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A City with Too Many Bicycles – Amsterdam's Unique Problem

As cities all over the world attempt to better integrate the bicycle, Amsterdam acts as an example of a how a city might function should it achieve that goal – and it's not all good. Bicycle use is so popular in the Dutch capital that abandoned bikes in the city centre are starting to become a problem – an urban challenge almost unique to Amsterdam.

With the average Amsterdammer owning 1.5 bicycles, it's inevitable that many aren't being used. In fact, 15% of all bikes parked outside are believed to be unused, with 60% of all unused bicycles parked in the city centre.

The City of Amsterdam is attempting to raise awareness of the issue, starting with this enormous sculpture made up of 200 abandoned bicycles. Displayed during March 2011, this maze of bicycles acts as a strong visual reminder of the problems abandoned bikes create for the city. For cyclists, being unable to park your bicycle at racks full of abandoned vehicles is frustrating. For pedestrians, the visual pollution of damaged bicycles on the city's streets is a problem. And for the city council, the cost and inconvenience of removing 15,000 bicycles annually is something they would rather avoid.

The bicycle sculpture is just the beginning of Amsterdam's efforts, however. Bicycle maintenance is being encouraged in order to prevent degeneration to a point where owners feel their vehicle must be disposed of. Should it reach that point, detailed information on how to recycle or dispose of unwanted bicycles is being promoted throughout the city, hopefully encouraging residents to be proactive.

Problems with bicycle abandonment are likely to remain a bigger issue in Amsterdam than other cities simply due to the popularity of this mode of transport. It remains to be seen whether these new efforts will have a significant effect, but as global cities attempt to emulate Amsterdam's bicycle infrastructure, it's also worth observing how the city approaches one negative effect of mass bicycle use.

Images courtesy of City Breaths