The bicycle is by far the most used means of transport in the city. It is no coincidence that Amsterdam invests heavily in covered bicycle parking facilities. With the arrival of the brand new parking facility at Central Station, the municipality manages 19 covered bicycle parking facilities. Together they account for more than 31,000 parking spaces. But we still remain champions in the wrong parking of our bicycles. In the past three years, nearly 200,000 bicycles ended up in the bicycle depot. Why is that and what can be done about it?
“I’m only here for a while, so I think it’s a bit exaggerated to drive all the way down”, “I just had to get some bread”, and “a kind of laziness I think”, are some of the responses we received when asked why people do not put their bicycles in the covered bicycle shed.
Nevertheless, according to behavior expert Saar Mollen, it is an assumption to think that all people are too lazy to park their bicycles in the garage. “There could be several reasons,” she says. “Someone may find it a bit scary to place the bicycle downstairs. If you know why people don’t put the bicycles there, you can adjust the environment and communication accordingly.” According to Mollen, it is also important to consider which audience is there comes. If they are also tourists, it is useful to communicate in several languages. How to investigate that? “By asking questions, why do you or don’t you put your bike in the garage. Or by completing questionnaires.”
“There were all bicycles here so I thought it was allowed again,” says a passerby. “That is a social norm that has been created,” says Mollen. “If you come somewhere and you see all kinds of bicycles, especially if you are somewhere for the first time, then you also park your bicycle there.”
To break through this social norm, sidewalks and squares where bicycles are not allowed must be swept clean, she says. The municipality also does this in various places. For example, bicycle clippers can be found daily at Leidseplein and Beursplein, twice a week at Oosterdokskade and they pass a train station in the city every day.
Whether that is enough depends on the number of incorrectly parked bicycles on a daily basis, says Mollen. According to her, it doesn’t work if people don’t see that there is a consequence. A fine or a trip to the bicycle depot can influence people’s behaviour. “What you want is for it to be clear that placing your bicycle in the bicycle shed offers more advantages than disadvantages.”
But people’s behavior can also be changed in a positive way. “People always want to belong to the majority,” says Mollen. “That is why it would also be a good idea to emphasize how many people have already parked their bicycles. This can be done by placing large signs at the entrances of the bicycle sheds stating that more and more people have already parked their bicycles. That way you ensure that you also win over the last people.”