Netherlands Leads with the ‘Bike Apple’

Netherland's new innovation in bike parking: the FietsappelThe western Netherlands city of Alphen aan den Rijn shows how bike parking need not be a compromise, nor a sop to advocates, nor even as  mundane as a car park. On the contrary, bike facilities can be a great addition to the entire community. There is the “Fietsappel” or literally bike apple, which was recently installed near the train station, that finally provides cyclists with the kind of facilities we warrant: efficient, creative, and well-located. It is the perfect conspicuous signal to cyclists that we matter in the Netherlands, and a model for other cities as would-be cyclists take to our Southland roads in increasing numbers.

‘A View From the Cycle Path’ showcases this most imaginative bike parking structure.  Author David Hembrow points out that this building of only 75 feet in diameter accommodates nearly a thousand bikes.

Netherland's new innovation in bike parking - the Fietsappel
Netherland's new innovation in bike parking - the Fietsappel or 'Big Apple'

Alphen aan den Rijn is not even double the size of Beverly Hills in population, yet there is so much demand for bike parking that officials have turned to innovative ways to store bikes. Indeed local and national policymakers are doing something right, because this functional artwork expands Alphen aan den Rijn station bike parking to nearly three thousand – that’s right, three thousand! – bike spots across three facilities. David reports that’s not unusual for Netherlands station parking facilities.

So what are we doing wrong, exactly, when our city at public expense adds not a thousand bike spots, but a thousand car spaces at a cost that estimated to approach that of a condo (on a per-square-foot basis)? Moreover, I challenge readers to find a car park constructed with anything near this degree of imagination or refinement.  Indeed I challenge readers to conjure up a scheme that can accommodate so many motorists without obliterating half a city block or digging down to bedrock. Can’t be done.

What we can do is roll out some of these wonderful structures at relatively low cost to show cyclists that the city has a secure place to put your ride when you arrive. Instead of a crappy rack (or no rack at all very often) you can enjoy the facilities just like the motorist has long enjoyed ample places to park their car.

For cars, though, the golden age is long past. Innovations that once cleverly solved our car parking problems in congested cities (and the early department stores in Downtown Los Angeles deployed them) have since lost ground to behemoth spirit-sapping tombs all over the Southland. For that reason alone it’s more enjoyable to bike than drive. With or without a ‘big apple’ of our own, anything is better than hunting for a space a few levels down in an everyday parking structure.

The future of bicycles as the most ecologically-friendly individual transportation is only suggested by this smartly-designed facility. It’s up to us to advocate for one in Beverly Hills and beyond.

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