In the summer of 2021 Dutch Rail is running a trial to combat the problem of too many passengers wanting to take their bikes with them on the train. The Dutch Cyclists' Union (Fietsersbond) and travellers' organisation Rover are strongly opposed to this plan.
From 10 July to 30 September 2021 every passenger who wants to take their bike on the trains of Dutch Rail will not only have to buy a day ticket for the bike, but they will also have to reserve a place for their bike in advance via a special app or through customer service. If you miss your connection due to a delay, you will have to make a new reservation.
To compensate for this inconvenience, the price of a day ticket for the bike will be reduced by 25%. (Before the COVID-19 pandemic the price of this ticket had just been increased by 20% in two years.)
For many years the train has been a popular mode of transport for cyclists travelling to the starting point of their ride or back home again. You simply buy a day ticket for your bike and (outside rush hours) you hop on whichever train you want.
The only problem is that on most trains the number of allocated spaces for bikes is rather limited. If you're heading to a popular cycling destination on a busy day, you might find all the spaces for bikes are full. In that case, you'll have to wait for the next train. Dutch Rail doesn't want the aisles to be blocked by bikes. They also say cyclists cause inconvenience as they take too long to get on and off the train.
In the summer of 2020 Dutch Rail introduced a system of voluntary registration, claiming this measure was necessary due to Covid-19. This voluntary registration wasn't aimed at guaranteeing you would have a space for your bike.
The idea was that if all passengers with a bike registered in advance which train they were planning to take, the number of bikes would spread out better over the day so there would be enough allocated bike spaces for everyone.
While 80% of the passengers made use of the voluntary registration system, it didn't solve the problem of too many bikes. Hence the trial with compulsory reservation this summer.
The Dutch Cyclists' Union and travellers' organisation Rover are strongly opposed to compulsory reservation for the bike and have requested Dutch Rail not to go ahead with their trail, which they say is very passenger unfriendly.
Director of the Dutch Cyclists' Union, Esther van Garderen, says: "It's incomprehensible that right now when Dutch Rail has a shortage of passengers, the decision has been made to keep away cyclists. Sometimes it's impossible to estimate the exact length of a cycle ride. Precisely for this group of passengers it's important to be able to get onto the train spontaneously."
Director of Rover, Freek Bos, totally agrees: "Since the coronavirus crisis there are fewer commuters and more tourists using the train. That's where there are opportunities for Dutch Rail."
None of the other rail companies in Holland require reservation for bikes. Both consumer organisations fear that this measure will lead to unpleasant discussions between passengers and rail staff. They also point out the problem of having to make a new reservation on the spot if you miss your connection due to a delay.
More allocated bike spaces
The two organisations ask Dutch Rail to investigate other solutions. Rather than discouraging cyclists, wouldn't it be a much better idea to create more spaces for bikes, for example by introducing constructions in the trains so you can hang up your bike, or passenger seats that can be removed on busy days?
They believe that better information on the allocated spaces for bikes could decrease the number of passenger complaints. Also, why introduce compulsory reservation now, when over the coming years Dutch Rail will be introducing new trains with more allocated spaces for bikes anyway?
Like the Dutch Cyclists' Union and Rover, we at Holland-Cycling.com certainly hope that Dutch Rail will reconsider their plans and not go ahead with the trial. Getting on and off a busy train with your bike, especially if it's loaded with luggage, is stressful enough without adding more logistical complications. So if it is Dutch Rail's aim is to discourage cyclists by making their trip even more complicated, their trial is sure to be a success!
Do you also think Dutch Rail's plan for compulsory reservation for bikes is a bad idea? Then you can sign the petition of the Dutch Cyclists' Union.
Update February 2022
The petition of the Dutch Cyclists' Union against compulsory reservation for bikes has been signed by 13,320 people. During the pilot there were also been many complaints that the system simply did not work for passengers. Finally Dutch Rail has decided against continuing the pilot - at least, for now...