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24 October 2019

Addressing nuisance caused by bicycles parked in front of Albert Heijn supermarket (AH) on Helmstraat

Until recently, cyclists could park their bicycles in the fixed bicycle racks in front of the AH on Helmstraat. This was often a challenge as the bicycle racks were always overcrowded. Bicycles were often parked in a big jumble next to the bicycle racks as well as against the facades for metres on end. Pedestrians, people with prams or wheeled walkers, and people in wheelchairs often could not get past.

It was discovered that most of the parking spaces were taken up by bicycles that are parked for extended periods of time or abandoned bicycles, making parking a bicycle for a short time difficult. To address these parking problems and the resulting nuisance, the fixed bicycle racks were replaced with bicycle parking spaces in the second week of September. Bicycles and mopeds can be parked in these spaces for up to one hour.

A massive difference

Torsten Hounjet, branch manager of the AH on Helmstraat, is happy with the new situation. ‘The fixed bicycle racks had been a thorn in our side for years, both in terms of appearance and because of the safety concerns. Passers-by, our shop's customers, and the emergency services were affected by the chaos of the parking situation on our doorstep. The new short-stay bicycle parking spaces are now in use and have made a massive difference,’ says Torsten. After a brief look outside, this appears to be the case as around twenty bicycles are neatly parked in the spaces and three are chained to the posts which display the signs explaining the new rules. Even the space between the two sections (meant for the emergency services), is practically empty. ‘This means that the new parking spaces have no appeal for people who park their bicycles for extended periods of time, because there is almost nothing that they can attach their bicycles to. The question we are now facing is: how will the municipality enforce this? The signs detailing the new situation can only be read from the signs on the street. At peak times, approximately between 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM, the parking spaces are busier. Time will tell whether the parking spaces are big enough for peak times too,’ explains Torsten. 

Parking coaches

Parking coaches appointed by the municipality were present at fixed times over a period of three weeks. They spoke to people about how they parked their bicycles, attached notes to incorrectly parked bicycles, and explained the new parking rules to people who came to park their bicycles. They also referred people (who wanted to park their bicycle or moped for over an hour) to the unguarded bicycle-parking facility at Vrijthof square as well as the supervised bicycle parking facilities at Markt and Kesselskade. Alternative bicycle racks and moped parking spaces are located at Keizer Karelplein/Vrijthof, Grote Gracht/Markt, and Gubbelstraat. ‘Generally, people understand the new situation, especially after we explain it,’ says a parking coach. ‘However, we have already noted things that can be improved. Examples include marking the parking spaces more clearly and ensuring that people who have bicycles that do not have a kickstand (such as racing bikes) have somewhere they can park. Another issue is finding a place where cargo bikes can be parked, as their width is an issue. We are taking all of these things into account in our evaluation,’ explains the parking coach.

Responses

Hounjet instructs his staff on alternative parking locations for their bicycles. When asked, the AH staff inform customers of the new parking situation in front of the shop. ‘We have not received any complaints concerning the one-hour parking spaces,’ explains Hounjet. Someone who parked their bicycle thinks differently, asking ‘Who is going to pay for the damage if vandals knock down the entire row of bicycles? Or if I have to queue at the pharmacy for half an hour after doing my grocery shopping, I might not get back in time. I think the so-called improvement has actually made things worse!’ A local lady overhears and adds to his point, saying ‘These days you have to take a course to understand where you can park your bike in Maastricht!’ However, there are also positive responses to the new parking spaces; for instance: ‘We can finally make it to our bicycles with our shopping bags now’ and ‘This makes things much more accessible.’ The trial being run by the Municipality of Maastricht in collaboration with Maastricht Bereikbaar will last for six months. At the end of that period, the parties involved will decide on whether the trial will be continued for the longer term.

Enforcement

The municipality will start enforcing this from 1 October. The parked bicycles will then have a label fitted to them and if the bicycles are still there an hour later, then they will be removed by the municipal enforcement team. People who have parked their bicycle for too long or incorrectly will then be able to collect their bicycles free of charge from the bicycle depot on Sint Gerardusweg 39 on Monday between 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM or on Thursday between 3:30 PM and 4:30 PM. Mopeds that have been parked for too long may also be subject to enforcement measures.

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