Cycling and chosing a place to live

A healthy cycling climate is not only about safe and protected cycling infrastructure. That there is much more to it sometimes becomes unexpectedly clear. In a newspaper article about moving to a different home a Dutch couple explains what their motivations were.

“When I can take the children to school by bike one car will go.”

They tell us that among other things their wish to move from The Hague to Leiden has to do with the commuting distance. Both work in Leiden, go to sports clubs in Leiden and they have friends and relatives there. So far it could be a reason for a move anywhere else in the world as well. But the couple goes on: “In the Hague it was too far to cycle back home in the children’s school lunch break, that is why we needed two cars. When I can take the children to school by bicycle we will be able to get rid of one car.” The wish to be able to cycle to school as one of the reasons for moving to another home. That is a sign of a healthy cycling climate in a country. Even if the underlying reason here is also to save money, cycling is considered a sensible solution to achieve that goal. And cycling is an important factor in choosing where you live for many people in the Netherlands. They try to live at cycling distance of their every day destinations and a railway station to combine the bicycle with the train to cover longer distances. Home builders know about this too. When they advertise new homes it is clear they show what potential buyers want to know: ‘where can I keep my bicycle?’ The artists’ impressions show exactly that.

Dutch home
Artist impression of a two bedroom home in the Netherlands. In the red circle bicycle parking with a separate entrance to the street. Parking your bike becomes very convenient like this.

When considering cycling as good alternative transport it is not only necessary to be able to reach your destination safe and conveniently by bicycle and to be able to park your bicycle at that destination, it is also necessary that you are able to keep your bicycle stored well where you live.

Detail of an in-home room for parking your -every day- bicycles. Also with a direct exit to the street right next to the front door.
When a society facilitates all this it changes the mindset of people and they can choose for the bicycle with confidence.
See also Parking your bike at home, a follow up post.
This post, written by me, was first published on another platform.

The original comments:

perthcyclist said… love the bicycles in the plan – I have to say I chose my current housing to be within cycling distance of most destinations (and easy access to separate bike infrastructure), and easy distance from the train station too… but going from all the whinging about the traffic in Perth, not many other people choose where they live with their travel requirements in mind 22 September 2011 03:48

Anonymous said… This was a prime factor when we moved: a location where I could easily cycle to work, the kids to school, and all of us could cycle and/or tram/bus to town and the main train station. Add we have a (shared) bike cellar: I would have preferred a room in the flat, but that was not an option !! 22 September 2011 10:08 jw35 said… An unfortunate contrast with 22 September 2011 14:03

Clark in Vancouver said… I also chose the area I now live in based on wanting to be close to where I work and to where I socialize and shop. To me it makes total sense. 23 September 2011 04:04

Green Idea Factory said… The problem is that a huge number of homes in probably not too much older parts of cities in the Netherlands have no indoor bike parking, right? When did this become a building code? It is wonderful that it is a code now but it is not really an example for e.g. many parts of big cities in the U.S., where people are still more or less forced to bring bikes inside, up elevators and lifts… Portland does some parking corrals on commercial or mixed-streets but a good part of eastern San Francisco, most of Manhattan and much of Brooklyn have no city support for residential bike parking which – if these places are serious about e.g. exceeding a 10% bike mode share -has to be in the street, i.e. in the space formally used by cars. So it would be good to know the requirements or standards and see examples for this in the older neighbourhoods in big cities in the Netherlands. Even if you have an example that looks and functions the same in Assen, big city officials on the other side of the Pond need to see big city examples on this side. If you look at it rationally, certainly an example from one of the many smaller cities and towns that are known for better conditions than Amsterdam can be applied in the big cities in the U.S., but sacrificing on-street residential parking there is very difficult politically and big cities are often the best example, as they also can involve a known – or at least an imagined – personality who is the mayor. 25 September 2011 05:29

Green Idea Factory said… How come the kids referred to here – and in the later blog entry about the UK Cycling Embassy Visit – don’t eat lunch at school? I imagine some have to if a parent is not at home or do they prepare it themselves? A short cycle ride at lunchtime is nice, of course. 25 September 2011 05:38

Branko Collin said… The obligation to provide space to park bicycles was dropped in 2003, though in 2008 minister Vogelaar was planning to reintroduce it to the building code. If amsterdam reaiplity is anything to go by, this only applies to new buildings, where sheds are typically built at the ground level. According to Fietsberaad, the new code says a shed should be at least 1.8 metres wide, 5m2 in surface, and 2.3 metres high, though in some cases a shared storage space is also allowed. 26 September 2011 07:57

Neil said… Just back from a holiday in the Netherlands. We visited a friend in Den Haag (near Haagse Bos) where they had no cycle storage unless you partly blocked the entrance way. So most bikes were outside on lampposts. These were 4 storey buldings that were purpose built as 2 flats. So at ground level there was just an entranceway the width of the steep stairs. And the same presumably for the ground floor flat (though that might widen out to have space). All the buildings in the street were built that way and possibly the surrounding streets. So there are definitely places where they haven’t done much for cycle parking. 27 September 2011 13:02

Green Idea Factory said… The “on street secure parking bays” link shows the product Fietshangar made in the Netherlands and sold by Cycle Hoop in the UK. 27 September 2011 15:00

Green Idea Factory said… Another fine detail – which I assume is covered by Dutch regulations – is the necessity of gaps between cars parked in rows — on streets around here it seems people ride a half-block or more on the pavement (when allowed, or not) only because there is other way to get to or from their destination quickly. 27 September 2011 16:46

Neil said… Sorry, 1900s, so quite understandable not to be designed for cycles but I would think there is a fair amount of old property with that issue, although perhaps more normally houses? And yes, Den Haag did not seem to have the same standards as you show in Assen, but you can still see the basic Dutch design and it is much more accessible (e.g. for my wife) than UK. 27 September 2011 19:17

Green Idea Factory said… Neil, the cycling mode share in the turn of the 19th/20th century was higher than now in most places — I think they had leeches as parking valets. 27 September 2011 21:50


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