Sarah Goodyear is a Brooklyn-based contributing writer to CityLab. She's written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog.
This is what it looks like when bikes are treated the way cars are.
What does truly easy and convenient bicycle parking look like? Well, take a look at this video from Bicycle Dutch (always an excellent source for documentation of prime bike infrastructure in the Netherlands, as well as the rich history of bicycling in that nation):
As part of the construction of a very pleasant new train station in the city of Delft, local authorities constructed a 5,000-space parking garage for bicycles, which opened this past February. Bike parking at the new facility is free for up to 14 days.
As the video shows, the station features seamless entry from the local bike path, two-tier parking (loading a bike onto the top rack is not as tricky as some people make it), electronic signboards that let you know how many free spaces are in each row, train-ticket sales machines, and video monitors that display train departure times. Revolving doors lead you directly into the station, and an escalator takes you down to the platform with commuter trains leaving for the Hague and Rotterdam. There’s even a bike-maintenance shop on the premises, and a bike-share station for those who don’t have their own rides. Upstairs, you’ll find the bus station, and outdoor parking for an additional 3,700 bikes.
Bicycle Dutch’s Mark Wagenbuur notes that Delft’s new bike-parking facility has its problems. Security is lacking; 18 bikes were stolen in the first month of operation, leading to an increase in police patrols and monitoring of surveillance footage. (Dutch bikes come equipped with on-frame locks, but they are a relatively mild deterrent to determined thieves.) And some people who need to leave their bikes at the station for more than two weeks have lobbied for longer-term paid parking facilities.
These caveats aside, the new Delft bike parking is pretty sweet. This is what it looks like when bikes are treated the way cars are in the United States: every convenience is accounted for. It caters to the cyclist's habits and needs the way that a state-of-the-art car parking facility would cater to drivers (car parking, of course, comes at a far greater cost, both financial and spatial). And it allows for a low-stress connection to a superb rail system.
This is how you create a viable and well-loved transportation system based on bicycles and trains: by making the combination easy, safe, and convenient. People don’t use this system out of idealism. They use it because it’s supremely functional and it’s designed to anticipate and accommodate their needs. Imagine that.