Seeking a spot

Bicycle jungle

Eerste slide: fp-foto, chapeau en kop

Seeking a spot

Bicycle jungle

There are many places in the city centre where bikes are parked willy-nilly on the sidewalk, if not simply abandoned on the ground. Building more bicycle parking facilities is one thing. But getting people to actually use them? That’s another. The municipality is working on a solution, but the best solutions may come from ordinary citizens.
By Thereza Langeler / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen / Photography by Traci White / Video by Anneloes Prins
Tweede slide: tekstblok 1 t/m 5

In the sun, in the rain, swerving at all hours of the night. Really fast, really slow, or on tyres desperately in need of air. To class, to work, home. People in Groningen bike everywhere, and Groningen presents itself as the pre-eminent cycling city in the Netherlands. The street scene and statistics suggest they may just be right about that.

Cycling may be sustainable and sporty, but there is another side to it which can be seen on the street. Rather than parking their bikes in stands or a parking facility, Groningen cyclists prefer to park them as close to their chosen destination as possible, which is usually on the sidewalk. This makes the city centre resemble a messy teenager’s room, and pedestrians have to pick their way through a metal forest.

Bicycle sections

The carelessly parked bicycles are a thorn in the sides of many city citizens, a city panel survey about bicycles has revealed. The municipality would like to see something change as well. ‘We’re working hard on making the city centre more attractive. A centre inundated by bicycles is not exactly attractive’, spokesperson Eddy Beuker explains. ‘Parked bicycles are a big problem, and we’re looking for solutions.’

Experiments with specific bicycle sections on the sidewalk are already under way. At the train station, extra facilities with room for 7,200 bicycles will be built. And the Groninger Forum will get a bicycle parking facility with 1,400 spaces. The basement of the former V&D building is also a potential contender for a parking facility. In addition to politics, the city’s inhabitants are also coming up with things to combat the poorly parked bicycles. During the future-focused festival Let’s Gro, the Dutch Cyclists’ Union and WerkPro Facilities organised a brainstorming session, where everyone could share their ideas. And there are plenty of ideas, as evidenced during Battling Bikes, the competition organised by the Dutch Cyclists’ Union and the Student Advice Committee (SAC) earlier this year.

Derde slide: Thinklink embed
Vierde slide: tekstblokken 6 t/m 9

‘The Cyclists’ Union wanted to do something to celebrate their 40th anniversary’, Jesse Zwiers of the SAC explains. ‘They wanted something with a competition, and they wanted to appeal to young people. That is how we came up with the battle.’

Participants could come up with a two-page solution to the problems concerning parked and abandoned bicycles. Together with the Cyclists’ Union, Zwiers and his colleague Hessel Engbrenghof judged the entries. Criteria were feasibility, creativity, innovation and – most important of all – a focus on behavioural change.

Laziness

‘A lot has been done to try and find spatial solutions for bicycles over the past few years’, says Zwiers. ‘Bicycle sections, smart routes, extra line markings leading to the sections, you name it. That is why we wanted to use the battle to try and find different kinds of solutions.‘

Bicycle parking facilities alone will not be enough. ‘Laziness is a large factor in bad parking, but habit also plays a really big role’, says Arjan Stuiver, a traffic psychologist at the RUG and a jury member for the battle. ‘Cyclists are creatures of habit, and they’re used to parking their bikes on the sidewalk. That habit is hard to break.‘

5e slide: tekstblok 10 over filmpje

But it can be done, he emphasises. ‘Take the red carpet that’s on the sidewalks in some places. They work really well as bicycle deterrents.‘ The three best entries to the Battling Bikes competition may have that same effect. The three winners look back on their concepts.

6e slide: tekst winnaar 3

3. ‘Like riding a bicycle’

Collectiv Kreativ – Three of the four members of Collectiv Kreativ study at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences at the RUG, so the bicycle parking problem was right up their alley. ‘We spent a day walking through town just looking around, trying to find the bottlenecks’, Daan Doornbos says. ‘We suddenly noticed how annoying all those haphazardly parked bicycles were. And the parking facility at the Boteringestraat was only half full!’

The concept the students came up with equips bicycles with a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip – your RUG and OV cards also have this kind of chip – so people can check them at a parking space. Monitors can simply read the chip to find out if the bicycle is parked in the wrong spot or if it has been in one spot for too long, and penalise accordingly. Kind of like the fine you have to pay if you do not check in at the train station.

‘It could be a good way of registering people’s parking behaviour’, says Stuiver. But the idea is a bit labour-intensive. ‘It really only works if every last bicycle has a chip like that, and that’s a tall order. And then we’d also have to figure out what to do with every single wrongly parked bicycle.’

7e slide: winnaar 2

2. Who’s Bike App

Maxime van Raaij – She readily admits: sometimes she parks her bicycle where it is not allowed. And to be honest, Maxime van Raaij is not overly bothered by the many wrongly parked bikes. ‘It gives the place a nice collegiate feel’, she says with a laugh.

Nevertheless, she and her boyfriend participated in Battling Bikes. Their idea is mainly focused on abandoned bicycles that have been left somewhere and never collected again. ‘We thought the inhabitants of any given neighbourhood would be the best judges of which bikes are being used and which ones are abandoned. That is how we came up with a photo app that locals can use to report abandoned bicycles.’

‘An app like that could certainly be useful, although it might just be a temporary solution’, Stuiver says. Removing one abandoned bicycle cannot prevent another one taking its place. ‘The municipality already has an online hotline where people can report abandoned bicycles. If you pair that with an app like this, that could make it more accessible, especially for students.’

8e slide: winnaar 1

1. Park your bike!

Willem van Althuis – It might be hard to believe in this day and age of smartphones and chip cards, but Willem van Althuis won Battling Bikes with an old-fashioned sticker. Van Althuis knew from experience that inveterate illegal parkers are usually tackled by flyers or a saddle cover. ‘But a saddle cover is practically a reward, and flyers get thrown away.‘ Van Althuis also does not see the point in fines, which is what the Erasmus University campus in Rotterdam does: ‘Fines have an adverse effect.’

A sticker, he decided, is just annoying enough: not as severe as a fine, but not as easily discarded as a flyer, either. But the real effect is in the sticker’s message. Park your bike in a stand and keep the footpath clear’, a balloon over a figure in a wheelchair says. ‘Thanks in advance! Signed, a wheelchair user.’ Another design features a figure with a pram making the same request.

‘It’s a way to personally address the cyclists’, Van Althuis explains. ‘You make it clear to them that their behaviour is obstructing other people. Next time, they’ll think twice before leaving their bicycle in the middle of the footpath.’

Stuiver really likes this personal approach. ‘You bring the problematic cases and the people who are suffering from the problem closer together. It’s really quite clever.’

Tiende slide: winnaar 1

What’s next?

‘The Battle was meant to figure out if we could develop an idea on our own initiative’, says Jesse Zwiers. But the plans to produce Van Althuis’ stickers appear to be dying a quiet death. ‘And that’s a shame. This could be a job for the municipality.’

‘If there are good ideas, we’d love to hear them so we can see if we can use them’, says municipality spokesperson Eddy Beuker. ‘That’s why something like Let’s Gro is so interesting. For once, you’re not stuck around a conference table talking to people who are supposedly experts, but you can think about a problem in an out-of-the-box setting.’

Do you have the solution to end all solutions? During Let’s Gro, you can present your revolutionary idea to alderman Paul de Rook at the WerkPro Facilities and Dutch Cyclists’ Union brainstorming session. You never know: maybe you will go down in history as the person who ended bicycle parking stress in the city for good.

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There are many places in the city centre where bikes are parked willy-nilly on the sidewalk, if not simply abandoned on the ground. Building more bicycle parking facilities is one thing. But getting people to actually use them? That’s another. The municipality is working on a solution, but the best solutions may come from ordinary citizens.
By Thereza Langeler / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen / Photography by Traci White / Video by Anneloes Prins

In the sun, in the rain, swerving at all hours of the night. Really fast, really slow, or on tyres desperately in need of air. To class, to work, home. People in Groningen bike everywhere, and Groningen presents itself as the pre-eminent cycling city in the Netherlands. The street scene and statistics suggest they may just be right about that.

Cycling may be sustainable and sporty, but there is another side to it which can be seen on the street. Rather than parking their bikes in stands or a parking facility, Groningen cyclists prefer to park them as close to their chosen destination as possible, which is usually on the sidewalk. This makes the city centre resemble a messy teenager’s room, and pedestrians have to pick their way through a metal forest.

Bicycle sections

The carelessly parked bicycles are a thorn in the sides of many city citizens, a city panel survey about bicycles has revealed. The municipality would like to see something change as well. ‘We’re working hard on making the city centre more attractive. A centre inundated by bicycles is not exactly attractive’, spokesperson Eddy Beuker explains. ‘Parked bicycles are a big problem, and we’re looking for solutions.’

Experiments with specific bicycle sections on the sidewalk are already under way. At the train station, extra facilities with room for 7,200 bicycles will be built. And the Groninger Forum will get a bicycle parking facility with 1,400 spaces. The basement of the former V&D building is also a potential contender for a parking facility. In addition to politics, the city’s inhabitants are also coming up with things to combat the poorly parked bicycles. During the future-focused festival Let’s Gro, the Dutch Cyclists’ Union and WerkPro Facilities organised a brainstorming session, where everyone could share their ideas. And there are plenty of ideas, as evidenced during Battling Bikes, the competition organised by the Dutch Cyclists’ Union and the Student Advice Committee (SAC) earlier this year.

‘The Cyclists’ Union wanted to do something to celebrate their 40th anniversary’, Jesse Zwiers of the SAC explains. ‘They wanted something with a competition, and they wanted to appeal to young people. That is how we came up with the battle.’

Participants could come up with a two-page solution to the problems concerning parked and abandoned bicycles. Together with the Cyclists’ Union, Zwiers and his colleague Hessel Engbrenghof judged the entries. Criteria were feasibility, creativity, innovation and – most important of all – a focus on behavioural change.

Laziness

‘A lot has been done to try and find spatial solutions for bicycles over the past few years’, says Zwiers. ‘Bicycle sections, smart routes, extra line markings leading to the sections, you name it. That is why we wanted to use the battle to try and find different kinds of solutions.‘

Bicycle parking facilities alone will not be enough. ‘Laziness is a large factor in bad parking, but habit also plays a really big role’, says Arjan Stuiver, a traffic psychologist at the RUG and a jury member for the battle. ‘Cyclists are creatures of habit, and they’re used to parking their bikes on the sidewalk. That habit is hard to break.‘

But it can be done, he emphasises. ‘Take the red carpet that’s on the sidewalks in some places. They work really well as bicycle deterrents.‘ The three best entries to the Battling Bikes competition may have that same effect. The three winners look back on their concepts.

3. ‘Like riding a bicycle’

Collectiv Kreativ – Three of the four members of Collectiv Kreativ study at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences at the RUG, so the bicycle parking problem was right up their alley. ‘We spent a day walking through town just looking around, trying to find the bottlenecks’, Daan Doornbos says. ‘We suddenly noticed how annoying all those haphazardly parked bicycles were. And the parking facility at the Boteringestraat was only half full!’

The concept the students came up with equips bicycles with a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip – your RUG and OV cards also have this kind of chip – so people can check them at a parking space. Monitors can simply read the chip to find out if the bicycle is parked in the wrong spot or if it has been in one spot for too long, and penalise accordingly. Kind of like the fine you have to pay if you do not check in at the train station.

‘It could be a good way of registering people’s parking behaviour’, says Stuiver. But the idea is a bit labour-intensive. ‘It really only works if every last bicycle has a chip like that, and that’s a tall order. And then we’d also have to figure out what to do with every single wrongly parked bicycle.’

2. Who’s Bike App

Maxime van Raaij – She readily admits: sometimes she parks her bicycle where it is not allowed. And to be honest, Maxime van Raaij is not overly bothered by the many wrongly parked bikes. ‘It gives the place a nice collegiate feel’, she says with a laugh.

Nevertheless, she and her boyfriend participated in Battling Bikes. Their idea is mainly focused on abandoned bicycles that have been left somewhere and never collected again. ‘We thought the inhabitants of any given neighbourhood would be the best judges of which bikes are being used and which ones are abandoned. That is how we came up with a photo app that locals can use to report abandoned bicycles.’

‘An app like that could certainly be useful, although it might just be a temporary solution’, Stuiver says. Removing one abandoned bicycle cannot prevent another one taking its place. ‘The municipality already has an online hotline where people can report abandoned bicycles. If you pair that with an app like this, that could make it more accessible, especially for students.’

1. Park your bike!

Willem van Althuis – It might be hard to believe in this day and age of smartphones and chip cards, but Willem van Althuis won Battling Bikes with an old-fashioned sticker. Van Althuis knew from experience that inveterate illegal parkers are usually tackled by flyers or a saddle cover. ‘But a saddle cover is practically a reward, and flyers get thrown away.‘ Van Althuis also does not see the point in fines, which is what the Erasmus University campus in Rotterdam does: ‘Fines have an adverse effect.’

A sticker, he decided, is just annoying enough: not as severe as a fine, but not as easily discarded as a flyer, either. But the real effect is in the sticker’s message. Park your bike in a stand and keep the footpath clear’, a balloon over a figure in a wheelchair says. ‘Thanks in advance! Signed, a wheelchair user.’ Another design features a figure with a pram making the same request.

‘It’s a way to personally address the cyclists’, Van Althuis explains. ‘You make it clear to them that their behaviour is obstructing other people. Next time, they’ll think twice before leaving their bicycle in the middle of the footpath.’

Stuiver really likes this personal approach. ‘You bring the problematic cases and the people who are suffering from the problem closer together. It’s really quite clever.’

What’s next?

‘The Battle was meant to figure out if we could develop an idea on our own initiative’, says Jesse Zwiers. But the plans to produce Van Althuis’ stickers appear to be dying a quiet death. ‘And that’s a shame. This could be a job for the municipality.’

‘If there are good ideas, we’d love to hear them so we can see if we can use them’, says municipality spokesperson Eddy Beuker. ‘That’s why something like Let’s Gro is so interesting. For once, you’re not stuck around a conference table talking to people who are supposedly experts, but you can think about a problem in an out-of-the-box setting.’

Do you have the solution to end all solutions? During Let’s Gro, you can present your revolutionary idea to alderman Paul de Rook at the WerkPro Facilities and Dutch Cyclists’ Union brainstorming session. You never know: maybe you will go down in history as the person who ended bicycle parking stress in the city for good.

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