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Utrecht becomes the world’s first city to use digital signs to guide cyclists towards available parking.
The Dutch city of Utrecht recently launched an action plan in an effort to build Utrecht’s reputation as a world-class bicycling city. Called “We all cycle”, the most notable of the plan’s features is the cycling “P-route,” a digital web of signs and indicators that guide cyclists to available bike parking spaces in a growing number of municipal parking facilities.
To date, Utrecht has 13 staffed and monitored municipal bike parking facilities with a combined capacity to hold 12,000 bicycles. Each individual bicycle parking space has optical monitors that detect whether the space is being used or not. That information is automatically transmitted to a network of digital signs along bike routes in the city, so passing cyclists looking to park are able to select a facility where they can be certain space will be available.
Once the system has been in place for some time, its saved data will help city planners predict when certain bike parking facilities will be full and enable for them to plan for alternatives, such as “pop-up parking” in the streets at peak occupancy periods. The data will be made available to the public as open data, and in order to protect the privacy of the people using the bike parking facilities, the optical sensors in the parking spaces will not save any image information.
Along with the “P-route Bicycle” system, which officially launched on June 2, 2015, the city is also launching a comprehensive cycling action plan that will set the city apart as a global cycling destination and a model city for urban planners looking to improve their city’s bike infrastructure.
The city has made vast improvements to five bike lanes along busy main avenues in the last few years, and has seven new bike lanes planned for the next few years. They plan to build three more staffed and monitored bike parking facilities – including the world’s largest – by 2018, and add an additional 21,000 bike parking spaces by 2030. Along with improvements to cycling infrastructure, the city plans to implement a Road Safety Plan that would specifically look to address the safety concerns held by pedestrians and people on bikes.
As the population of Utrecht grows, it is inspiring to see the city take a top-down approach to encourage biking and walking as primary means of transportation. Let Utrecht serve as a model for other cities faced with the dilemma of rapidly increasing mobility demands in this age of urbanization.