All about cycling in the Netherlands
After the look at home parking earlier last month, we now look at the busier areas of many Dutch cities again. Especially around the shopping areas in the city centres and near the railway stations the number of parked bicycles is astonishing, even to the Dutch themselves. These areas have really been filling up with parked bicycles in recent years. The huge numbers of bicycles make parking difficult and the areas become increasingly less attractive with that many bicycles. Emergency services have been complaining that they cannot reach certain areas in time any more. Reason for many local authorities to deal with this challenge. All over the country large bicycle parking facilities opened their doors. I give you three examples that opened in a relatively short period, from December 2010 to June 2011. You can see that the modern bicycle parking facilities in the Netherlands share important characteristics: spacious, light, clean and free to use. The reason for all these things: if you want people to use these facilities they have to be inviting. Which is of course necessary for all bicycle infrastructure: it has to be perfect and so inviting that you simply want to use it.
The largest of the three examples I give you, opened on the 13th December 2010 in Haarlem. Directly under the bus station in front of the Central Railway Station building, an enormous underground bicycle facility has room to park exactly 5,020 bicycles. In this facility only standard bicycles can be parked. No bakfietsen, no mopeds and no scooters. For these types of vehicles there is a separate facility on ground level. This makes that the racks could be standardised and no expensive elevator was needed. There is one entrance for bicycles from the main cycle route into the city. There are several exits to leave the building once you have parked your bicycle. One to the square and one directly to the train platforms. But you can also leave the building through the main bicycle entrance. Parking your bicycle is free. There is always someone on guard. This person also takes care that the facility stays orderly and clean, that bicycles are not parked outside the racks and he or she also enhances the feeling of social safety.
This free underground bicycle parking looks fresh, spacious and light, also to make it pleasant to be there. There is also a free pump to give your tyres some extra pressure if necessary. The facility is open from 5:00 am to 2:00 am. So 21 hours per day, from before the first train departs until after the last train arrives.
The underground bicycle parking facility at the Haarlem Central Railway Station.
The Houten bicycle parking facility was opened on Saturday 16th April 2011. Houten calls it a ‘Transferium’ because it is a perfect location to ‘transfer’ from one mode of transport to the other. The bicycle parking facility for over 3,000 bicycles is located directly under the railway tracks and platforms. Which makes the bicycle parking facility an important and integrated part of the station. Parking is guarded and free of charge. There are additional services like maintenance, repair and rental bikes. But there are also lockers and toilets and even the Tourist Office is located in the same building as well. The lightness and the bright colours are not just making the facility pretty, coupled with the fact that all passengers walk right through it, and there is someone present at all time, it creates a high level of social safety. The bicycle parking facility opens daily just before the first train leaves in the early morning and closes only after the last train arrives in the late night. Which on weekdays is from 5 am to 1:15 am. In Houten 60% of the train travellers arrive by bicycle (the average for the entire country is 40% but this figure is rising everywhere).
The ‘transferium’ Houten offers an excellent ‘transfer’ from one mode to the other.
Unlike the first two examples the Zaandam facility is not for the train traveller but for people who arrive by bicycle to the Zaandam city centre to go shopping. The facility is called Fietsenpakhuis (Bicycle Warehouse) and houses 700 bicycles. The building was opened on 1st June 2011. Parking your bicycle is free. This facility has also room for bakfietsen, mopeds/scooters and even mobility scooters. The opening hours are from half an hour before shops open to half an hour after the shops close. Parked bicycles are guarded and there are also extra services. You can get rental bikes, but also rental baby buggies to go shopping with your children and even walkers can be rented, for people who can still cycle well but not walk so easily any more. You can have your bicycle repaired and there are public restrooms (of which there are really only few in the Netherlands). Like the other examples this building is light and open and there is always someone present.
The Zaandam ‘Bicycle Warehouse’ (Fietsenpakhuis) in the shopping centre of the city.