bike city that has it all? Better bicycle highways and parking lots, obviously.
In fact, the capital of European biking — in a bike-obsessed Europe — is investing nearly €120 million, or about $150 million, in cycling infrastructure over the next eight years, with almost half of that sum be spent in just the next four years.
“Amsterdam wants to remain a clean and accessible city and the city administration had to ensure the conditions are set for people to be able to choose their bike as a means of transportation,” Tahira Limon of the City of Amsterdam in a telephone interview.
Amsterdam is not the first European city to make headlines for improved bike infrastructure this year. Even during Europe-wide belt tightening, some cities are spending heavily on two-wheeled transportation infrastructure. My colleague Sally McGrane reported on a new bicycle superhighway in Copenhagen, which officially opened in spring.
“Cycling is not a goal in itself but a way to create a more livable and green city with healthier citizens and should be perceived as a ‘normal’ means of transportation in line with the car, bus, train and Metro,” wrote Anja Larson of the City of Copenhagen in an email.
“Cycling is the most cost-effective way to move people,” said Julian Ferguson of the European Cyclists’ Federation, or the E.C.F., about public and private transport systems.
It is also becoming increasingly popular. Cities as diverse as London, Paris, Barcelona, Lyon and New York have doubled their bike share trips in the last decade, according to E.C.F.
The city of Amsterdam already has more bikes than people. According to city data, 780,559 citizens live in a city of 881,000 bicycles.
Currently 58 percent of all Amsterdam’s citizens use their bikes on a daily basis, with 43 percent using their bikes for their daily commute.
One downside to the massive popularity of bikes is an increase in accidents as more bikers share the same bike lines. Amongst people seriously wounded in traffic accidents, 56 percent in Amsterdam are cyclists, up from 48 percent in 2000.
The boost in bike ridership has also led to enormous bike parking problems, as anyone who has tried to lock up his or her bike close to a Dutch train station can attest.
The massive funding boost will be spent on upgrading bike routes and enhancing bicycle storage, the city said when announcing its plans last month.
Amsterdam will fund some 38,000 additional bike parking places at many of the city’s railroad and public transportation hubs, as well as other popular sites such as the Museum. Most impressive, perhaps, is the plan to build a new indoor storage place that by 2020 can fit up to 17,500 bikes close to the central train station.
In addition to the extra spaces, the city will create more bike parking laws and enforce existing ones, ensuring Amsterdammers do not leave their bikes for longer than 14 days in at high-demand locations.
Also Amsterdam bike paths will be widened and enhanced.
This video produced by BicycleDutch, a popular blog documenting the country’s bike culture, documents the rise of Dutch cycling infrastructure:
Copenhagen, currently Europe’s second major bike city, has the ambitious goal of getting 50 percent of all commuters on bikes by 2015. According to Copenhagen City figures, the rate is closer to 35 percent now.
Projects like the bike superhighway are funded by a yearly budget of some 75 million Danish kroner, or nearly $13 million. Copenhagen is also investing in a public awareness campaign. A Web site called Copenhagenize gives the estimated count of kilometers cycled by citizens of the Danish capital each day.
What do you think? Is your city putting enough thought and money into bike infrastructure? Would you bike more if there was better infrastructure?