Too Much of a Good Thing? Amsterdam is Clogged with Bikes

Dutch city has more bikes than residents, not enough parking

There was probably a time when having too many cars on the road was considered a good problem: it signified the march of progress and the democratization of a revolutionary piece of technology.

Those days are clearly gone, and the mantle of progress in urban transportation now belongs to cycling—see our list of the world’s best bike shares for elaboration on this point.

But for one famous pedal-powered city, cycling may be reaching the point of “too much of a good thing,” at least until some fixes come online.

Amsterdam, widely considered one of the world’s best cities for cyclists, is choked with bicycles according to a recent story in the New York Times. Never mind the fact that the city has multi-story parking garages just for bikes, a bike passage through the Rijkmuseum, and a bike-only suspension bridge. There are simply more bicycles than the city knows what to do with.

“It’s not bike friendly—no!” the keeper of one small bike lot told the paper. There are bike traffic jams, bikes clogging the city’s squares, bikes chained to every available post and bench—880,000 of them for a city of 820,000 people, reports the Times.

But lest the Dorothy Rabinowitzes of the world scream “Told ya so!” before collapsing into quivering piles of bike-fearing jelly, there’s more to this story. See, Amsterdam is the kind of city that respects the importance of human-powered transportation enough to try to solve the problems it creates rather than letting the naysayers shout progress into a corner (hear that, New York?).

The city is investing $135 million into improving cycling infrastructure, including building 38,000 new bike racks over the next two decades, said Thomas Koorn of Amsterdam’s Transport and Traffic Department to the Times. If that sounds like a small number, consider this observation by Lloyd Alter of TreeHugger: the equivalent investment for a city of New York’s size would be $1.35 billion. That’s a lot of bike lanes.

“We don’t think there’s a crisis,” said Koorn. “You cannot imagine if all this traffic were cars.”