Narrow streets and overcrowded cycle racks struggling to cope with volume of cyclists

Amsterdam is bringing forward measures aimed at helping cyclists as well as creating thousands of additional cycle parking spaces and removing abandoned bikes as the popularity of bicycles as a form of transport threatens to overwhelm infrastructure in the Dutch capital.

The Amsterdam College of Mayor and Alderpersons, which governs the city, says that its cyclists now rack up a combined daily total of 2 million kilometres, and bicycle usage has grown by 40 per cent during the past two decades, with the number of journeys each day growing from 340,000 in 1990 to 490,000 in 2008.

As a result, according to the city authorities, and with almost six in ten Amsterdammers riding a bike each day, “narrow bike lanes are having to accommodate an increasing volume of bicycle traffic,” while “overcrowded cycle racks near stations are also beginning to adversely affect accessibility.”

Two years ago, the city published its Long-Term Cycle Plan (Meerjarenplan Fiets) which envisaged spend of €200 million on cycling until 2040, of which €170 million will be spent on creating 40,000 new cycle parking spaces.

The figures do not include spending on the bicycle network beyond 2016, which the city says "are largely financed from the available resources for road reconstructions."

Besides meeting existing demand, that investment is being made to meet forecasts of continued increases in cycling, including 10 per cent growth in journeys in the city centre and 25 per cent growth in cycling to and from railway stations.

This week the city confirmed that a number of projects aimed at easing the crisis in cycle parking at Amsterdam Central station, Leidseplein and the ‘Rode Loper’ zone that follows the route of the new Noord-Zuid metro line, will be finished or nearing completion by 2016. There will also be parking for 3,000 bikes in a dedicated facility near Station Zuid, as well as 800 spaces close to other railway stations.

The city also says it will also carry out research on a variety of issues that it believes can benefit Amsterdam’s cyclists, including bringing in “green wave” co-ordinated traffic lights for cyclists to help improve cycling traffic flow, giving more space to bike riders at junctions and appointing an official to oversee the disposal of abandoned bikes.

Other measures that it will research include:

A large-scale drive to remove disused bikes from cycle racks

The extended introduction of a maximum permitted time at cycle parking spaces (already in effect in some places in the city)

Additional (temporary) cycle parking facilities near Amsterdam Central Station and

Pop-up bicycle storage locations which can be set up as and where required.

Alderperson Maarten van Poelgeest, the official in charge of the city’s traffic, said: “Amsterdam benefits from more people using bikes and has a pressing need to create additional space for cyclists.

“Cycling is cheap, fast and clean while it also helps improve accessibility in the city.

“In addition, the increased bicycle usage in the city equates to annual savings for Amsterdam of €20 million on public transport and another €20 million on car infrastructure.”

A summary in English of Amsterdam’s Long-Term Cycling Plan can be downloaded here.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.