Utrecht’s latest indoor bicycle parking facility

Utrecht opened its – so far – largest indoor bicycle parking facility*. It is the first new permanent solution to park bicycles in the area around central station. Under the new monumental stairs to the new station hall (that has yet to be finished) this huge new facility can accommodate 4,200 bicycles.

Utrecht Stairs
The new massive steps to the Central Station hall in Utrecht.

Utrecht is rebuilding its station area and up to now most of the facilities were temporary. But the area at the west side of the station is now in a stage that the first permanent structures are being finished. One of those is the 8 metres high massive entrance stairs. The steps lead up to the new municipal office building that has also just been finished and the new station hall over the railway tracks. These stairs offer great views over the square ‘Jaarbeursplein’ that will also be used for events. For those events the stairs can double as a grand stand with seating for many people. That already happens. People use the seating areas in the stairs – which cleverly hide windows for the space under the stairs – the moment the sun is out. People are not forced to use these steps. There are escalators and elevators at either end for people with a fear of heights or those who are simply not able to walk such stairs.

The profile shows how the three floors with double-decker bicycle parking racks are arranged under the stairs.

The space under the stairs is huge and certainly not wasted. There was enough space to build 3 floors with 37 rows of double-decker bicycle parking racks to park 4,200 bicycles. For a space under stairs it is remarkably light. The area is flooded with light and it is hard to understand how that is possible when you look at the stairs from the outside. The designers did a great job here. The three floors are easily accessed with long bicycle stairways with grooves for your bicycle. These stairs are kept at a minimal steepness so pushing your bike up is easily done. It was good to see that the double-decker bike racks are so easy to operate that also women chose to park their bicycles on the top deck. There are also normal stairs to quickly walk to the station hall.

bicycle staircase
It is easy to get from one floor to another using this bicycle staircase with four grooves to lead your bicycle to another floor.

The demand for bicycle parking at railway stations in the Netherlands is very high. Of all train travellers about 40% arrive at the station by bicycle. Considering Utrecht Central is the Netherlands’ largest railway station, with over 900 trains leaving here every day, the demand at this station is particularly high. That is why in total 30,000 parking places (public and non-public combined) will be created here in the next few years. Which doesn’t even seem enough with the current 285,000 passengers per day, and the expected growth to 360,000 passengers within the next 10 years.

This facility was developed by three parties; the two companies that run the railways – Netherlands’ Railways (NS) and ProRail – together with the Utrecht municipality. That the facility is located right under the entrance staircase means that you couldn’t park your bicycle closer to the tracks. The first 24 hours of parking are free. After that it costs €1.25 per following 24 hours (€2.50 for larger bicycles like a ‘bakfiets’). For people who go to work every day and use this facility at the beginning of their journey, this means that when they park their bicycle every morning and take it back every evening, that it is always free. People who work in Utrecht and use this facility at their work destination will have to leave their bike parked in the weekends. That means that they would have to pay. If they would do that on a permanent basis it would be better to use an annual subscription for €75,= per year.

This rendering is remarkably accurate when you compare it to the real situation.
The interior is light and clean and exactly the same as on the rendering.

Checking your bike in and out is done with the ‘OV-chip card’, a public transport card that most Dutch now have. Which is a “credit-card-sized stored-value contactless smartcard”, comparable to the Oyster Card in London. Instead of using the card to check-in for public transport it is now used to check-in the bike. When you collect your bicycle, the attendant checks your bike out and sees how long you have parked. You can leave free of charge if the bike was collected within 24 hours or you will have to pay for any additional 24 hours. This can be done on the spot or all at once for one month afterwards. Unless, of course, the attendant sees you have an annual subscription.

It is not necessary to be big and muscular to use the upper deck of the parking racks. They are easy to use even when you ride a heavy traditional Dutch oma-fiets.

There are more electronics in this facility. The sign over the beginning of every aisle shows exactly how many spaces are still free in that aisle. That you enter the facility at the bottom floor and that the station is at the top floor is a very clever design feature. It means that there is an incentive to park your bicycle as far up as possible, to shorten your walk to the tracks. This prevents that the facility is only used near the entrance and empty near the top.

Every floor has its distinct bright colour and every aisle is numbered. Every single parking space is also numbered, so it should be possible to easily find your bicycle back. Other services include free to use repair tools and if you arrive without bicycle you can also rent an OV-Fiets (Public Transport shared bicycle) here.

Several national newspapers brought the news of this parking facility in double spread articles. It is also novel in The Netherlands to have such large parking facilities.

It is great to see that after years of temporary facilities there are finally some permanent structures being finished. This facility will not be the largest in Utrecht for very long. Building the world’s largest bicycle parking facility has already started at the east side of the station. It will almost be three times as large, for 12,500 bicycles, and is expected to be finished in 2016.

Facilities like these are needed in the Netherlands because every possible barrier to cycling has to be taken away to keep the Dutch cycling. Not being able to park your bicycle could mean that people could give up cycling.

My video portrait of the new indoor bicycle parking facility in Utrecht.

Update January 2015

This bicycle parking facility opened in May 2014, is such a success, that the one millionth parked bicycle could already be welcomed in January 2015! That bike (and its owner) were pampered!


Linda dell’Omo is an Italian expat living in Utrecht and she has also tried out the facility. Her account and pictures are worthwhile to be seen.

A 360 degree view of the new staircase.

The website for this particular parking facility translates to “Your bike will not want anything else from now on”.

* This facility is no longer the largest in Utrecht since the bicycle parking garage on the east side of Utrecht Central was opened in August 2017.

53 thoughts on “Utrecht’s latest indoor bicycle parking facility

  1. What an EXCELLENT facility for cyclists! From Daniels comments, it sounds like there could be a need for some better signs and even a site map near the main entrance, to make it less confusing to use. But otherwise, superb! As far as I know, there is absolutely no such cycleparking anywhere in the UK, not even in London or Manchester. It’s being reminded by such excellent videos like these, that has made me decide on a touring holiday in 2015 around NL with my own bike, to experiance what it is like to enjoy such cyclist spoiling, for myself! It will be my first time visiting NL to cycle.

    Yet another piece of evidence that backs up the Netherlands as a truely people focused, and cycling motivated nation, the whole world should be taking notice of (i’m bound to say this however, as i’m part dutch!)…

    I have just one question: when you ‘lock’ in your bike on those racks, how secure are they? Theif proof? Imagine a valuable expensive cycle being stored there…. would it be safe?

  2. The afcility looks great we in Sydney Australia would like to cretae a similar facility can you tell us what finish you have used on the floor and the entry exit stairs

  3. I used this parking garage for the first time yesterday. Overal I’m quite impressed. Although the parking spaces were much needed, the biggest contribution is the stairs. They have turned a pretty desolate square into a new hotspot. Even though the weather wasn’t that good (partly clouded, and high humidity), the stairs were pretty full with people. I can’t remember anyone choosing to stay on the square previously.
    The facility itself is pretty good. It is light and spacious in the interiour, although the steel construction does give it a bit of a flimsy look. To be honest, it doesn’t feel like it could support a 1000 people, if it ever were to be used as a grand stand.
    As a first time user, the facility did confuse me somewhat. There are no cycle paths leading to it, so I was unsure how to get there. The pathing and routing through the building are pretty poor as well. Made worse by the fact you can’t cycle in the facility. Walking to the top floor takes some time. As such, I find it unsurprisingly most people park their bikes close to the entrance. The different coloured floors and row numbers do help finding your bike, but it took me some time to find the exits
    Overall a great facility: It not only provides much needed bicycle parking, but is also a benefit to the surrounding area.

  4. Mark, you are a one man tourist industry! I’m so impressed I’ve booked a holiday to the Netherlands. Roll on August.

  5. Who knew a video about a bike parking garage could be so interesting and entertaining? Great job, as always. I love how the stairs double as a public space. Most stairs outside our transit stations are very narrow, indirect, and utilitarian in purpose.

  6. Is more car parking part of the expansion plans for the Utrecht train station or is the emphasis just on creating more bicycle parking?

    When the plans for 2,000 car parking spaces at each of the two subway stations in the San Fernando Valley (part of Los Angeles) were made public, the neighborhoods strongly objected–fearing that there would be swarms of cars which would clog the roads during peak hours. As a result, the transit agency installed less than 1,000 car parking spaces when these subway stations opened in 2001. Within a month after opening, both subway station car parking lots were full by 7 am.

    The land used for car parking at these stations is considerable since both are single story. Now, one of the city council members representing the area on the Metro board wants the transit agency to study whether more car parking can be installed at these two subway stations.

    Metro plans on building a indoor bicycle parking facility at one of these subway stations next year that will have enough space for at least 250 bicycles–which will bring the total to over 400 bicycle parking spaces at this transit hub. Funny thing is that no organization in the neighborhood seems to have an objection to this, but there was strong opposition to taking away a motor vehicle through lane– on the street that has the subway running under it–to put in bike lanes. The two city council members representing the area have sided with this opposing point of view, since bicycling seems to be of minor importance to them–bicycling has a 1% commuting modal share in LA.

    I’ve noticed that if installing bikeways is tied into a big construction project that already has funding in Los Angeles, then that seems to be a more persuasive argument to install it.

    The first cycle tracks for Los Angeles are part of the $20 million My Figueroa Project. It would require taking away two of the seven through motor vehicle lanes in order to install concrete bus stops and cycle tracks that will run behind these bus stops. That triggered strong opposition from the national automobile club–which has a location on this street, a person that owns five car dealerships, the University of Southern California –which has over 60,000 students and employees, the African American museum and the Science museum–which has one of the space shuttles located there. This street is also the location of the Colosseum–which can hold 90,000 people who attend USC football games.

    Amazingly, the opposition agreed to let the project go forward even though installing the cycle tracks are anticipated to add several additional minutes of traffic delay at several intersections. A strong incentive for going forward was that changing the plans this late could jeopardize the funding for the whole project.

    1. To answer some of your questions, no parking for cars near the station, but Utrecht does have a few park and ride facilities at the edge of the city where you can get a busticket with your parking ticket or rent a bike.

      And yes, generally large infrastructure projects in the Netherlands also have provision for cycle infrastructure. So cycle tunnels beneath railway lines and the like.

      1. Actually, a 1000 spaces underground parking garage is included in the plans. It will be build underneat the square, and should start construction next year. It replaces an old above ground parking garage.
        It will not only serve the station though. It will also serve the mall attached to the station (on the other side of the tracks), to the nearby office buildings, and the theater and conference centre. I doubt a lot of train passengers will park there though. It is the main railway station near the centre of town. It is the destination of most commuter trains, and serves as an hub for intercity trains. It is much easier to get there by bike (or bus or tram) than by car. In fact, if you feel you have to drive there, you probally live so far away from the centre it will be quicker to drive to your destination than to take the train (distances are not all that great in the Netherlands). Dutch city centres are not suited for cars, and it is a mostly a folly to drive into them. There are extensive bus lines (in some cities also trams or metro) which are relatively frequent and fast compared to US bus lines.
        Things are different for the commuter rail stations though. The bike is still the primairy way of getting there. These stations are still very close to residential areas, and the cycle network will of course take you there. But the stations do cater to the more car centric suburbs. They generally provide adequate (mostly free) parking, but never in the numbers you mentioned though (and bicycle parking vastly outnumbers the car parking). I think it might actually be a good strategy to start building the cycling network towards [important] commuter transit hubs. I’m sure it is more conventient to cycle to those stations, rather than to the city centre (considering the distances involved in American cities).

        Here are a few examples of Dutch commuter stations:
        Station Terwijde:
        Station Vleuten:
        Station Zuilen: (a more urban station, and does not provide parking spaces, though are is some [free] on street parking close to the station)
        Station Amersfoort Vathorst: (obviously, not enough car parking provided)
        Station Tiel Passewaaij: (A more rural station which provides more car parking places, yet bicycles still outnumber cars)
        Station Woerden: (not a true commuter rail station, but a station in a commuter town).

        NB: I specifically choose stations around Utrecht because commuter rail is relatively new in the Netherlands, and Utrecht has the most advanced network (The Hague turned theirs into light rail).

  7. How lucky- free parking for your bike, protected inside a building, for 24 hours! American companies definitely wouldn’t do that for large masses of the public in cities: they would want to make money or profits.

  8. Living in Utrecht I hoped you would write an article about this great new place.
    I think you should have used some of your old footage of the thousands of parked bikes that stood outside. Now the square looks much more attractive.

  9. You write: “It is also novel in The Netherlands to have such large parking facilities.” As far as I remember at least Groningen and Rotterdam have larger ones. The future one on the other side of the station will be the largest one of its kind, but this one is still ‘only’ one of the larger ones.

  10. the gentle incline of the entry/exit stairs looks like you could easily ride it if it had a ramp. is this generally discouraged in NL to avoid conflict or people buzzing up and down on bikes?

    1. I think it is feared that people would pick up too much speed going down. There really is not enough space between all the racks to cycle in between them, you would have to design differently for cycling inside. The larger facility that is to be built on the east side (that 12,500 one) will be designed so that you can cycle inside, also to the different floors. Because that one is considered to be too large to walk.

      1. it is interesting to read all the comments on this bike parking facility. I was involved with the design at the early days. We had a lot of discussion at that time if cycling into the garage should be encouraged. At last, we did not, as cycling into it, the slope to make cycling possible instead of the stairs, needed more space. That was not available, as the stairs outside are “surrounded” with major cables&pipes, which can’t be replaced as also a parking garage will come at the outer square.

        Maybe it is interesting to know that during the design we checked the time involved for parking your bike, on your way up to the train. A special computer simulation was designed for this. After the first tests, we adapted the design to decrease the time needed to park the bike.
        At last it resulted that the majority of cyclist using the parking facility, from the minute they enter the facility, parking the bike, go up to the square, and entering the terminal of the station will only take 3 minutes.

        These 3 minutes were also targeted when the big brother for 12.500 bikes were designed at the other side of the station. Here it was clear that this short time was impossible to meet if the cyclist had to walk in the facility itself. So we used the cycle path, which already crossed the parking facility (with at the beginning was considered as a big disadvantage) to shorten the time needed. So at the end the disadvantage turned out to be a major advantage.

  11. The bicycle parking already looks full. It’s also ten times larger than any bicycle parking facility that I know of in the U.S.

    At 285,000 passengers a day in a city with a population of 325,000, the Utrecht train station is considerably busier than the 66,000 people who use the downtown Los Angeles–population 3.8 million people–Union train station.

    I noticed that far more people in the video were taking the escalator than the stairs. This reminded me of when Volkswagen ran a ad campaign called the Fun Theory in which one of their attempts to change people’s behavior was converting a stairs next to a escalator into a giant electronic keyboard. Don’t believe you can quickly entice people to change their mode of transportation? Then watch this:

    Here’s an even more extreme example that the VW ad campaign did with the Fun Theory in which they constructed a red slide on a section of stairs:

    The city of Burbank California constructed a 16-ft wide mixed use path down the center median of a quiet residential street where a streetcar used to run. My thought was that this was a complete waste of money since you could easily walk on the sidewalk or ride a bicycle in the street since there are usually few cars. This mixed use path attracts people to walk and ride a bike far beyond what they probably would have done otherwise. In fact, people not from the immediate area to go there to ride or walk. This is just another example that if you make it more irresistible to walk or bicycle, then more people are likely to participate.

    1. Here in Toronto (3 million people), at our central station (Union Station, 250 000 passengers per day) the bicycle parking garage is being expanded from 120 spaces to 220. We’ve still got a long ways to go…

      Though to be fair, the size of the city makes that most people go to other stations rather than directly to the central station, as they likely do in Utrecht. The suburban station I use in Toronto does have hundreds of bicycles parked during the day.

      1. Apart from Centraal Station (union station?) there are 5 other stations in the city of Utrecht, not counting the Maliebaan station where the spoorwegmuseum is. That also happens to be the place of the eldest cyclepath in the Netherlands.

        Besides the current stations there will be a new one opening next year; Station Utrecht Vaartsche Rijn.

        This article (in Dutch, but with video) is also funny giving Dennis’ video’s. (^-^)

      2. All I have at Century Park in YEG is maybe 40 racks and 4 lockers. My bike won’t even fit in the lockers though. It’s also not secure, one of my bikes was stolen from there in 2015, the security camera that was directly next to the racks wasn’t even looking at the racks. Century Park is one of the busiest in the south of the city, especially with transfers. But of course, some pricks have to ruin cycling for the rest of us in the same way that you had to deal with some crack smoking mayor who similarly opposed cycling. RIP.

  12. Were the digital information signs working? I went there during the first week of operation and only a handful of signs were working.

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