All about cycling in the Netherlands
Delft is now one of the Dutch cities with a bicycle parking facility to park 5,000 bicycles at the railway station. The symbiosis of the train and the bicycle is very successful in The Netherlands. The train covers a lot of distance fast and the bicycle makes it easy to reach many destinations in the last kilometre. The dense cycle grid and the perfect bicycle parking possibilities make the train-bicycle combination very competitive with the private car and it is therefore a vital element in the Dutch transportation system. Intercity trains run every 15 minutes in a large part of the country. This will be increased to every 10 minutes in the not so distant future. That is why much of the train-infrastructure is being updated extensively now. Many train stations have been or are being enlarged and renewed and a lot of lines get more tracks. Soon the Dutch train network will feel even more like a nationwide metro system.
Delft has changed considerably now that the high line in the city centre has been replaced by a 2.3 kilometre long train tunnel. The high line is already being demolished and that means a lot of the old sight-lines in the city will be restored. Facilities for cycling are completely integrated in the train infrastructure updates and Delft is a fine example. The new bicycle parking facility is situated in a rectangular space directly under the bus station in front of the old and the new station building. The facility can be reached by cycleways on a slope alongside a canal. Even though the space is below ground level the proximity of the canal makes it possible to have one side entirely made of glass to bring in light. Also from the station there is a large window that not only brings in even more light but also offers a natural orientation. It isn’t hard to find your way if you can simply see where you have to go. The 5,000 bicycles can be parked in two-tier racks, pretty standard for The Netherlands. Parking your bicycle is free of charge. You are allowed to park it up to 14 days. The facility is very spacious because another entrance that has yet to be built will make it possible to cycle trough the facility from one side of Delft to the other. This will be a public cycleway.
My video showing the new Delft bicycle parking facility
That it is so easy to cycle in and out is also one of the disadvantages of this facility. Even though the facility is manned (there is a maintenance service and an OV-Fiets/bike share rental station) the bikes are not really guarded. People often complain when things change, but this time it is serious. The police reported 18 bicycles being stolen in the first month alone, which they call “unacceptable”. It means that almost one bicycle per working day was stolen. So measures were taken. There is more police surveillance (in uniform and even under cover) and the footage from the surveillance cameras is being examined more carefully. Both to see if there are people hanging around there who shouldn’t.
Another valid complaint is from people who up to now paid to park their bicycle in the guarded facility. That has been closed and this means that you cannot choose to pay for a parking spot that you can then use as long as you like (and pay for). Many students in Delft who live elsewhere leave their bicycle in the station in holidays, also for longer periods than 14 days. Which has become the maximum parking period now. This means these people have a genuine problem now, with a bicycle in a different city than where they live, that they would need to park elsewhere. These problems will be taken into account in the evaluation by the city authorities together with the railways and the police at the end of this year. It will then be determined if and what should perhaps be changed. That is why people are urged to lodge their complaints and they do in high numbers.
A guided tour by a representative of the architects
The new station building is magnificent. The hall has a ceiling with a map of Delft from the 1870s and some of the walls and supporting columns have been decked in ceramic tiles in colours that range from the traditional Delft blue to Delft white. The Dutch take pride in their past. A spokesperson from the architects is very proud in the interesting video that explains very well what the thoughts behind some of the features in this station building were. That the measurements of the light fittings correspond with the ceiling parts is not something many people will see right away, but this continuation of measurements, shapes and materials brings tranquillity in a space that can be a hectic transport-hub.
Two foreign students visiting the station on opening day
Many people are very pleased with how the station became. Delft is a city with many students, also foreign students, and two of these made a very entertaining video on the opening day. Noteworthy is their struggle with the upper-rack. But they get it in the end as well!
Facts & Figures The facility was opened on 28 February 2015. There is space for 5,000 bicycles in two-tier racks. The space measures about 5,200 square metres and is situated directly under the bus station and directly over the train tracks and platforms. Every individual rack registers if and how long a bike was parked. That makes it possible to indicate free spaces and also to monitor bicycles that stay over the maximum (and free) parking period of 14 days. There is also an outside parking facility at street level for 3,700 bicycles bringing the total number of parking spaces at Delft central station at 8,700 bicycles.