The city of The Hague quietly opened the second largest bicycle parking facility in the Netherlands earlier today together with the Dutch Railways. The garage, at the city’s Central Station, has room to park about 8,500 bicycles and that includes 600 OV-Fiets public transport bicycles to rent out. All the racks are in a single space, an over 8,100 square metre basement directly under the square in front of the station building. The facility would have been opened at 2 April this year, but that opening party had to be cancelled due to the Corona pandemic. From today all trains are running again so this is also a good day for this opening of this additional bicycle parking – The Hague already had an underground parking garage for bicycles, this one is extra.
The opening of this huge bicycle parking garage was not only postponed due to Corona, it was pushed forward several times. At the start of construction it was planned for February 2018, almost 2 and a half years ago! Not quite what the city intended when it said a state of the art bicycle facility was needed quickly in 2014! The facility will be in the basement of a huge building that would have been built right in front of the station building. That station building is a brutalist 1970s high rise and many people will not mind at all that it will be obscured by a fresh new building. Unfortunately, that project, with residential and commercial spaces, ran into a lot of trouble in the planning phase and kept being postponed. It is impossible to build a basement of a building when that building on top of said basement hasn’t even been designed yet. It is obviously necessary to take into account that that building needs a foundation, columns to stand on, but where and what load will they need to bear? The city waited and waited and if there is one thing that costs a lot of money it is a building project that sits idle. Once the plans were final and it was clear where the two 90 metre tall towers would be located the construction of the basement could finally start. The parking garage itself then also ran into some difficulties. The desired underground passage to the station hall proved impossible to build for the budget that was set. This tunnel would have connected the new underground parking with the already existing underground parking garage under the station hall. When no parties could be interested to build this tunnel in the public tender even when it was repeated, the tunnel was scrapped from the plan. People will now exit the garage in front of the station building, not in the station building hall. The two underground garages will function separately. The construction of the garage had already started by the time the tunnel was scrapped so this whole project was definitely not the easiest for the city of The Hague. In the end it went over budget by 5.5 million Euros and that means the garage cost well over 42 million euros of which the city has to pay about half.
Hopefully that will all be forgotten soon, although the project is far from finished. The construction of the building on top of the garage is now planned to start at the end of 2020. That means the entrances, that would be part of that building, had to get a temporary cover. There are now three ‘tents’ to keep rainwater out of the new facility. Building regulations may force parts of the new garage to be closed for safety reasons. When you build a 90 metre tall tower it is not a good idea to have the general public walking directly under your building activities. First the city wanted to postpone opening this facility until the construction would be in a safe stage, but that will take at least another year and that was simply too much. In a letter to the council the alderman explains that the city has instructed the contractor to make sure the facility remains safely accessible during the entire building process. We’ll see if that is feasible.
Let’s finally have a look at the actual parking garage, because that is beautiful! The city of The Hague was kind enough to invite me to have a look inside just a few days before the opening. I was allowed to use one of the 600 OV-rental bikes to ride around in the building before any bicycle was parked there. I felt like a kid in a candy store, an empty candy store, but I was told I rode around with a big smile on my face.
This bicycle parking facility has room to park about 8,500 bicycles in 18 rows of two tier racks. These racks are very common for the Netherlands, but I had never seen so many in one bright open space of about 8,100 square metres. The bigger facility in Utrecht is very different with its three floors. There you can almost not assess how big the facility really is. In this garage the ceiling is kept extra high at 3.5 metres and everything has been painted a very bright white to give the space an extra light atmosphere. The art on the walls tries to emphasise that even more. A glass wall, lit from below, shows pictures of iconic details of buildings in The Hague. The lights in this art piece are also meant to make you forget you are in a basement.
The facility will be run by The Hague. The city hired a firm to manage the garage. The check-in/check-out system is similar to most other modern Dutch station bicycle parking garages and so is the pricing. You use your public transport chip card (or a day pass that you can get from staff) and the first 24 hours are free. After that you pay €1.25 per additional 24 hours (€2.5 for odd sized bicycles).
On the street in front of the main entrance the city created an extra bicycle crossing on the intersection Bezuidenhoutseweg/Rijnstraat to make it safely possible for many people at the same time to reach the parking garage. If all goes well the building activities will be finished at the end of 2022. Only then the public space around the buildings will be reconstructed in a permanent way. The station will get a much better connection with the park right in front of the station. It would mean that by 2023 the entire station area will finally be finished. The Hague will then have a beautiful station in a beautiful green setting as well as for the Netherlands still exceptional high rises. The new parking garage is already open today, enjoy the video!
My portait of the new bicycle parking garage in The Hague.