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