Lessons learned from the parking referral system for bikes in Bruges centre
By Griet Vanwynsberghe and Julie Tieberghien (VIVES University College)
Within the scope of the BITS project, a parking referral system for bikes (PRSB) was installed in two underground parking facilities in the city centre of Bruges (i.e. at ‘t Zand (248 spots) and Concertgebouw (448 spots)) in July 2021 (See also BITS newsletter September 2021). By implementing this ITS, the amount of parked vehicles were monitored continuously by optical sensors. Above the ground, big LED screens were installed, which gave the people passing by an overview of the available parking spots. Since both parking facilities are close to each other, the LED screens also showed the number of available spots of the other parking lot.
The PRSB had three goals: (1) to help users find a parking spot faster, (2) to give the local government an indication of occupancy of the parking facilities and (3) to identify the amount of orphan bikes in the parking facilities. With this pilot, the local government hoped to attract more cyclists in the city and to have more bicycles parked in the underground parking facilities.
In this article, we report the main lessons learned of this ITS implementation. These lessons capture the occupancy rates of the parking facilities before and after installation of the PRSB, data on the amount of orphan bikes once the PRSB was installed, and the experiences of 44 users of the PRSB (measured through a short survey between November 2021 and January 2022) on the one hand and the project managers on the other hand.
Lesson 1: Effective to increase visibility of the underground parking facilities
The pilot showed that the LED screens installed to give the people passing by an overview of the available parking spots make it much more convenient for cyclists to use the underground parking facilities. Overall, taking into account pre- and post-measurements of occupancy rates (%) per day, the number of users increased with about 6,5%. In addition, from the users’ perspective, the added value of the system in creating more visibility has been recognized by 66% and an extension to other parking facilities has even been recommended. What is more, according to 20% of the survey participants, the choice of the parking facility is actually influenced by these LED screens.
Lesson 2: Small but relevant indication of a ‘modal shift’
This type of ITS does not seem to have any direct impact on the take-up of cycling nor on the cycling motivations of regular cyclists. About 91% of the participants indicated that the system hasn’t change their cycling behaviour as they will continue to cycle as often as before. However, the results of this pilot do show a small but relevant indication of a ‘modal shift’ meaning that a certain reduction of CO2 emission can be expected. Next to the increased use of both parking facilities with about 6,5%, which may already be an indication of higher cycling use, at least 4 participants (9%) notified that the system actually stimulated them to cycle more often. Two of them even indicated that the system stimulated them to replace the car by bike.
Lesson 3: Quick and easy monitoring of occupancy rates and amount of orphan bikes
Apart from experiencing some technical and administrative challenges, it is quite clear that this type of ITS has the benefit that it allows to identify the amount of orphan bikes quite easily. The available real-time data gives the local government a clear indication of how many and where the orphan bikes are situated, so that they can handle the orphaned bikes and can work on how to recycle them.
Similarly, for policy-makers, the parking referral system has an added value in collecting permanent and objective information about the occupancy rates of the parking facilities. As such, the collected data may e.g. help to develop targeted actions to the users of the PRSB, as it is known when each parking facility is used the most (e.g. weekdays versus weekend, morning versus evening time blocks) and what the average storage time of the bikes is in both parking facilities. To give an example, if zooming in on the occupancy rates during one day, data showed that the overall occupancy rate of the parking facilities was the highest between 06h00 in the morning and 18h00 in the evening which corresponds with the use of the parking spots by commuters driving to work, school or to leisure activities (e.g. shopping) nearby the parking facility.
To conclude, in the light of the BITS-project goals, it is clear that the main goals of this pilot are reached partially. While the ITS makes it much more convenient for cyclists to use the parking, the impact on the take-up of cycling or on the cycling motivations of the current users of the PRSB is rather small and mostly indirect.