all about bicycling in the Netherlands
The enforcement of the bicycle parking restrictions in Zaandam was ridiculed on national TV this week. Zaanstad municipality issued a parking restriction of 4 hours for a street in the centre of Zaandam, the largest city in the municipality. The street is near the railway station and the city claims the bike parking space is filled with the bicycles of commuters who refuse to use the facilities at the station. But how do you check which bikes are from commuters and which belong to shoppers with every right to park their bicycles? For that the city uses the tried and tested system of labelling the bikes, but as the video shows – to the amusement of a studio audience – that can be easier said than done. One clue beforehand: it is always very windy in the Netherlands!
Zaanstad’s bicycle parking ‘problems’ were ridiculed on national TV this week
It is very understandable to laugh about this failed attempt to label a bike right, but what is behind all this is no reason for laughing at all. After I visited Zaanstad last year, I already wrote there was a fierce debate going on about the bicycle parking policies of the city. The local branch of the Cyclists’ Union was against what they deemed the illegal removal of “wrongly” parked bicycles. They were also against the so-called ‘blue boxes’ for parking. A blue square painted on the pavement is not what they see as a good bicycle parking facility. There is nothing to attach your bicycle to, making it easy for others to remove it (it is not only at risk of being stolen; someone could also easily place it outside the box and then the city would remove it). The wind was also mentioned: bicycles have already been damaged after the wind caused a domino effect of tripped over bicycles.
It is clear many people do not understand the motivations of the local council. The woman in the video sums it up nicely when she says: “What a ridiculous idea!”
The city did do something about its policies. But nothing changed for the better. The city made sure they could legally confiscate bicycles that were parked for longer than 4 hours by publishing a municipal decision in the Staatscourant. The national “paper” (now website) in the Netherlands in which laws and regulations must be published to be legally effective. The publication was on the 1st of February 2013 and as the video shows the city now started enforcing the regulations too. At least they try…
It is strange to look at this from the outside. Seeing bicycle parking as a problem rather than as a solution is odd. Would the city rather have all these people arriving by car? They should tackle the cause of the problem. Apparently there isn’t enough room to park bicycles near the station. Or at least the facilities provided there are not meeting the demand in one way or the other. It would be best if the Zaanstad municipality would use all the money and energy that go into this enforcement of the bicycle parking restrictions in efforts to make sure those bicycles can be parked the way cyclists want them to park.