Minor upgrades to the world’s largest bicycle parking garage in Utrecht

The world’s largest bicycle parking garage has had an upgrade in the Summer of 2022. Almost three years after it was fully opened cracks appeared in the concrete of the floors. These cracks were not dangerous, but they had to be repaired. The city of Utrecht took the opportunity to also implement a few changes.

The renovated south-entrance (Moreelsepark) with two entrance lanes and information which lane to take for the levels 0/+1 or -1. The concrete edge got a dashed pattern to make it extra visible. That has not (yet?) been done to the north-entrance.

According to a news item on the website documenting the urban design changes in the Utrecht station area, CU2030, the following was the case:

“Have you ever had this experience? You are happy with the perfectly smooth walls in your new home when you suddenly see cracks in the fresh stucco. Something similar happened to the largest bicycle parking facility in the world. Cracks became suddenly visible, but in the concrete. The good news is, it’s not dangerous. You can still safely park your bicycle. But we must fix it. And we will, from Monday 2 May to the beginning of August.”

The article goes on to explain that the expansion joints in the concrete floors did not work as expected. They could easily be repaired, but while workmen were in the building it seemed like a good idea to tackle some other issues with the garage.

The north-entrance (Smakkelaarsveld) before the renovation. The concrete divisions were dangerous and the status of the black zebra crossings was unclear. To make a zebra crossing a zebra crossing the law requires it to be white.

The north-entrance (Smakkelaarsveld) after the renovation. The concrete division has been removed, this results in more room for cycling. The black zebra crossings have been replaced by normal crossings between white lines, indicating that pedestrians have to wait for a gap in traffic. They do not have priority on this type of crossings.

These other issues were addressed in “part two”, which was announced like this:

It’s time for Part Two. We are going to make the parking facility more user-friendly. Now that the world’s largest garage has been open for almost three years, we have a clearer picture of how the parking facility is used by you. But also, which parts of the design require some extra attention and how we can make the signage and markings even more clear, with lines and symbols, for example.

We will now start to change both entrances to the parking facility. While we do that, you cannot use that entrance for three weeks. (We do realize that makes it less user-friendly.) What are we going to do? The concrete divisions in front of the entrances will be removed so that the cycle path becomes wider. We will also replace the lines on the cycle path to indicate in advance where you have to cycle to go to which floor. Some, now white, surfaces will become gray and of a different, more non-slip material. We will also get to work inside the parking facility: we will adjust the white coating on the sides along the red cycle path with more non-slip material and the various steps in the garage will be marked in a better way. We will also alter the lines on the bicycle paths.

To remove large chunks of concrete in the entrance areas a giant saw was needed.

Now that everything was done, I am pleased with the wider entrances and the surface does really seem less slippery. But the improved signs for the routing do not impress me at all. The routing inside the garage has been a problem ever since the garage was opened. People who use the minus 1 level, in other words the basement, can use a ramp to cycle back up to street level. Unfortunately, that ramp ends on the ground floor in the middle of the very long garage and not on one of the extreme ends where the other three ramps start or end. On top of that the garage only has one way cycle paths around the outside of the rows of parking racks. That means that to get to the north-exit people have to cycle to the south-exit first (half the length of the garage) make a 180-degree turn and then they have to cycle the full length of the garage again to get to the north-exit. The garage is 350 metres long, so that is indeed quite the detour. To avoid that detour, a lot of people cycle via one of the short corridors with parking racks, the first two times that is possible (corridors 46 and 47). This leads to many near misses with people walking there or people who are just parking their bicycles there. Some new symbols try to inform people that they should push their bicycles when they use those corridors with the racks. But I can already tell you: they don’t. During rush hour it is almost impossible to walk in the corridors most used to take a short-cut, because so many people cycle there illegally. This is clearly a design failure. In my opinion it can almost only be remedied by safely allowing people to take that shortcut. This could be done by sacrificing one of the two corridors most used to do that. When you remove the racks there, there is room to make the surface red and allow that shortcut. That has not happened in this upgrade, but the way it is now, it is (remains) dangerous. As someone who has chosen corridor 47 as the place for his bicycle (because that is near the most convenient exit for me) I can tell. So often I had to quickly get out of the way of someone cycling there that it is bound to go wrong one day. Another -less friendly- option that doesn’t cost expensive parking spaces is to raise the level of the central walking corridor a bit. There are already parts where that corridor has one step. Easy to pass on foot, but not easy to pass with a bicycle.

Thanks to the removal of much of the concrete to the left there can now be two lanes. The left lane can be used to pass the line of people waiting to check-in for the +1 upper level.
This symbol seems to ask people to walk next to their bicycles when using the corridors with the racks. In this case nobody will cycle through this particular coridor because of the step in the middle. The first corridor that you can cycle through, because it doesn’t have that step, is indeed misused as a shortcut by a lot of people.
Where it goes wrong. Cycling is only allowed on the red paths and in the direction of the arrows I added. However, the ramp up from the -1 level in the basement ends in the middle of the building (unlike the other ramps). A clear design failure, because it means people have to cycle all the way to the south-entrance first, make a 180-degree turn and then cycle the full length of the garage again to the north-entrance. Many illegally take a shortcut via one of the two corridors I marked in blue. That is because the first three corridors they pass have been closed with fences (blue line). I do not think the new signage will prevent people using these shortcuts. I fear the only solution is a conversion of one of the shortcuts, (or one of the corridors that have now been fenced off) so that people can safely do what they will do anyway: take that shortcut.

The new adjustments have only been in place a couple of weeks now. I hope the measures are evaluated and something substantial is done to that illegal riding in the parking rack corridors. Other than that I am perfectly pleased with this garage where my Utrecht bicycle ‘lives’.

This week’s video: minor upgrades to the world’s largest bicycle parking garage in Utrecht.

2 thoughts on “Minor upgrades to the world’s largest bicycle parking garage in Utrecht

  1. I’m curious if the garage is starting to fill up frequently. I saw the construction over the summer, but I also saw some overflow possibly. Does it seem like spaces are running out and you can’t be confident of finding a place to park?

    Also curious about people’s feeling of security. The garage is well-monitored. Is that successful at deterring theft and anti-social behavior?

    1. I can only speak for myself and I feel confident my bicycle is safe enough there. As a subscription holder I park at street level without checking in and out. But I do not use an extra chain for my bicycle. So it is only locked with my integrated ring lock. There are some – more distant – rows of racks that are filling up less, so there will always still be a space, but the racks in the most convenient locations (near exits or staircases) are really full!

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