Bicycle swapping pilot at South station

Bicycle parking at train stations is getting more and more popular. Nowadays, more than half of the train travellers access the station by bicycle. This increased demand calls for a complex and costly challenge of providing larger bicycle parking facilities at train stations. Isn't there a way to make better use of the space? Read about the pilot with the ‘Wisselfiets’ (freely translated as Swapbike) we did before in the Mahler bicycle parking garage at Amsterdam South station. And about the preconditions that may be important for future pilots.

fietsgarage-mahlerplein-7565-VRA.jpg Bicycle parking garage Mahlerplein. Source: Transport Authority Amsterdam

More cycling with less bicycles parked at stations

In order to address the influx of bicycles at train stations, a simple solution was proposed. The idea entails that a commuter arriving at the station by bike in the morning, parks the bicycle used to access the station in the bicycle parking area then, boards the train to work, school, university or elsewhere. The bicycle is then available to someone else arriving later that morning at South station by train. The commuter arriving by train can then utilise the bicycle in cycling to work, university and other destinations in Amsterdam. In this way the bicycles are used in a more efficient manner and most importantly, less (expensive) bicycle parking spaces at the train station would be required.

A study by Debora van der Nat showed that bicycle swapping might decrease the bicycle parking pressure at train stations by 15% (TU Delft 2018). She developed the concept upon graduation from Delft University of Technology.

From concept to pilot

The consultancy firm Mobycon further developed the concept into a pilot involving all collaborating parties. In the pilot, 130 quality bicycles were used by some 200 participants. Commuters from Amsterdam to other destinations used the bikes to cycle from their home to the station. Then, incoming commuters could use these bikes for their journeys in Amsterdam and in the evening, the process reversed. Wisselfietsen could be parked at a premium location in the parking garage.

Participants of the pilot needed to register and using an app, bikes could be made available for use. During the pilot, the use of Wisselfiets was free for participants.

The Transport Authority Amsterdam provided the project management expertise for the pilot and financed the entire project from the research phase to implementation and evaluation.

Lessons learnt

The experiment gave us insight into the bicycle swap concept in practice. We learnt that cyclists especially incoming commuters were interested in participating. One of the challenges encountered was that participants living in Amsterdam were more difficult to find. Also, the technical aspects of the pilot, i.e. the app to lock/unlock, wasn’t working at an optimal standard.

Our proposal is to carry out a follow-up at another location with different conditions to those employed at South station. For such a follow-up we recommend the following:

  • A bicycle parking location owned by the municipality
  • High parking pressure and possibly paid parking
  • Continue to offer a premium location in the bicycle parking for Wisselfiets (Swapbike)
  • Fully working and tested switch system
  • Approach employers actively
  • High-quality bicycles
  • Free trial offer
  • Pre-transport user remains a "black box" and needs targeted approach

See other bicycle share projects! For more information about this project, click here.

Our questions

Does your city carry out similar pilots? What were your lessons learnt? Share your thoughts and examples via Disqus below!


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