HOLLAND - Train + bike

Key figures :
-16,3 million people, 41 528 km², capital Amsterdam, a city with 600 000 bikes for less than 750 000 people (source: Dutch Tourist Office).

- Modal share of bike travel in cities: over 30%, and as much as over 50% in some cities (Amsterdam and Groningen, for instance). The modal share of public transportation is much smaller (often close to 5%).

- Modal share of access to the train station by bike: 40% (27% five years ago)

- Rail network: very dense, with 2800 km of lines managed by ProRail (a government agency) and operated by NS (Nederlandse Spoorswegen) and others (both freight and passenger traffic are open to competition). Over 15 billion passenger.km and 4 billion ton.km of freight were carried in 2005.

Train + bike, the main points :

  • Historical operator’s bike policy: bike-friendly. 
  • Government’s bike policy: very bike-friendly.

Train + bike, strategies :

Acteurs et interaction

 The historical railway operator – NS – was aiming in 2001 to double passenger traffic by 2011. This involved doubling the number of travellers accessing the stations, and therefore finding solutions for bringing all those people to the station. The  « car »  solution is very inadequate considering the space available, the « public transportation » solution would require large investments. That leaves walking and cycling, since a parked bike takes up 3 to 10% of the room occupied by a car, depending on the system.
    NS has thus recently switched from a passive to an active position by taking care of parking problems. The NS-Fiets Branch thus operates bike parks (at 1.10€ a day) and on 1st January 2008 NS took over the control of OV-Fiets, which became a subsidiary. (See product description “OV-Fiets, Holland”)

    The State acts at the level of the Fietsberaad and of its Mr. Bike. The former, a department of the Ministry of Transportation, with two coordinators—national and international—, is a « bike consultant » (Fiets means « bike » in Dutch) who advises local players (cities and provinces) and coordinates their policies (continuity of the network, conferences, etc.). The second holds the reins of funding for national programmes or subsidies for local programmes.
    Initiatives  are also undertaken at the level of Fietsberaad, for instance a new bus concept tested in Amsterdam. A bus line with a private right-of-way was created, with a stop every 2 km or more and bike parks (5 of them guarded) at each stop. The 25 000 daily passengers demonstrate that the initiative has been a success.

    The Fietsersbond is a very powerful association and carries out detailed surveys, as well as putting together guides, such as the Fietsparkeur, a methodological guide to the creation of bike parking facilities. It carries on discussions with the operator, NS, to improve  services for cyclists, for instance by pointing out the improvements to be made to OV-Fiets, the rental system available at the train stations or in their vicinity, and by having taken an active part in developing it.

    The cities and provinces act by developing bike infrastructures in general. This includes access to the train stations (direct bike paths, while cars must make detours) and to the vicinity of the stations, so as to offer quality parking (whether free of charge or not) to cyclists and recover space in places where bikes (including in particular 23% of barnacle, i.e. abandoned ones!) occupy it to the saturation point. See the example of Groningen, with a semi-underground 5000-space parking facility and, on the surface, a bike-free public square  (product description).

Funding :

- Parking: Generally speaking, the funding for bike spaces in the vicinity of train stations comes from the Ministry, the city government and the province, up to an amount of one-third each. The European Union also contributes some subsidies.

- Bike policy: The Ministry of Transportation has drawn up a Masterplan Fiets (nationwide bike strategy) in the 1990’s; today it must be implemented by local government, which receives funding from the Ministry. Each province receives a public transportation subsidy, which includes bikes. Inasmuch as the funding of bike-related projects is lower as compared with other modes, the bike mode is very much present in the use of such subsidies by the provinces.

- A recent survey conducted by TNO, a Dutch research institute, showed that on the average 5.5%  of employees are on sick leave, whereas the proportion goes down to 4% if one considers only the group of employees who exercise sufficiently (using one’s bike to go to work is enough to be part of this group). This implies possible funding from the Ministry of Health.

Train + bike, offer :

This essential point partly explains why cyclists make up 40% of the railroads’ customer base. The train stations are accessible via bike paths, and the vicinity of the stations is designed to be safe and relatively noise-free. The present policy consists in freeing up the areas in the vicinity of the stations as much as possible in order to foster access on foot and by bike. The cities take care of creating bike infrastructures, with funding provided by the State.

- At the departure and/or arrival station:
The afflux of cyclists at the train stations requires sizeable infrastructures, that is, bike spaces. These are free of charge or paying (the free of charge alternative always exists). Bike parks cost 1.10€ (yearly pass 92€) for those managed by NS-Fiets, a branch of NS, and otherwise 0.5€. Many cities are drawing up development plans in order to increase the number of spaces and deal with saturation problems. For instance, Utrecht (280 000 people) will have 22 000 parking spaces around 2013, as compared with 9 000 today. Supply also sustains demand, as shown by the example of Groningen (5000 spaces), where the former  1000-space parking facility, which had been earmarked for destruction, had to be maintained.
Systems providing individual booths opened by a key or card and automated parking systems also exist.

At the arrival station, OV-Fiets offers an identical system throughout the country, which enables pass-holders, whether commuters or tourists, to rent a bike for 2.85€ a day (with automated payment). OV-Fiets stations are planned in some relay parking facilities.

- On board the train: The
number of bikes on Dutch trains is much smaller than one might think,  not to say nearly nil.  NS has adopted a dissuasive pricing policy for commuters (a bike ticket costs 6€), while keeping trains accessible to tourists. This policy offers alternatives for commuters, however (see above).

Customer loyalty :

The Fietsersbond association is holding discussions with NS for the purpose of creating a comprehensive pass covering all forms of public transportation « including parking in bike parks».

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 : Mr. Hans Voerknecht, Fietsberaad, hans.voerknecht@kpvv.nl - Mr. Wim Bot, Fietsersbond, bot@fietsersbond.nl