Improving bicycle parking at train stations

Bicycle parking at train stations in big cities is an increasing problem in the Netherlands. A lot of travellers park their bikes along the streets and footpaths around the train station. In many places this causes a huge mess, with bikes standing in the way of pedestrians, and cyclists scrambling to find a place for their bike. At the same time existing indoor bicycle storage spaces around the stations are underused. This is an issue for municipal authorities as well as for NS and Prorail (the main train operator and rail infrastructure company in the country), and also for the association of cyclists. They jointly decided to invest in improving the situation by coming up with a new concept for bicycle parking at stations that could cater for everyone. To inspire and facilitate the conversations between the different stakeholders, STBY was asked to investigate and represent the perspective of cyclists on this matter.

Learning from the experiences of cyclists
STBY engaged in an extensive series of interactions with cyclists at different train stations in large cities around the country. We observed everyday behaviours, and invited people to take part in co-creation sessions. We jointly mapped current experiences with bicycle parking, and gathered people’s thoughts on key issues and potential improvements. We looked at both the use of unprotected parking spaces outside and monitored indoor parking spaces, and we also considered people with different types of bikes. During the analysis we made a aggregated visual customer journey of bike parking experiences. In this customer journey the key flows and decision making points are marked out and illustrated with pictures, quotes and insights. We also made a visual overview of the usage of available bike parking spaces, again highlighting the key issues and opportunities for improvement.

Wicked problem of changing old habits
Based on the analysis we identified some ‘wicked problems’ that are difficult to solve, but will lead to big improvements when solved, and also some ‘hygiene factors’ that can be solved more easily. One of the wicked problems is, for instance, how to propose to an approaching cyclist who is anxious to catch his train, and who has a habit of ‘dumping’ his bike in a tight spot at the last minute, that he could also make use of the indoor space provided and that this would not cost him more time or more money? To make this work, several new service elements need to be in place, such as communication long before the cyclist arrives at the station, an entrance to the parking space that is easy to find and negotiate, very clear upfront information on available spaces and lead times, and better real-time facilities indicating free spots. All these aspects have been discussed with the main stakeholders in the project and are now part of the considerations for newly planned renovations of the areas surrounding stations in big cities.

Bicycle parking is an integral part of the overall journey
For travelers the first and last leg of their journey to and from the train station is an integral part of their overall trip. By making the transitions in this journey more smooth, service providers such as NS, Prorail and the local government can deliver a much more valuable experience to their customers, both residents and visitors. To optimise the service experience they need to collaborate well, which in the end leads to a win-win situation for all.