Zwolle can be added to the list of Dutch cities with a large and beautiful modern underground bicycle parking garage. The facility right in front of the station building was opened on 4 December 2020. It has room to park 5,800 bicycles and there is a fleet of 400 shared bicycles of the “OV-fiets” system for rental. I believe the station bicycle parking garage in Zwolle is the third largest parking garage of the Netherlands at this moment, after the ones in Utrecht and The Hague . I was able to make a quick stop at Zwolle station on my way back from my visit to the new bridge in Groningen recently. I filmed the new parking garage in just half an hour before the next train left for the south.
The underground facility was designed by Kraaijvanger Architects. They also designed the second largest parking garage in Utrecht, at Jaarbeursplein, which I showed almost seven years ago on my blog. The Zwolle facility is exactly as we expect such garages to be nowadays in the Netherlands: light, clean and inviting. It is open from just before the first train leaves to just after the last train arrives at this station, which -on weekdays- is from 5:00am to 01:30am.
It is thanks to this parking garage that the entire station forecourt in Zwolle is now redeveloped. It had been used for the bus station mostly, but the buses were moved to the other side of the tracks. An award winning stylish curved bus viaduct now takes 1,200 buses per day over the railway tracks. The “bus bridge” won the Dutch Steel Award in 2020 and the German Thüringer Staatspreis in 2019.
After the bus station was moved away from here, the construction of the parking garage could start in March 2019. The total building time was 21 months. A Youtube video documents the building phases neatly. First, all existing underground cables and pipes had to be relocated. That took until December 2019 after which the excavating could start. Machines dug out 25,000 cubic metres of soil or 1,500 lorry loads. This resulted in a building pit of 120 metres long, 45 metres wide and 6 metres deep. In February 2020 a thin concrete under floor was poured. The size of that floor is 4,800 square metres, which is about the size of a football pitch. The actual re-enforced concrete floor on top of it became 80 centimetres thick. The concrete columns were placed on that floor. They bear the roof that was placed in May 2020. The interior of the building was finalised from July to October 2020. The station square is now under development on the roof of the parking garage.
The new parking garage has all the features we know from other station bicycle parking facilities. You check your bicycle in and out with your electronic public transport chip card. The first 24 hours are free of charge. Only when you park the bicycle longer you need to pay a fee of €1.25 for every following 24 hours. There are also annual subscriptions of €75, which people use who need to park their bicycles for longer periods and/or weekends. Sensors in the ceiling detect all parked bicycles which makes it possible to monitor bicycles that were parked for too long, or even abandoned. These sensors feed their information to the dynamic reference signs which guide people to the remaining free spaces.
The access stairs have one gutter with additional brushes, which can be used to go downstairs. These brushes slow down the bicycle so that you don’t have to work too hard against gravity. If you need to go up again after you picked up your bicycle a conveyor belt from Velo-comfort in the gutter is there to assist you. It helps people pushing the bicycle up the stairs. Anyone who doesn’t need this help can also use ordinary gutters on the right hand side, but in this case also on the left hand side of the stairs. The steps have underfloor heating so the staircases will never become dangerously slippery in winter.
In the Netherlands it is always hard to find out what such projects cost. As a rule of thumb the underground parking garages cost about 3,000 to 6,000 euros per parking spot, according to the very recent book “Fietsparkeren bij stations” (Bicycle parking at stations) from Piersma and Ritzema. One local source mentions that this facility cost “around 30 million euros”, which would be about €5,175 per parking space (at first the budget was a little over 24 million euros). That is on the higher end, but indeed within that band width. Zwolle had to pay 3.8 million euros extra because of contaminated soil that was discovered below the 5 metre threshold which was checked for pollution before the project started. The facility was further financed by ProRail, on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water works and by the Province of Overijssel. The municipality of Zwolle assigned the daily management of the garage to the Dutch Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen). The total budget of the station area redesign in Zwolle had been 115 million euros.
The parking garage and especially the square on top of it are not completely finished yet. One more entrance will be opened. That entrance will get a lot of green and an elaborate so-called “water wall” where rain water can get into the facility. The bicycle parking facility has an integrated surplus rain water storage that will allow rainwater to slowly enter the ground. It will take until the summer of 2021 before everything is finished, but it is already very clear that the station square will look and feel much nicer than before. It will have a lot more green and a lot more more space for walking and cycling. One by one the Dutch railway stations are undergoing these transformations, often due to the need for better bicycle parking facilities. The successful combination of bicycle and train for longer distances is determining the way stations and their surroundings are designed now.
This week’s video: the new bicycle parking facility at Zwolle station.
The largest bicycle parking garages in the Netherlands are, at this moment: Utrecht 12,500 places, The Hague 8,500 places, this facility in Zwolle with 5,800, closely followed by Rotterdam, 5,200 and Haarlem, 5,000. Delft, with 10,000, has more parking spaces in total, but in three separate facilities. That is also the case in Amsterdam Zuid (9,500) that also has three facilities.