Two bicycles per second

The Utrecht Central Station bicycle parking – the one that is going to be the biggest in the world – is open for about 11 months now. During the morning rush hour so many people arrive here at almost the same time, that the average number of bicycles going through the one entrance is two bicycles per second.

Two bicycles per second go through this north entrance of the – soon to be – biggest bicycle parking garage in the world at the Utrecht station.

The south part of the “largest bicycle parking garage in the world”, that has no name but “Stationsstalling” (Station bicycle parking garage), is still under construction. Originally it was to be finished by the end of this year, but judging from the building activities and knowing how things went with the other two new large facilities (the Jaarbeurspleinstalling and the Knoopstalling) I have the feeling we’ll have to wait until 2019 before the south end opens. By that time the facility will have two entrances (south and north) but so far there is only one, which makes that everybody has to arrive through that one north entrance.

The north entrance is far from finished either. The winding cycleway is temporary. The building on the right hand side will be finished in 2019. After that there will be room to finish the entrance. The cycleway will be straightened and there will also be stairs on the right of it.

The numbers are impressive, even for the partly opened facility. There are now 9,000 bicycle parking places. When I was at a cycle event recently in Utrecht one of the speakers said that in the morning rush hour the entrance has to process 2 bicycles per second. I had to see that for myself of course and so I posted at that entrance and filmed it. It looks like the speaker was not exaggerating. There are indeed very many people arriving at the same time. If you wouldn’t know better you’d think this is a busy thoroughfare, but it isn’t. All the people you see entering the facility are arriving to park their bicycle and take the train to elsewhere in the Netherlands.

The Utrecht Station Square has changed a lot. This is the square in the mid 1950s. The old station building on the right hand side. We are looking south. Picture Utrechts Archief.
In 1972 the construction of the 1970s station had started while the old building from the 1930s was still there. Picture Utrechts Archief.
By 1973 a tall office building was taking shape. The number of cars on the station square is astounding. Picture Utrechts Archief.
By 1977 the station square was finished. It was mainly a bus station with a car platform on top of it. You can see one of the two car entrance ramps on the left. The tall office building is finished and so is the brown shopping mall building on the left hand side. The 1930s station building had been demolished. The square looked like this until the light rail station was built in 1983. This car entrance ramp was replaced by a light rail platform with stairs to the upper level. Picture Utrechts Archief.
The same location has changed a lot in 2018. The light rail station has been demolished, as well as the car/taxi platform. Both will be relocated. A new building is under construction and the new roof over the elevated station square in the distance is visible. Behind it (right) the tall building from the previous picture has got a new facade of green glass. The brown mall building will get a new plinth to make street level more attractive. This will be the entrance to the station from the north.
The rendering of how things will look around 2020. This feels a lot wider than the actual picture I took in 2018. The cycleway is almost invisible here. But you can see it on the right hand side. In reality it will be more obvious in this space. Certainly with 2 bicycles per second in the morning rush hour! Picture via CU2030.

The entrance to the -soon to be- largest bicycle parking garage in the world.

In 1967, this – temporary – bicycle parking facility by the famous Utrecht architect Gerrit Rietveld, was apparently enough for the Utrecht station. How times have changed! Picture Utrechts Archief.
The south part of the cycle parking garage is still very much under construction (mid June 2018). On the left hand side clearly visible the walled-off three floors of the north part under the elevated station square that has been in use since August 2017.

17 thoughts on “Two bicycles per second

  1. I’m assuming that you filmed one segment whilst going up the escalator, otherwise I must commend you on your most excellent 3d camera tracking skills 🙂

  2. I like how no one is speeding past everyone else and trying to butt in line in front. That’s one of the standard driving techniques in the US.

  3. What a stylish video this has become! A joy to watch.
    (Couldn’t you clean up that building mess at the entrance?)
    Up till now I have been using the “Jaarbeursstalling” at the west side of the station. There the check-in is fast and easy. In this video it is a bit a magic what happened with those two cyclists per second.

  4. When I studied in Amsterdam in the 1980, I would use my bike for every or nearly every transportation. Only when I’d visit my parents in weekends (no, I did my own laundry, I did not take a huge bag home to mum’s) I’d take the tram to the railway station. There would be a huge mess of bicycles out in front of station. Because bike parking was always a problem, we’d have to resort to public transport back then. Much fewer people would use the combination train+bike than nowadays. Goes to show that deliberate policies directly influence the use of the bike.

  5. It’s always a slight relief to me to learn the Dutch aren’t perfect project managers (re the project delivery running overtime), as it keeps the flame of optimism burning that far-from-perfect Australia could one day plan and build similar best-practice sustainable, resilient transport facilities for current and future generations instead of replicating 1950s USA freeways through its capital cities.
    The term “rijwiel” on top of the old bike parking Google translates as simply “bicycle”. I haven’t ever seen that written before; is it an anachronism in the Netherlands today or still used in some parts?

    1. Rijwiel basically means ‘wheeled form of transport’. so, ‘Rijwielstalling’ means that you can park your bike, moped or scooter there. along with everything in between. though the line is drawn in regards to motorcycles, as they usually have their own parking spots.
      but yeah, ‘Rijwiel’ and ‘Fiets’ can mean the same thing and are often used to denote the same type of parking area.

    2. To my feeling “rijwiel” indeed has become a bit of an anachronism. Its not a part of street language or spoken language anymore. You can still find it in more formal language, like legislational texts.

  6. Speaking of major thoroughfares, how far apart do you space them in the Netherlands? Here in Los Angeles County, distributor roads and access roads are the same, they have two to three lanes PER DIRECTION and there is one every 800 METRES.

    1. You can get a feel for this by looking at google maps of the area, typical cells between through routes are often in the 5km range. There are lots of roads but they carry traffic around activity areas rather than through them.

    2. There is not a common mesh width. Our landscape is not dominated by a rectangular grid that’s imposed on it. So a Google Maps sight of for instance Lancaster LA USA looks pretty alien to us. The only grids you might see are polders and they have their own mesh sizes, determined by the age they were build in.
      A new town like Almere is (being) build in such a polder, and might be a nice city to compare to your traffic system. You’ll see that your roads and lanes are way broader than ours. The only 2×2 lane roads are the major city arteries and highways. And in Almere there’s a dedicated bussystem throughout the town, which was possible because the whole town is designed from scratch and the first inhabitants arrived only some 40 years ago.

    3. Utrecht has a ring road (3 motorways and an expressway on 4 sides), kind of a half inner ring, stretches of 4 lane roads covering the other half but with gaps, and then some radial roads going out from the centre, albeit not always following direct routes, or joining up with each other well at the centre.

      Problem really is that parts of the city were already sufficiently developed before mass car ownership, that bringing lots of traffic in on big roads was only really possible from a limited number of directions, which ensured that they were very congested.

      The motorways are big by European standards, the motorway to Amsterdam is 5 lanes in each direction, and going over the Amsterdam-Rhine canal, one has 6 in each direction, and I believe a planned expansion on the east side will have a short stretch with 14 lanes (in an asymmetric 6+8 setup). But further into the city there just isn’t the space, only some areas built after the 60s have wide dual lane avenues, but it isn’t long before most of the him older single lane routes.

      Then there are the canals which have boat traffic, requiring high clearance or a drawbridge, and the wide railway belt that cuts the city in two, that creates some serious bottlenecks.

      When a stretch of road (Cartesiusweg) was blocked off due to an unstable railway bridge undergoing renovation for 3 days, it caused chaos as there weren’t many viable alternative routes,and those that existed couldn’t handle the extra load. You were better off heading out to the ring road, and even then, the northern part struggled.
      Its understandable that the city wants to limit car use.

  7. That “tall office building” is mixed offices (lower floors)/apartments (top floors)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.