Finishing the Rotterdam Station area reconstruction

The Rotterdam station area reconstruction has yet to be finished. This may come as a surprise to some, because the king already reopened the station more than three years ago. Yes, most of the station has been finished long ago, but some of the streets at the back of the station building are currently still under reconstruction. That last project in the station area is nearing completion though, so why don’t we have a look at what’s happening.

At the location of the taxi stand (left) the reconstruction is already finised. No conflicts are expected between taxi passengers crossing the 3.5 metre wide cycle path here. People are allowed to cross where they want. A designated crossing is therefore not necessary, but there is a location where the kerbs (curbs) are lowered for people in a wheel chair or parents pushing baby carriages.

The contrast between the front and the back of the station was enormous. The front has that station hall with the outstanding architecture connected to the beautiful – almost car-free – Station Square with trams running on grass tracks. The back side had streets cluttered with a taxi stand, an old kiosk building, outside bicycle parking, tram rails and many people trying to find their way on foot, on bicycles and in cars. The city had already made a design in 2012, that only now is nearing completion, more than two years after the initial expected date of completion. It took so long because the residents and other stake holders like taxi drivers, had many complaints.

The former dam between the water of Provenierssingel (left) and Spoorsingel (right). (Picture Google StreetView)
The plan for the reconnected water of both canals and two bridges to cross that water. After long debates this is how it was built.

The wish of the city to reconnect the two canals, that had long been separated by a dam, met with fierce resistance. The city planned to remove the dam and construct two bridges in its place. The extra body of water that would be a consequence of this plan would also be good to store surplus rain water in the area. Something which is very needed with the increased chance of extreme weather conditions due to global warming. All the run off rain water from the gigantic new station roof also needs to find a way into the ground at the back of the station. A larger body of water would also be good for that reason. What could you have against this plan? Well, the residents feared a changed water table which could be dangerous to their homes. The buildings stand on a foundation of wooden piles, driven into the ground. When these wooden piles get too wet they might rot and the buildings could be damaged because of it. The city had the consequences of the reconnection investigated further and in the end, it was decided to reconnect both canals after all, since those re-connected canals would have little to no effect on the water table.

The reconnected canals of Spoorsingel (top) and Provenierssingel (right) and the two bridges to cross that new body of water.
Design of Stationssingel (left) and Proveniersplein (right). Picture City of Rotterdam)

Residents of a street in the project objected to the removal of all 20 existing trees in their street (Stationssingel). Only after the city explained that at some part the street had compressed so much, that it would have to be raised again by up to 50 centimetres and that trees will not survive such a level change, they reluctantly agreed. But only after the city also promised the 22 replacement trees would be more mature than the tiny trees the Dutch usually plant. Parking wasn’t so much an issue. Of the 88 existing car parking spaces 66 return in the new design. Not many people seemed to be bothered by the loss of these 22 parking places. That doesn’t mean the residents were very happy. From the minutes of the information nights the image emerges that the residents were very disappointed with how their remarks were dismissed and not taken seriously by the city. The fact that the city overruled earlier plans of the district council was not something the residents took lightly either.

The before situation of “Stationssingel”. Picture from Google StreetView. The street had narrow on-street cycle lanes in the door zone. The four large trees were removed to have a blank canvas to be able to better re-design the street.
The almost finished “Stationssingel”. The sidewalk on the right hand side is not finished yet. But the new -relatively large- trees have already been planted. The building on the right hand side is the back side parking of Central Station for 1,400 bicyles, parked partly outside, partly under a roof.

The project required a 10-million-euro investment. The new bi-directional 3.5 metre wide cycleway is a big difference compared to the on-street cycle lanes the streets used to have. Not all changes are that visible though. All the sewer pipes and cables have also been replaced. It is a normal procedure in the Netherlands to do all that work at the same time. This keeps the costs down and means that once the area is finished it won’t have to be dug up any time soon. The tram tracks were also completely renewed even though this is not an operating line, just tracks that can be used in case of an emergency on other lines. Some of the design features of the front side of the station will also be used here at the back. That increases the quality of the area and makes it more recognisable as well.

The announced road works from 20 June 2016 to March 2018.
These bicycle parking hangars block almost the entire sidewalk. I don’t expect this to be the final situation.

The works on the redesign of the back of the station started in June 2016 and while it was initially thought to be finished early 2018, it was now announced that the project can be finished before the end of 2017.

The narrow Proveniersstraat was redesigned earlier. Due to a lack of space only on-street cycle lanes here, narrower than the minimum design standards require. Fortunately it is a low motor traffic volume street with a 30km/h regime and one-way for cars, but even one car can already cause a nuisance in such a design.

A ride on the nearly finished reconstructed streets behind Rotterdam’s Central Station.


14 thoughts on “Finishing the Rotterdam Station area reconstruction

  1. How well do those bicycle parking hangers work? With heat and cold and humidity, I expect that the bicycles rust and deteriorate pretty quickly. I’ve thought about that solution for my bikes but am dubious about how protective they are.

    1. Oh, and by the way, when NYC states they installed 10 miles of bike lanes they are counting bike lanes in each direction of travel. So if bike lanes go in two directions for a mile of a street, then its counted as two miles of bike lanes.

  2. In the last year, the city of Los Angeles started a new program called Vision Zero, which started in Sweden about 20 years ago. The goal of this is to reduce traffic fatalities to zero.

    LA installed about 250 miles of bike lanes in the last 5 years. Almost none of those miles had safety improvements at the intersection. They were mainly installed only where there were parked vehicles.

    A lot of the focus for safety improvements under Vision Zero are at the intersections.

    Improvements for cycling infrastructure in LA comes from several sources. The department that paves the streets is one such source-which has nothing directly to do with bicycling specifically, but the street surface is where the bike lanes are installed upon. The department of transportation puts stripping, bollards and traffic signals along the street and that’s the department that is usually in charge of bicycle specific projects. If it involves construction, then that is the domain of the Bureau of Engineering, which would be creating a bike path along the LA river or building new curbs or a bus island station. If it involves bicycle parking at train stations or bicycle sharing, then that comes from the countywide transit agency called the MTA, or Metro as they are commonly referred to.

  3. I was just there in June with the family and we found the station underpass amazing. The sidewalk along Proveniersstraat was troublesome with large rolling luggage suitcases — there was no room to walk. Also, riding (rental) bikes in the bike lanes with my kids did not feel particularly safe, although both the pavement and the buildings were pleasant. The lanes are too narrow, and even one car, as you indicated, disrupted the level of perceived safety.

    1. Well, it’s an old street, not laid out with tourists and cars in mind. A for safety, if you’re used to cycling in Rotterdam, this street is not bad at all. After all, we’re used to sharing the streets, a situation that may not exist where you live.

  4. Hmmm, new curbs and sidewalks, only getting a few of those if they are broken here in the city of Los Angeles. We have a lot of curbs that are from the 1910’s and 19’30’s.

    Colored bike lane. Again, only a smidgen of that coming in the near future in LA. The bulk of the bike lane lane miles in the near future will consist of plastic or paint atop a already paved street surface, with perhaps a handful of projects getting bicycle signals.The city can’t afford much beyond that.

    There is going to an increase of at least $7.6 million spend on bicycle infrastructure in the county of LA from a half-cent sales tax increase which started July 1st. Then In November there will be a state of California motor fuel tax increase of 12-cents a gallon. Two percent is to be used for active transportation. Another part of that is a state motor vehicle registration fee increase in January. About two-percent of those two increases will go towards active transportation. That amounts to a increase of $100 million per year for active transportation over a ten year period of time for the entire state.

    The amount of increase for active transportation in California is not a lot of money per resident, but it is a large jump compared to what was available before. Money distributed for active transportation by the state of California will almost double by next year.

    Its also a large increase at the LA county level compared to previous years, but its not a lot of money per county resident.

  5. Hi Mark, the exit of the tunnel has since your filming been ‘decorated’ with a lot of bollards. Presumably to force cyclists to go one by one, but it looks quite narrow to me. Also it’s an interesting choice not to give priority to cyclists entering/exiting the tunnel over the (not so important) road along the railroad. I’ll send you some photos in the mail.

  6. About the water table: I don’t know the details of this situation, but in general, the fear of home owners with wooden piles is getting them ‘too dry’, not ‘too wet’. The wooden piles have to be fully submerged below the water table (the topping stones or bricks that rest on the wooden wooden piles are below the lowest point that the water table should ever reach). As soon as the wood itself is no longer submerged, it can rot.

    1. I know that. Problem here was too much water and too much fluctuations. Completely dry would also not rot. The worst part is when the piles fall dry only now and then. There were also concerns about run off water in the gardens that would be below the level of the new sewer pipes and could thus also not flow away. It was indeed so complicated that the city ordered further investigations. Hard to summarize in just a few sentences.

  7. When you transition from the new bidirectional cycle track onto the metal plates and onto a street with the old-style bike lanes, you are entering a very long block of houses with no intersecting streets or alleys! The houses here look beautiful.

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