Charles Bremner, Marie Tourres
Last updated at 12:01AM, March 28 2013
Cities rushing to embrace the bicycle should take note of the plight of Amsterdam, which is being swamped by a two-wheel tide that may push commuters back to their cars.
“The bike is threatened by its success,” Jeanine Van Pinxteren, the leader of the central Amsterdam council, said this week, amid alarm over anarchic parking and the saturation of the city’s 200,000 street cycle bays. Nearly half a million cyclists cruise the streets daily in the city of barely one million people, marking a 44 per cent rise in pedal transport over the past 20 years. Car use has declined by a third.
More than 250 miles of dedicated paths have failed to keep up with a cycle explosion that is making life unpleasant for pedestrians forced to weave among fast-moving walls of cyclists, the council has acknowledged. But the biggest source of stress is a lack of parking space that leads to cycle rage among commuters who sometimes spend 20 minutes competing for any open grille, railing, bridge or lamp-post.
“You can only enforce the rules if there are enough parking spaces and there are just not enough now,” Ms Van Pinxteren told reporters.
Eric Wiebes, the head of Amsterdam’s transport authority, said that lack of spaces close to where cyclists wanted to be was starting to “build barriers to accessibility”.
Dutch cyclists still believed that instant parking was a right, he said. “If I told Amsterdamers they would have to walk, they would probably need the rest of the day to cool off.” Plans to create 9,000 new parking spaces at the Centraal rail station will cost €120 million (£100 million).
Amsterdam authorities are struggling to foster civility in a culture in which the cycle is king. “You have to be on the lookout all the time. It’s just stress,” said Laurent Chambon, a French sociologist who has lived in Amsterdam for 15 years. “Damrak, one of the city’s main streets, is known as Kamikaze Road.”
Robert Olykan, the owner of a cycle shop, said: “It’s not really dangerous to ride a bike in Amsterdam and accidents are quite rare — if you don’t do like the locals, who ride their bikes listening to music or without any lights at night. It is weird, but Dutch law allows cyclists to wear earphones and use mobile phones riding in traffic.”
The bane of cyclists and pedestrians is a fashion for motor scooters, which are allowed in bicycle lanes.
Note that even in Amsterdam the motorized vehicle is present and even allowed in the bike lanes. We are about to deal with this issue here in the United States.
As for the parking issues, you can see that already here in Chicago. For all of their vaunted love of exercise, bicyclists simply hate the idea of having to park along Michigan Avenue at the bike center and then walk back to their offices. They want to be able to ride right up to the front door and walk in. They are in essence a bit lazy. They do not mind locking their bikes to private property bit have fits when motorists use the bike lane to pop into coffee shops for a few seconds.
It would appear that on both sides of the Atlantic their narcissism is rampant.
While it may seem odd the Dutch are notorious as is pointed out for not observing safe practices. We are constantly being told by Ron Burke of the Active Transportation Alliance that the presence of bicycle infrastructure will make us all safer.
But the Dutch like to ride without benefit of lights, in dark clothing, wearing headphones and are likely to be texting while biking.
This sounds more like a house afire than a safe and sane atmosphere where everyone is being predictable and safe. What keeps them from having a ton of accidents is the fact that they are using far more separated bike lanes than do we. But that does not mean that bike-on-bike accidents are not present. Everyone focuses on the car-on-bike collisions but either type can result in injury and even death.
One wonders why they have not decided to move towards a BikeShare program which would alleviate the parking problems?