Amsterdam cracks down on unauthorized bike-sharing

Hello Bikes in front of the CycleSpace in Amsterdam Zuidas
Hello Bikes in front of the CycleSpace in Amsterdam ZuidasPhoto: Zachary Newmark / NL Times

With reporting by Janene Pieters.

The city of Amsterdam is beginning to crack down on unauthorized bike-sharing in the Dutch capital, traffic alderman and deputy mayor Pieter Litjens said to NL Times. The municipality is notifying unsanctioned bike sharing companies this week that they need to collect their bicycles off of city streets. Bicycles not recovered by these firms will be impounded by the city beginning in mid-October.

According to Litjens, many of the unsanctioned bike sharing companies in Amsterdam are Chinese firms that dumped cheaply made bikes on the streets, simply to collect data for potential future business deals. These companies don't care if the bicycles are abandoned or dumped in a canal, Litjens said. They take up much needed bicycle parking spaces and create clutter in the city.

Amsterdam wants private businesses to run the bike sharing operations in the city. These businesses will be selected and given a permit after a formal bidding process. Exactly when this bidding process will start, is not yet clear. The city is working on policy that they hope will be ready by the end of the year.

Ideally, the city wants to work with companies that can manage thousands of high quality bicycles, and are willing to share the data they collect so that Amsterdam can immprove and optimize traffic and infrastructure. The companies will have to sign a service agreement, which will define how space and bikes will be dealt with. This is to prevent bicycles being abandoned, or bike sharing stations only popping up in busy areas like at Amsterdam Central Station.

To date, Amsterdam has only given permission to Hello Bike - a bike sharing firm operating in the Zuidas area. According to Litjens, Hello Bike operates in a way the city approves of and consulted with the municipality. The company is also active in an area where the city wants boost cycling to work. Litjens said that about 40 percent of people working in this major busines district live within 10 kilometers of their office, yet about 40 percent of these people still drive to work. 

As part of long-term urban planning in the Zuidas, Amsterdam is building an underground bicycle garage with parking space for 3,500 bikes. Another 15,000 bike parking spaces will also be built around the area. 

Organization CycleSpace and the Amsterdam's Bicycle Mayor Office are optimistic about the city's plans, Lee Feldman of CycleSpace said to NL Times. But they only want "accredited" companies to be involved, by agreeing to participate in the city's yet-to-be-developed digital biking infrastructure, called "everybike." CycleSpace is also working on a proposal where people can trade in old, unused bicycles to get access to the everybike network when it launches in about a year.