There are very few cities that have created a flexible system to reduce on-street parking and provide more space for cyclists. Rotterdam, the Netherlands, has done exactly this.
Everybody likes to complain about cyclists. At least, that’s case outside the Netherlands. While in most places you hear that cyclists are rude, arrogant, and dangerous, the Dutch seem to accept careless cyclists. At the end of the day, even car drivers use the bike from time to time. Still, there is one cycling issue that seems to irritate people in the Netherlands: bicycle parking. Cyclists never find a free spot, and pedestrians struggle to walk on sidewalks clogged with parked bicycles.
Of course, this problem can easily be solved. If cities provide more decent bicycle parking space, cyclists will be happy to use it. Sadly, in most cities, cars receive much more space to park. Considering how small bicycles are compared to cars, the solution lies right under our noses, or rather under our parked cars. All we need is to replace some car parking spaces with bicycle space.
Cities all over the world have started doing exactly this. Car-shaped bike racks have become viral, accommodating ten bikes instead of one car. But they are too little and too expensive. And they are mostly removed after several months. There are very few cities that have taken the next step: creating a system that creates a long-term change. Rotterdam, the Netherlands, has done exactly this.
This Dutch harbor city has come up with the Fietsvlonders (“Bike-platforms”). These temporary parklets replace car parking with bicycle parking. They are placed for several months in a neighborhood. If the residents, shop owners, and visitors are satisfied with them after the trial period, the Fietsvlonders are turned into permanent bicycle parking. In just a couple of years, already 28 auto parking places in the city center were transformed into 280 shiny parking places for cyclists. At this moment, 22 more locations are being tested and might soon be permanent bicycle parking spaces as well.
Simplicity is what makes the Fietsvlonders so useful. They are not too beautiful or expensive, and they are not the end-goal. They are a quick tool to show people what their street can look like, a real-life render if you’d like. They are part of Rotterdam‘s long-term agenda to become a people-friendly city. Humankind has also taken part in some of these projects: Happy Streets, Creative Crosswalks, and parklets.
The Fietsvlonders has recently won the Tour de Force innovation prize. The jury named it for its simplicity and large effect on the public space. Let’s hope that it will inspire cities all around the world to make a change.