Today the Guardian reports about the underwater bike garage that should solve Amsterdam Central Station’s bike parking headache by offering space for 7.000 bicycles. The city of Amsterdam facilitates underwater bike parking to return the public space to pedestrians (residents, visitors, commuters).
According to the Guardian, the garage results from a 4-year and €60 million project to clear heaps of rusty bikes left by hasty commuters and create rows of clean, safe parking spaces underground. The bike garage will open next week. It’s a very good and inspiring project, but it could have been great if the urban planner would also have facilitated walking to and from Central Station.
Bike-train: a marriage made in heaven
Train and bike is a marriage made in heaven. In the Netherlands, many people come to and go from the station by bike. For the Dutch railways, the project is about making commuting more attractive. “It’s great that people can jump on their bikes, get to the station and get on their journey seamlessly,” said Jeroen Wienen, a spokesperson for ProRail, to the Guardian.
Walking: the blind spot of planners?
There are lessons for other cities in encouraging more first- and last-mile cycling by providing proper bike routes and parking facilities at public transport stations. However, biking is not the only mode for first- and last-mile transport to stations. Walking is often in the blind spot of urban planning.
A recent study from TU Delft about first- and last-mile shared mobility for public transport users concluded: “Apart from this notion, and given our result that most public transport travelers will not use shared modes in the first and last mile, we argue that local public transport networks should be designed such that many (activity) destinations can be reached by walking.”
Relevant questions before investing tens of millions in underground bike parking facilities are: how many people live or work within a 10-minute walk from the station? How can we get these people to walk instead of bike to the station? How can you make the walk to the station faster, safer, and more attractive? What opportunities does walking offer to make the area around stations more successful for businesses and more liveable for residents?
Worldwide, healthy, safe, and vibrant cities encourage walking. I think the Amsterdam bike garage is a very good project, but my advice for other cities would be: don’t forget some people would rather walk. Unfortunately, Amsterdam has no policies to stimulate walking in place (yet)… A missed opportunity and a lesson learned for other cities.
Walther Ploos van Amstel.