The Dutch have created a transportation system based on thinking of a user’s entire journey from point A to point B. Every single presentation and tour we went on pointed out how biking and public transportation were integrated together to make these complete journeys possible. Although bikes are allowed on some trains (with the purchase of a separate bike ticket) every single train station has impressive *free* bike parking infrastructure capable of holding hundreds to thousands of bicycles at a time. Many of the main train stations for a city will also have bikes you can rent with your OV chip card to finish your journey, as well as bicycle maintenance areas and shops to help you along your journey. In The Hague we saw one that even had a bike light vending machine! Some of these biking areas are so big and advanced that they have electronic boards that tell you how many spaces are available per row. The residential areas around train and tram/light rail stations are often developed as no car/commuter areas. High numbers of employment are also found near main city train stations. Together these two city planning choices optimize the amount of people that utilize the public transportation systems. Biking to the train station, parking your bike, hopping on the next Intercity or Sprinter train, and walking or biking to the final destination is extremely common for many in the Netherlands.
If you do choose to bring your bike on board the process is a bit more difficult. Not all train stations are created equally and some are much more bike friendly then others. That being said it did make me consider how much more difficult utilizing public transportation, even a system as well designed as the Dutch, is for the disabled. Train stations with a lot of stairs you can guess are not as easily navigated with a bike but even then they will always have elevator access or the groove on the side of the staircase that makes bringing a bike up and down more easily. Certain train cars, usually one in the back and one in the front, give priority for bicycles but as we experienced on our train from Schiedam to Delft – not everyone respects this priority. Some train station exits are only revolving doors so finding an exit to accommodate your bicycle. All in all it is possible to bring your bicycle on board but it is not the preferred method because of the extra time and effort it takes and the little need for a bicycle in the home stretch of your journey.
The Dutch measure transit performance in similar ways that we do in the States – reliability. This utilizes on-time performance tracking of the different high frequency modes they have. At intersections they have prioritized the light-rail system to help increase this performance. One important aspect to note of the transit system in the Netherlands is how they have successfully integrated their different modes of public transportation systems across the country into a single OV chip card. The data collected through the use of this reloadable card is extremely useful in the advancement of the transit system. It tracks the start and end points of every single trip traveled in the country, whether it is tram, train, bus, or light rail. This helps officials see which routes and destinations are most popular to improve frequency, efficiency, and overall rider experience and satisfaction with the transit system.