If you still doubt whether the bike is king in the Netherlands, head to Utrecht. The architects of the studio Ector Hoogstad Architecten have designed an underground bicycle park of three floors … Covered, safe and free. Mind-blowing!
Jacques Brel may have paid tribute to the singing sailors in the Port of Amsterdam, but in Utrecht it is the cyclists that are jumping with joy. Why? Because the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, where more than 26% of trips are done by bicycle, now has the largest bicycle parking in the world.
Built in two stages, this huge bike park offers 12,656 spaces, to be precise. 3,000 more than the previous world record held by Tokyo. At the helm of the project since 2011, the Rotterdam architect studio Ector Hoogstad Architecten has had the good reflex to nest this megastructure under the station of Utrecht. The aim is to encourage intermodal transport and reduce the traffic jams in the city centre. It is practical, smart and flooded with light and also has a more urbanistic mission: to connect the railway station and the shopping centre and participate in the complete restructuring of the neighbourhood.
Flooded with light and filled with sensors
By using raw and durable materials, concrete, steel and wood, the architects succeeded in infusing a soul into a seemingly unfriendly place. The entrance is made by 30-metre wide stairs serving as skylights. On three floors, cyclists walk through corridors, guided by colour markings on the ground. The first 24 hours are completely free, then parking your bike costs only 1.25 euro per day. Optical sensors transmit information on the occupancy of the spaces. This allows the city to check the level of occupancy of the park in real time and to establish forecasts.
This avant-garde park is but the first of a long series. The Dutch authorities are planning to build similar bicycle parks in other cities to meet the growing demand, notably in Delft (5,000 places), Amsterdam (7,000 places) and The Hague (8,500 places). Hoping that this example goes beyond the Dutch borders, the city of Utrecht, nicknamed “The Hidden Pearl of The Netherlands”, could become the new reference for cycling policies.