Bicycle Network: Good Design Guides
Bike parking Euro-style
Astrid Meier, a visitor from Germany, compares bike parking in Melbourne with her home town experience
It took only a few hours on my first day as an intern at Ride On magazine before I was confused. “Astrid,” said the editor. “Write an article about public bike parking problems in Melbourne.”
I was astonished: in my home country of Germany, bike parking is seldom a problem. Coming to Australia as an intern for three months is an eye-opening experience. I have come to realise that the standard of bike parking facilities in Germany – and most European cities – is much more advanced than that of Australia.
At my hometown university in Paderborn, a city in Germany’s west, bike parking spaces are plentiful, safe and sheltered and almost every student rides to university. As well as we have a bike workshop on the campus, where everybody can repair the bikes themselves or with the help of an expert.
Raising the standard
The University of Paderborn is only one example of the standard of bike parking facilities in Germany. The Westfalia region of Germany has over fifty bike stations. The facility in Muenster is by far the largest, most impressive and also very successful. It holds up to 3,500 bikes and is located right next to the main station, so that it is easy to combine public transport with bike riding. It is also possible to rent a bike at the station or to buy accessories at the bike shop.
German bike stations are mostly close to train stations and have a security guard, a repair service and bikes for hire. It is also common to get a bike while your own bike is repairing. Witten, a city in the south of the Ruhr, offers a special rental service for groups and disabled people.
The German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW) has supported bike riding for nearly 30 years. Since 1978 the government has committed 1.5 billion Euros to develop 7,000km of new bike lanes, with the goal of encouraging more people to cycle instead of driving cars. NRW also put up 100,000 new public bike parking spaces in the last ten years. Germany is paying more and more attention to cycling and the government has introduced regulations that bike parking spaces must be included in all new buildings.
Parking for 10,000
The situation for bike parking in many European metropolises like Barcelona or Copenhagen is similar to Germany. The governments of all these big cities have supported bike parking systems and bike and ride projects.
The European city with the most bike parking problems in the past, is Amsterdam. The capital of the Netherlands is teeming with bicycles and the challenge is that on most of the 800,000 people has more than one bike. Bikes were locked to every centimeter of fixed object and ground space. The Netherlander became very creative about how their finding a place to store their bicycle: in canals, hanging by a cable from a bridge or vertical on a pole. Amsterdam has also had a lot of troubles with theft. City officials and bike planners were forced to act: The best known bicycle storage facility is at the Amsterdam Central Station, which can hold up thousands of bikes on three levels. A new parking facility that can fit 10,000 bikes at the station is in the works and will be finished in 2009.
I have been in Australia for seven weeks now and have become acquainted with the people, your culture and the Australian way of life. I’m sure you can’t learn much from Europe but we are ahead in the development of bicycle parking systems … and soccer.