The “Utrecht scale” – a new standard for cycle parking

Utrecht cycling

I have a new proposal for how to measure quantities of bikes. It is called the “Utrecht scale” and it is based on the “ocean of bicycles” I described several weeks ago.

I had some hopes of my own. I suggested then that we needed a new measurement for cycle parking. The “Mayne scale” would be based on how long it took to walk the length of the bike park. In the case of Utrecht, it would be top of the scale with over 8 minutes from end to end. When cyclists rule the world we will need a new vocabulary, just like eskimos were supposed to have 40 words for snow and maybe my scale could have become as established as Richter, Geiger or Beaufort. But the Mayne scale is not to be.

No. For for the international comparison of bicycle numbers only the “Utrecht scale” will do now. A scale based on oceans, seas, lakes and puddles will tell us all we need to know about numbers of parked bikes.

It was a simple phrase that started it. I wrote “In Utrecht I saw a sea of bikes. In fact no I didn’t, I saw an ocean of bikes.” And then I linked it to this picture and sent it off on social media.

sea of bikes Utrecht

The rest, as they say, is history.BmiEOFeIEAAqnyw

By the following weekend it had made two local papers and the traffic on this blog had reached heights I could hardly have imagined even a week earlier.


We even made a news story about cyBnAowqGCIAEJ7b7cle parking making the news on the ECF web site.

But it was not only Utrecht. Since then people keep sending me their cycle parking pictures from around the world and using the phrase “sea of bicycles” whenever they meet a big quantity of bikes.

The first phase of the huge new underground cycle park in Utrecht opened this week, taking the first 2000 bikes off the streets. So as a legacy of those amazing displays of bikes that may soon be no more, and for the proud people of Utrecht who love their cycle parking here is my first attempt at the “Utrecht scale” for cycle parking.

Ocean of bicycles

Bikes as far as the eye can see. Over 20,000 bikes. Take some emergency rations before you go and look for your bike, this may take some time. Example? Utrecht!

Utrechts bicycle parks

Sea of bicycles

A concentrated mass of bikes. More than 5000 in one place. You may need a guide and some time to get in and out of here. Example? It seems to be almost any Dutch station, but increasingly Flanders including Bruges and Ghent.

Cycle Parking Ghent Station


Cycle parking Bruges station


Now the minimum standard for any decent cycling town is to have 1000 bikes at main hubs like universities and railway stations. An honourable mention now to Bologna, Italy which has the biggest lake of rusty old student bikes round their railway station that I have ever seen.

Bologna Station Bike Park



Every village should have a pond. Ducks on the water, somewhere for children to paddle and for animals to drink. So every small area of shops, every park, every street corner should have at least a pond of bike parking to cater for local needs. Examples? Hopefully everywhere, but Copenhagen is a perfect example of putting the parking on every corner, including cargo bikes.

Copenhagen corner street parking


A level especially created for Amsterdam. Or any other city where the bikes are not parked together in a massive body but instead flow through the streets like the waterways that run through the city.

canal of bicycles Amsterdam


Well you couldn’t get very wet in that could you? Just one or two bikes? Berlin – could do better!

Cycle Parking Berlin 1

Muddy puddle

As above, but with mountain bikes! From Whistler, where else!

Whistler Bike park, cycle parking

Frozen puddle – Memmingen, Germany, at minus 14 degrees centigrade.

Bike covered in snow in Memmingen

To complement the Utrecht scale I did think of some other useful phrases with a watery flavour

Tsunami of bicycles – what happens when everybody in Utrecht tries to get on their bikes at the same time.

Utrecht cyclists

Desert – Trying to find any evidence of bicycle life here is pretty hard.

pavement parking central Kiev Ukraine

Splash – several bikes thrown together informally, the basis for much of the cycle parking in Salzberg, Austria.

Linzergasse Salzburg Austria

Dried up river bed – speaks for itself.

desert of bicycles

Reservoir – 700 Bixi bikes waiting for Velo-city 2012 delegates to arrive – Vancouver.

Velo-city 2012 Bike Fleet

So now then readers – does this work for you? And what would your watery terms for cycling be?

To finish – my favourite watery cycling photo. I look forward to your comments!

Coronian Lagoon, Lithuania

Amsterdam reflections

I have now had 24 hours to reflect on yesterday’s trip to Amsterdam.

In particular I have been trying to think about the elements I noticed that made it stand out so much. I cannot help but make comparisons with Copenhagen too, a city where I have spent more time and perhaps been given more formal introductions to Danish cycling culture. It isn’t enough to say “there were just so many”, it is more.

I cannot compete with the Dutch Cycling Embassy for technical knowledge, Fietsersbond for advocacy or Amsterdamize for cool, but for what it’s worth here are five first reactions to Amsterdam cycling that support my own thesis “When I see Amsterdam cyclists I do not despair for the future of the human race”.

1. Bikes belong

It starts immediately at the station with the brilliant multi-deck parking which has been a feature of many city cycling presentations but you really do have to see it to believe it. Amsterdam Central Station Cycle Parking DecksBut to my eyes it is the bikes in the streets that blow me away, just extraordinary volumes. There is just not a section of street in Amsterdam that doesn’t have its collection of bikes. In many cities there would be refuse trucks cruising the streets taking them away, but not here. They are not an addition to the fabric of the city, they are part of it. But now I do know why the Dutch are fixated by cycle parking.

Amsterdam Cycle Parking

Amsterdam Cycle Parking Amsterdam Cycle Parking

2. Backgrounds.

Bikes and canals. Just beautiful settings for cycling, enhanced by the rattle of bikes on the cobbles and not the engines of the cars. Cycling belongs here.Amsterdam and bikes

Amsterdam and bikes

Amsterdam and bikes

Amsterdam and bikes

3. AttitudeAmsterdam CyclistAmsterdam Cyclist

Even in the most successful cycling cities I think cycling carries a certain tension. Cyclists in Copenhagen always seem to be in a hurry to me and the cycle lanes feel like race tracks at times.

I am sure this is true in the Amsterdam rush hour. But generally cyclists here are so totally relaxed they routinely switch off all the defensive worries, even on the roads. Texting, phoning, headphones, one hand, luggage swinging, riding in pairs, chatting, passengers on racks. Everything your mother told you not to do.

It is another world where cyclists really don’t have to worry about the environment around them. (And almost helmet free!!!!!!)

Amsterdam CyclistAmsterdam CyclistAmsterdam Cyclist

4. Practicality

I know carrying loads on bikes is easier than most people think. I know there are loads of brands of cargo bikes and luggage carriers. But I would have to bore you with dozens of photos to show all the ways I saw things being carried, and how. The plastic crate seems almost ubiquitous as a carrying tool so that a wooden box stood out. And day clothes.Amsterdam Cyclist

Amsterdam CyclistAmsterdam CyclistAmsterdam Bike

5. Diversity

As you can see from the photos above even a randon selection shows a higher proportion of the riders were women than men. And if the Dutch have got a general problem encouraging their new immigrant communities to ride I didn’t see it here, they must have done a great job with their promotional campaigns, or the message is really spreading. A Muslim woman in a headscarf with her bike is still pretty much a rarity in most cultures, but I saw several here.

That is really encouraging, it shows that this is not DNA, it is cultural and can be learned.

Is there anything new to say about Amsterdam cycling?

Heineken box on Amsterdam bike

27th June inserted comment: Thanks to a number of twitter followers and bloggers who have linked to this page since it was published. Please note that this was a short introductory post – my main post on Amsterdam is tagged “Amsterdam” and was posted on 6th June. I’d welcome your comments!

I have just got back from Amsterdam and I am struggling with dozens of photos and lots of words.

A small confession is in order. During the last 15 years working in cycling I have actually not been to the city that claims to lead the world in cycling numbers. Four times to Copenhagen which challenges for that lead, the up and coming German cities, London, York and lots of other cycling towns and cities.

I thought I would be hard to impress, but as a cyclist how could I not be blown away? I have put up a couple of photos tonight and I’ll add a bit of a gallery tomorrow. And as I do I’ll struggle to add anything to the insights of many other bloggers and advocates, but for now:

“When I see cyclists in Amsterdam I do not despair for the future of the human race” – Kevin MayneAmsterdam Cycle Parking