The battle for public space has started to emerge in many cities across the globe. Our streets have to cater for many things, from the regular post box or bin to trees and benches. Transport uses a significant part of that public space, both moving as well as parked. Even in a city like Amsterdam, considered by many the cycling capital of the world, 48% of public space is still used by the car as shown in an article by Parool. Only 11% of that public space is reserved for the bicycle in Amsterdam. In a city like The Hague, which is generally considered to be more car dominated, this percentage is likely to be lower. Typically, the parked bicycle is everywhere, but it is mostly pushed on space generally used by the pedestrian. This battle for public space becomes more and more apparent in Dutch neighborhoods with limited public space, like in the city of The Hague.
Cycle Parking in Pre-War Neighborhoods in The Hague
Pre-war neighborhoods are especially sought-after and popular places to live in The Netherlands. However, their spatial layout (narrow streets and sidewalks) and the housing type (townhouses converted into multiple dwellings with no sheds or gardens) make it challenging for most residents to park their bicycles in a convenient and safe way. Bicycles blocking the pavements affects not only the accessibility and safety but also the livability of these neighborhoods.
In 2019, The Hague adopted its new Cycle Strategy with one of the main objectives being the delivery of 'easy cycle parking'. The subsequent Cycle Implementation Plan called for addressing cycle parking in pre-war neighborhoods. In 2021, The Hague selected seven neighborhoods for this project, and they approached Arup to produce a Plan of Approach. To verify the approach, Geuzen- en Statenkwartier, a neighborhood of 14,000 residents, was chosen as a pilot project.
Checking the Facts and Needs
Both quantitative (car and bicycle parking surveys) and qualitative (residents' needs and concerns) data was used to evaluate the current situation and suggest solutions. Analysis of parking data enabled the team to pinpoint locations with highest need for additional cycle parking facilities. The analysis showed that the neighborhood not only has a high demand for cycle parking facilities, but also a high demand for car parking. All the data gathered in the project was saved in a Geographic Information System (GIS).
Successful Stakeholder Engagement
To verify the locations with high demand for cycle parking, and to devise the best design for cycle parking facilities, Arup facilitated digital discussion between the residents and the municipality about the use and layout of the urban space. Two stakeholder engagement sessions were held. The first stakeholder engagement covered a presentation of the analysis, both qualitative and quantitative. It also covered generic questions about the use of public space, such as: "What has to be sacrificed for extra bicycle facilities? The sidewalk? Car parking spots? Urban green or playgrounds?". Another topic covered in the first session was shortlisting the top 10 of locations with the highest need for a solution. To facilitate that, a top 20 was pre-selected based on the quantitative and qualitative analysis. Stakeholders were able to vote for the top 10 using the Mentimeter tool.
The second stakeholder engagement session focused on the top 10. Questions were prepared to understand the preferences of the stakeholders for the solutions. Examples of those questions: "What type of solution do you prefer? Indoor? Outdoor? Covered? And how far are you willing to walk to your bicycle?". These questions were facilitated by an Inspiration Book with examples of cycle parking solutions. With the answers to the questions the project team was able to gather preferences for each of the locations in the top 10. These preferences were then taken into consideration in the design process, carried out by the Ingenieursbureau Den Haag. The design process was informed by the number of required parking spaces per location and the mentioned preferences. The end result will be a design with for example a covered parking facility at the corner of the street including some additional Sheffield stands in the street.
Democratizing the Battle for Space
While stakeholder engagement was key in this project, it also posed a challenge due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19. By carrying out digital public consultations and using the digital mapping tool, the project team was able to minimize the impact of the restrictions on interacting with the residents. The digital tools can be applied anywhere in the world and have also proven to be more successful in engaging stakeholders. The battle for public space is something that any city will have to face in some shape or form. A good way to approach that battle it by democratizing it using (digital) stakeholder engagement.