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“Flex Parking”, where cars and bikes can both park

In cities where space is in short supply, you need to think outside the box in order to make room for everyone. When it comes to a cycle city like Copenhagen, with its countless cyclists, you also need to allocate parking space for both cars and bikes – this is where “flex parking” comes in.

In order for flex parking to work, it is crucial that both user groups – cyclists and motorists – can access parking space at different times. The Ingrid Jespersen High School in Copenhagen was chosen as a test site for flex parking. The flex parking pilot was implemented in 2011 for 5 car parking spaces in front of the school.

Copenhagen and many other Danish cities are increasingly transforming car parking spaces into bicycle parking. Such a solution naturally limits the number of car parking spaces, but this is not necessarily negative.  Rather than saying ‘either/or’, the City of Copenhagen, with the help of consultants from Atkins Danmark, decided to say ‘yes’ to both bikes and cars, and in turn developed the concept of “flex parking”.

Bikes use the flex area between 7am and 5pm

Car parked in the flex parking area

Implementation

As is the case at most educational institutions in Copenhagen many people cycle there, but the students are only in class for a limited period during the day. The Ingrid Jespersen High School is located in a residential area with many car owners. At night, the need for car parking in the area increases as people come home from work. Precisely this combination of different needs during the day and at night made it possible to use the same space twice.

In order to identify the area as flex parking, the asphalt of the original car parking space was marked with the flex parking logo and text. Signs indicating the time span allotted for bikes and cars respectively were set up. The new regulation is that cyclists can use the space between 7 AM and 5 PM, and car parking is allowed between 5 PM and 7 AM. In order to ensure that time limits would be respected, a pamphlet was distributed to all students and residents in the area so that both cyclists and motorists were familiar with the new initiative and knew how to use it.

The costs for development of the pilot project were 172,500 DKK (approx. EURO 23,125). In future, the implementation costs are foreseen to be approx. 30,000 DKK (approx. EURO 4,022).

Conclusions

The flex parking pilot received good feedback from students, their parents, and school personnel. Citizens in the area also showed positive attitudes towards flex parking. In conclusion, the project managed to solve the parking problems around the school.

The biggest challenge comes around the times when the area switches from car parking to bicycle parking and vice versa.  On occasion, a car or bike has not been moved, but this has not caused any problems or accidents. Clearly, it is important to determine the time limits to match the specific needs of both user groups.

Although flex parking may not be 100% ideal for cyclists, as there are no bike racks; nor 100% for motorists, who have to respect the time limit, a positive aspect is that both parties – not just one of them – get a parking option. Without flex parking there is only car parking or bicycle parking, with space lying empty for much of the day.

The project received much publicity in the press as it focused on a well-known and challenging problem for many Danish cities.  With some small adjustments, the flex parking scheme has been continued at Ingrid Jespersen High School.  Seven further schools have also expressed their interest for flex parking. The city of Copenhagen has identified 17 places where flex parking could be implemented in the future, including other schools and supermarkets.

The test case has shown that it is possible for bikes and cars to share space.

This case study “Shared (parking) space for bikes and cars in Copenhagen” was published in March 2013 and hosted at Eltis.org. It provides an innovative way to reallocate parking space between bicycles and cars using pop up bicycle parking.

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