Bicycle parking at Rotterdam Central Station

It was built in 22 months, the underground bicycle parking facility at Rotterdam’s new Central Railway Station. It was opened in November 2013 and it has parking spaces for 5,190 bicycles. Making it the largest of the country (to date), at just a bit bigger than the runner-up. The majority of the parking spaces can be used completely free of charge.

The entrance to the large underground bicycle parking facility at the square right in front of Rotterdam Central Station and the cycleway leading to it.

This is one of several very large parking facilities that were opened in recent years at main intercity railway stations in the Netherlands. I have shown you examples of Haarlem (2010; 5,020 spaces) and Utrecht (2014; 4,200 spaces) before. Groningen (2007; 4,150 spaces) also has a facility of a similar size.(Update: In 2015 another 5,000 spaces facility opened in Delft.)

But even relatively small towns have large facilities. Houten (2011; 3,000 spaces) is a prime example and the “bicycle apple” in Alphen a/d Rijn (2010; 1,000 spaces) also shows that the Dutch arrive by bicycle at their railway stations in very high numbers. On average in the entire country 40% of the train travellers arrive by bicycle so combining modes of travel is very common in the Netherlands. That makes it necessary for the authorities to facilitate parking all those bicycles. All these large facilities popping up around the country is not because there is a race going on to have the best or biggest facility. No, building all this is needed to face an immediate and very real bicycle parking challenge.

Opening festivities at Rotterdam Central Station square when the king offically opened the railway station. 13th March 2014 picture courtesy of Luke Harley.
Festivities at Rotterdam Central Station square when the king officially opened the railway station. (13th March 2014; picture courtesy of Luke Harley.) The entrance to the bicycle parking facility is clearly visible to the left.

This facility in Rotterdam was built as part of the complete reconstruction of Rotterdam Central Station and its surroundings that was finished in 2014. The Railway Station was festively opened on 13th March 2014 by King Willem-Alexander. So the bicycle parking facility was opened 4 months before the rest of the station was. It has a guarded part that you can use for a fee and an unguarded part that may be used free of charge. Electronic sensors in every single parking space detect every bike and that makes it possible that the number of available spaces per row of racks is indicated. The sensor also registers how long a bicycle has been parked and if that period exceeds one month the bicycle will be removed. The impounded bicycles are collected and you can get them back for a fee. This is to make sure people do not abandon their bicycles which would fill up the facility with unused bicycles.

The interiour of the Rotterdam bicycle parking facility. Rows and rows of double stacked bicycle parking racks.

The entire facility is only one floor, so the size and thus the distances are considerable. For that reason the design is such that you can and may cycle inside the facility. Mirrors make sure people cycling can see each other, even around the corner, so that collisions can be avoided. In the video you can see that people cycle in a very moderate speed to also make sure accidents don’t happen.

A system of coloured and numbered paths make sure you find your way easily. On top of that the racks are also individually numbered and the handles of the top racks are also coloured, to make it even more easy to find your bicycle back. Using the top racks requires no real muscle power because a hydraulic system in every rack helps you lift the bicycle.

The main entrance has a number of so-called travelators (moving walkways) that make it very easy to get your bicycle underground.

The travelators (moving walkways) to enter the new facility are so easy to use that a child can do it. This whole family is about to park their bikes.

The space is brightly lit to enhance the feeling of social safety. But especially compared to the Utrecht facility this facility is clearly lacking daylight. Since the ceiling of this facility forms the station square right on top of it, I think it is a missed opportunity that no windows were added to get more daylight in. A positive point is that the ceiling is high enough to park bicycles with children’s seats attached to them in the top racks.

On this rendering the roof of the facility is opened up so you can see the exact location right in front of the main hall of Rotterdam central station (drawn transparent as well). It also gives you an idea of how big it is. To the right is the tram station and to the far left the bus station. Note the absence of private motorised traffic. It can only pass the station in the front. (Picture courtesy Jan van Helleman)

The guarded part of the bicycle parking facility has a bicycle repair workshop and this is also where you can hire an OV-Fiets, the nationwide shared bicycle system of the Netherlands. But ‘normal’ bikes can also be rented and there are lockers. It was clearly visible that the free part of the facility was used more intensively than the guarded part that requires a fee. Even though the fee is not so high, at €1.25 per day. An annual subscription will cost you € 103.=

The facility offers a direct underground access to the metro station and also to the railway station. With this new facility the station square is now completely free of parked bicycles and it looks great.

My video of the Rotterdam bicycle parking facility at Central Station.

15 thoughts on “Bicycle parking at Rotterdam Central Station

  1. Hi, I am visiting Rotterdam in December with my wife who does not know cycling. Do I have any options where she can be wheeled around such as a attached carriage ? For clarifi clarification, my wife is not disabled , its just that she does not know cycling.

  2. I still remember the bad old days when the only bicycle parking facilities at the major train stations were outdoor racks and you had to search and search to find a free space and lived in constant fear your bike might be gone when you returned at the end of the day. One morning I had to do an exam in Amsterdam and arrived at Haarlem train station a bit late. Searching and searching, until I finally found a free spot to park my classic black Simplex. However, there was so little space between the bikes, I could not force myself in between my bike and the next one to lock it to the rack. In the end I ran around the end of the rack and locked my bike from the other side. In the afternoon I walked out of the main entrance and noticed a few police officers and a clearly upset girl standing besides the rack. “What happened?” I asked her. “Some idiot locked my bike to the rack. I’ve been waiting for an hour for the police to help me” she answered. “What a sick prank that is, who would do such a thing?” I told her, while I tried to find my own bike between hundreds of identical black bikes. When I found it and wanted to unlock it, I noticed my cable lock had disappeared. “What the hell?” I thought and then saw from the corner of my eye a police officer cut the lock with a huge pair of bolt cutters. Then I realized what I’d done: I had locked the wrong bike! Luckily these kind of things won’t happen nowadays with the fantastic bike parking facilities at the Dutch train stations.

  3. Shared a link to your blog on Facebook today. Someone was asking for examples of how cycling provision in Holland works on one of the campaign sites that’s trying to push for better bike access. Hope that’s okay : )

  4. I was giddy arriving at this station in April, knowing it had just opened. My host picked me up from the platform and we walked to go get an OVfiets bike from the underground parking garage. It was massive.

    I didn’t even see the plaza until I returned to the station three days later to depart for Cologne/Bonn. I appreciated the very limited automobile traffic around the plaza. This is quite necessary when most passengers are arriving by other modes. I feel even the taxi driveway and other roads around Amsterdam Centraal (south/city side) are too close because they interfere with biking into the bike parking area southwest of the station building.

  5. Great post! The most impressive bike parking I’ve come across in California has been a free guarded bike station that has enough storage space for 268 bikes. Part of this facility is a paid portion where only people with access cards may enter.

    Unrelated: What do the Dutch do when it is incredibly hot? This summer has been brutal for my bike commute with temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s fahrenheit. The AM ride is decent since it is still relatively cool but I am unable to do my 8 mile bike ride home in office clothes without working up a sweat beyond what most people would tolerate. I do ride a Dutch bike and pedal at a “no sweat” pace, FWIW. I am not trying to make “excuses” for why people don’t ride, but I think the distance and weather make biking unappealing for people in my neighborhood heading to Downtown. Perhaps the Dutch bike to transit when it is very hot and they cover distances beyond 4 miles? What kind of distances are people willing to bike in when wearing office attire when temperatures exceed 25 degrees celsius?

    1. I don’t think high temperatures have a real impact on our comutes. If possible, we dress down a bit, but there are still plenty of suits on bikes to be seen. I guess we take it a bit more easy, but we’re still riding.

    2. I’ve been changing into cut off jeans and a t-shirt for my rides home… sometimes even scaring the locals by stripping to the waist when really hot and sunny…

      Having an e-bike helps as well…

    3. It’s just so incredibly flat there that it doesn’t seem to be a problem with heat/humidity. I’ve ridden home (3 miles) in 108º heat but my commute was almost totally flat so it wasn’t a problem, even in dress pants.

  6. I was impressed on my visit last week, travelling back to UK from Prague. Didn’t know it was only months old. Hired perfectly set-up un-marked ‘ordinary’ bike at €7 a day & explored as I had in Amsterdam & Den Haag. Rotterdam Centraal also had the best value tidied-up 2nd hand bikes I’d seen on my little trip, just as good as the hire bike from €120, which might be an option for some brits to make a tour on or import (Train from the Harwich ferry fetches here). Would also have been very happy to leave my smarter touring bike waiting here, for the week I was in Prague via the Amsterdam sleeper (Prague cycling looked to be more like half-hearted paint, foreigners starting a tour, plus locals in the park, so I didn’t feel a fool for failing to take advantage of the bike accommodation on the Night-train.)

  7. Wow…

    In Australia our travelators have so much yellow ‘safety’ paint and signage that your eyes hurt. Of course cycling would be banned within 100m of the parking facility if it were here (and certainly no cycling IN it), there would be only a dozen racks and you’d have to pay $10 per day to use it and require a special access card to get in the facility! I’m not making this up either. That’s exactly what we have and as a result, nobody uses it.

    It’s so nice to see things done well in some parts of the world. Pity it’s not here!

    Great post and video as always, Mark! Hope you’re well.



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