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Zurich residents like it superficially. At least the ones you Bikewant to park at the main train station. The bikes are criss-crossed on the free parking spaces on Europaplatz. A bicycle is chained to each post. Under the square, on the other hand: emptiness. The “Luxusvelostation”, the country's largest bicycle garage with 1,600 spaces and a symbol of bicycle promotion, is poorly attended.
Too few cyclists are willing to spend CHF 2 per day or CHF 180 for an annual subscription. The station's utilization is only 50 to 55 percent, as the NZZ recently reported. The station, operated by the AOZ project “Züri rollt”, writes deficits. Unlike what the city promised when it opened two years ago.
Cyclists are willing to spend CHF 120 or CHF 100 on a secure above-ground bicycle parking lot with 24-hour access.
Elsewhere in the city, cyclists like to pay for a guarded parking space. The above-ground bike station at the State Museum is just as busy as the bike boxes at other city train stations - with the exception of Affoltern and Seebach. Cyclists are therefore willing to spend CHF 120 or CHF 100 on a secure above-ground bicycle parking space with 24-hour access.
The city sees a need for action at Europaplatz and is examining price adjustments. Politicians are calling for the 1500 free above-ground parking spaces to be abolished (see co-text). A comparison with other bicycle parking garages shows that the station is actually more expensive than others. But the price alone is not decisive for the success of a bicycle garage.
Access has to be easy
The Velostadt Bern offers four stations near the train station. Although they are all equally expensive (CHF 1 per day, CHF 150 per year), the utilization of the stations varies enormously. Two are fully to very well used. Two have a moderate to low occupancy rate. For Michael Liebi, head of the pedestrian and bicycle traffic department in Bern, the location is crucial. "The decisive factors are safe and direct access to the station and efficient access to the station." If you want to park in the Schanzenbrücke, the station with the worst occupancy, you have to cross a main street twice, by bike and on foot.
Bern is currently planning a new overall concept with 10,000 parking spaces. Then free offers in bike stations should also be discussed, as requested by the city parliament. Bern is based on the Netherlands, where there are approaches with more flexible pricing models in stations. The first 24 hours are often free there.
«Price sensitive» cyclists
In the summer, the city of Lucerne switched from a daily flat rate to the free model in the guarded Velostation Ost. The change has so far not changed much in terms of the utilization of 65 percent. For Martin Urwyler, the reason for the low capacity utilization is clear: "The Velostation is poorly located." Cyclists would have to cycle past their destination and drive to the bicycle parking garage via a heavily frequented junction. That is physically as well as psychologically bad. The city of Lucerne is also looking into expanding the underground parking space: "And then the goal is to fill all of these spaces." It is not yet clear to what extent these parking spaces will then also cost.
The SBB's Smartmo pilot project shows that price plays a role. This offers 50 bicycle spaces in front of the entrance to Lucerne train station, which can be reserved via the app. The balance sheet after two months of operation is mixed. Urwyler: "The users are price-sensitive."
Underground free parking spaces are already a reality in Basel. Dominik Näff, Managing Director of the Basel-Stadt multi-storey car parks, says: "The 800 spaces that are free are overcrowded every day." But: The other 800 chargeable spaces are also used between 90 and 100 percent. At CHF 1 per day and CHF 120 per year, the station is significantly cheaper than the Zurich “luxury bike station”. However, the price model does not cover the costs. For ongoing operations, according to Näff, it would only just be enough if the daily prices were doubled.
Covering costs? Difficult!
It is doubtful whether public bicycle cellars can even be operated cost-neutral. This is the conclusion of a report by the City of Winterthur from 2017. Its balance sheet: "A bicycle station cannot be operated cost-effectively with the income from the services for cyclists alone."
Many do not know the station
The specialists from Winterthur compared their offerings with those of other cities, some of which have set up their bike stations differently. Here, too, the conclusion is: Regardless of how they are organized, cared-for bicycle parking spaces do not cover costs through the income from the core bicycle services. Even the Velostation Burgdorf, where the operators charge 2 francs per day and the annual subscription a record 200 francs, cannot do that.
If you talk to cyclists at the main train station, it quickly becomes clear what the problem is. Many occasional commuters do not even know the station, which opened two years ago. Or: The superficial solution is faster and more convenient for you. In addition, you don't worry that your bike will be stolen.
Above all, it is the regular commuters who have bought an annual subscription and who appreciate the Veloparkhaus. They want a guaranteed space, a dry saddle and less maintenance work on the bike. They are therefore happy to plan more time for underground parking. But they too would hesitate to buy a day ticket - “there is simply too many free parking spaces upstairs for that”, says one person.
Politicians are calling for free parking to be abolished
City of Zurich politicians are not very surprised by the vacancy in the "Velopalast" at Europaplatz. "That was to be feared," says SVP transport politician Stephan Iten. If cyclists can choose between a paid garage and free parking spaces above ground, the case is clear. Iten doubts that a price cut will do anything. "If the city is already building a palatial palace for cyclists, it would have to dismantle the free parking spaces on the surface." That was also the case with the historic parking space compromise.
FDP councilor Andreas Egli also attributes the vacancy to the free parking spaces. "The system was broken." The fact that the above-ground free bicycle spaces still exist is due to an initiative by the green municipal councilor Markus Knauss. The latter had asked for it to be received two years ago. Egli: "At that moment the 14 million were devalued." In order to prevent vacancies in the planned bicycle parking at Stadelhofen station, the city should not offer any free parking spaces there.
Record parking in Utrecht
Markus Knauss counters: "The bike subsidy has to be worth something to the city." Now it is important to «pragmatically develop» the parking model under Europaplatz. Even if a higher level of comfort could cost something, he thinks the price of 180 francs is too high: even in wealthy Zurich, the willingness to pay is not infinite. One thing is clear for Knauss: "We are dependent on underground systems because there is not enough space above ground." The example at the main train station in the Dutch city of Utrecht shows that a large number of parking spaces are important for promoting bicycles. It has opened the world's largest underground bike park - with 12,500 spaces.
SP President Marco Denoth states: “HB-Veloparking is too expensive for many users. It should be free. " The system would then be used and above-ground parking spaces could be dismantled. Denoth believes that the city should also consider a free offer with a view to the bicycle parking at Stadelhofen.
GLP councilor Sven Sobernheim, on the other hand, considers today's prices in the HB Velostation to be justified. It would take time for cyclists to accept the offer. He expects an improved utilization of the Velotunnel under the station. Then cyclists from the other side of HB could also use the offer. However, the Velotunnel is not expected to open until 2024 at the earliest. (mth)
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