The Big Commute 10-year-anniversary

Exactly 10 years ago today, I published my very first video about cycling in the Netherlands. To be more precise it was about the combination of cycling and using the train, in my own commute. With that video I was trying to explain to people that the bicycle is a viable transport option in the Netherlands, also for longer distances. Because we can use that bicycle for the shorter part of the distance and combine it with the train that we take for the longest part of the journey. Today I publish my 650th video (in post 548). Again, about my morning commute. What changed and what stayed the same?

In my commute I see more human beings – on foot or on a bicycle – than cars.

For my 5-year-anniversary I also looked at my morning commute, so this is the third version. In all three I lived at the same place and I worked (more of less) at the same place too, so you would expect things to be the same. But since I work in Utrecht that is not quite the case. Utrecht’s Central Station has been completely reconstructed from 2011 to 2016. At the moment the area just outside the station, including the station square, is still very much under reconstruction (but it should be finished later this year). That means that the three videos, from 2009, 2014 and 2019, show a different stage in this transformation. My bicycle was parked in a different location in all three and the routes I have to take, both walking and cycling, are very different.

My Utrecht bicycle lived here from 1995 to 2012, when this facility was closed for the station reconstruction.
Hard to believe, but this is the exact same location as shown on the previous picture. This basement is now part of the biggest bicycle parking facility in the world.

In 2009, I parked my bicycle in an underground bicycle parking facility under platform 1, operated by the railways. This parking could be reached very conveniently from the tunnel under the platforms. It had a direct access to a cycle path that ran between the bus station and the train station. That facility was closed in 2012 during the station reconstruction. The tracks 1 to 4 were moved to the city side in order to widen the platforms. During that work the facility could not be reached. After the platforms were widened there was no longer space between the bus station and the train station which means the cycle path vanished. I showed you how in a post in 2012.

This cycle route, running between the train station on the right and the bus station on the left was removed in 2012. There are now tram tracks on this location under the new station square.
The route I took until 2012 is the orange line. A very short stretch on foot from platform 7 to the orange P. The rest was cycling to the south. From 2012 to January 2018 I parked at the green P and the walk was therefore a bit longer. (Even after I changed where I sat in the train to shorten the walk). The ride south became shorter.

The facility has since been re-opened as part of what will be the largest bicycle parking facility in the world. Including the tunnel under the platforms with the shortcut to get there. But I cannot park my bicycle at that exact same location again. This is now the part where the hundreds of shared OV-Fietsen are parked and it is where ‘extraordinary’ bicycles, the ones that would not fit in a standard rack, cargo bicycles and bicycles with crates, have a place to park. For me it isn’t convenient at all yet, to park in this facility. The south part is still under construction. That means you can only exit this facility on the north side and that would make my cycle ride twice as long. It would then also include several traffic lights. To make this a convenient location to park my bicycle, I will have to wait until the south side is finished. This facility is expected to be finished in the second half of 2019. (In the original plans it would have been finished late 2017, but that is how it goes with these large projects.) Once the facility is completed there will be a cycle path running through it, from north to south, to finally make up for the cycle route that was lost here in 2012.

From 2011 to 2016 the Utrecht Central Station hall was under construction. While all the trains kept running on the busiest station of the country the old hall was removed and a new one built. This led to a different walking route quite often.
The city parking facility that I used from 2012 to 2018 was very old-fashioned. The bike racks were made from wood and broke easily. The wooden gutters had to be repaired quite often. This facility was closed in January 2018.
This cycle path was also removed. Since January 2018 the (soon to be) largest bicycle parking facility in the world is being expanded at this location. Once it is finished a new cycle route will be running right through it. The two bi-directional cycle routes that used to be on either side of the bus station will then be replaced by one route: two one-way cycle paths inside the bicycle parking facility.

When the facility where I used to park was closed in 2012, I moved my bicycle to a municipal parking facility on Stationsplein. (Station Square). This is what the second video shows. The walk to that facility was bit longer, but the ride became considerably shorter. Unfortunately that facility had to be closed when the works for the (soon to be) largest bicycle parking facility reached this area. This happened in January 2018.

The company bicycle parking space used to be on the left hand side of the parking garage under the building until 2016.
My office desk on the old location, until the summer of 2016.

These works had a further consequence which is very inconvenient for my commute: the station lost its south exit. Fortunately only temporarily, but for at least one, maybe even two years. My bicycle is now in yet another city facility (that has a very temporary feel too) that can only be reached on foot from the station by taking a 600-metre-long detour through a mall. I tried several options (there are many parking facilities around Utrecht station) but this is still the best option, even though it doesn’t quite feel like it. Main reason: the bicycle ride stays the same and does not take me through the busiest area of the city. Once the largest bicycle parking facility in the world is finished and has that south-exit, I will park my bicycle there. I am aware that this is a lovely problem to have: trying to figure out which of the many parking facilities is the most convenient. Especially when most of my readers in other countries would be happy to have just one facility that is as great as the one, two, three and more we have here to pick from.

The red line represents my current commute. The walk from the platform to the red P all through the mall is 600 metres long, but from there I can then cycle south quite easily. The blue line represents the journey if I would park my bicycle in the (soon to be) world’s largest bicycle parking facility. The walk would be much shorter (to the blue P) but then I would have to cycle a loop in the facility and then north first to be able to go all around the shopping mall. That cycle route would involve two traffic lights and it also goes through the busiest area of the city. When that facility is finished I can take the green line and that makes it very worth while to park there: a short walk and a direct cycle route. But I will have to wait until at least the second half of 2019 for that.
The mall is also under a complete reconstruction. That means the awful 600 metre detour on foot is also in ugly temporary corridors like this one.

At the end of my commute there is also a minor change. The organisation I work for (now three days a week, while it used to be four days until March 2018) has moved in the building, about 100 metres from the previous location, in 2016. This means we use another entrance now and the company bicycle parking facility was moved as well, to be closer to the new entrance.

The bicycle parking facility I use since January 2018 has a bit of a temporary feel to it. That there aren’t even double stacked racks has to do with the low ceilings.

All in all this commute didn’t change much. In essence it is still a combination of the train and bicycle that you can use so conveniently in the Netherlands. I have reached my workplace like this since 1995, when I moved from Utrecht to ’s-Hertogenbosch. At that time I deliberately chose a home location close to the station to be able to make this commute like I have done ever since.

The relocated company bicycle parking facility on the right hand side of the parking garage that we use since August 2016.
My desk since August 2016. We now have an open-plan office. I don’t usually have three screens, that was only for a specific test.

Striking in the video is the high number of people I encounter. Not in metal boxes (in fact I see only very few cars in my commute), but on foot and on their bicycles. That I see so few cars and do not have to cross a single major intersection or road is a privilege, even for the Netherlands. By car, the journey would be 54 kilometres and it would take just over one hour in rush hour, according to the very optimistic site of ANWB. This bike-train combination (and intercity trains run every 10 minutes now) takes me 50 minutes. I have made this journey around 4,400 times in almost 24 years. Which amounts to almost 212,000 train kilometres. It is a good thing the Dutch Railways compensate for all the power needed to run the Dutch electric trains by buying 100% wind generated power for two years now. My commute is not only a very human commute, it is green, very convenient and fast. I expect to be making it for quite some time to come.

This week’s video has no sound.

11 thoughts on “The Big Commute 10-year-anniversary

  1. I nominate you for a Nobel Peace Prize! Actually, let’s not take part in the establishment. Let’s say you are one of the greatest benefactors to mankind. I sincerely mean this!

  2. Hello! I’ve been following your videos for a while but for some reason I have never before looked at your blog. What a great post to start with as my first read, looking back over 10 years of commuting. I would be interested, if you don’t mind sharing, to know what you do for a job – it seems unusual these days to find someone who has been at the same place for so long 🙂

  3. Nice video with many similarities, I only start in Rotterdam and my final destination is Bunnik.

    Yes, used the same old bicycle parking and now using the Utrecht CS Stationsplein (Moreelsepark) parking and apart from using the route through Hoog Cathrijne also sometimes the Rabo bridge.

    What I like about the bicycle parking is that your bike is checked against your barcode tag, in the new parkings that is no longer the case, so I think theft will be more a problem.

  4. You should contact rte television in Ireland a d offer to make a weekly broadcast of your thoughts and experiences of cycling in Holland, people in Ireland are cocooned in their own environment,but are open to change, cyclists in Ireland are very indisiplined and often annoy motorists,.
    There has never been a documentary on cycling in Holland on Irish TV.loads of nature and Holliday programs .good in the next 10 years

  5. Congratulations on your 10th anniversary! I always look forward to your awesome videos!

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