Amsterdam opened a new bicycle parking facility, underwater!

A new bicycle parking garage under the water in front of Amsterdam Central Station was officially opened last Wednesday. A day later it was open to the public. The parking facility can house 7,000 bicycles and there are also several hundreds of bicycles from the OV-Fiets shared bicycle system. As part of the much bigger project to upgrade the Amsterdam central station area this garage will help reduce the number of parked bicycles on street and in sight, which many people in the Netherlands perceive as clutter nowadays. The on-street bicycle parking racks will be removed this February. The West bicycle parking garage and the famous “Fietsflat” (Bicycle Flat) have already been closed.

The main ‘colonnade’ makes the garage easy to navigate. It leads people directly to the underground connection to metro and train.
Bicycles can be parked in two-tier racks. There are some racks for larger bicycles or those with baskets, panniers and children’s seats. But there is no space for cargo bikes or e-bikes.

While underwater parking garages are not unusual in the Netherlands (I know a few examples in Delft, Amsterdam and there are two in my hometown ʼs-Hertogenbosch), they had all been for cars so far. The designers of this underwater facility for bicyles are based in Rotterdam. Wurck report they used the theme “water” as inspiration for this facility that is indeed literally under the water of the tour boat port. According to the designers, people bring their bicycles into an imaginary oyster with a rough exterior of basalt and natural stone and a smooth, bright and light interior. In addition, the theme has been at the basis of the wall art and the circular lighting fixtures in the ceiling of the main corridor. Maps of Amsterdam in different eras have been created in collaboration with the Amsterdam Museum. These maps are made up of ‘pixels’ from photos and paintings, and they cover one entire wall of the facility, called the ‘horizon’. These images, like those in the ‘oculi’ – as the circles in the ceiling have been named – show the connection to the city of Amsterdam. Making the facility comfortable to use was also a main point of the design. The parking facility is located deep under the surface and that could make it unattractive to use. Bringing in daylight and using bright, high-quality materials should give the inside of the bicycle parking facility a pleasant and welcoming feeling. To make it easy to know where you are the main path of the parking has been designed as a ‘colonnade’ (a path between pillars) which connects to a direct underground connection to the metro station and from there to the train station. The workshop and the place where the manager can supervise the facility is the ‘pearl in the oyster’ according again to designers Wurck.

There is a shop for maintenance and repair. This is also where the managers can supervise the garage.
The so-called travelators take people 9 metres deep and this is one of the few locations where you can see that the garage is actually under the water of the tour boat port in front of Amsterdam Central Station.

Three people were invited the official opening, Minister for the Environment Vivianne Heijnen, new CEO of the Dutch Railways Wouter Koolmees and deputy mayor of the city of Amsterdam Melanie van der Horst. This gives a clear indication of where the money for this piece of infrastructure came from. It is always hard in the Netherlands to find out what infrastructure has cost and who paid for it. I’ve seen several figures mentioned ranging from €50 million up to €85 million, but I didn’t find a reliable source for a definitive figure that I dare to mention here.

The opening ceremony (only for invited guests) took place on Wednesday 25 January 2023.
Champagne and cake for the official opening! Do these fish have anything to do with the fact that the garage is underwater?

It is tempting to compare this facility to other large bicycle parking garages in the Netherlands, but they are all so different! This one has a lot of art, similar to the garages in The Hague and Zwolle that were opened fairly recently as well. None of that in the much larger facility of Utrecht. But that garage is much more practical to use; you can simply cycle in and out and even to the other floors. Downside to that is that Utrecht is open to the elements, with creates a damp environment with drafts. Amsterdam is closed and even felt heated. It is also much easier to navigate because there is only one floor. That this floor is underwater has one major disadvantage; it is 9 metres below the surface. The Hague, Maastricht and Rotterdam also have travelators, but Amsterdam needs two! One reporter mentioned that by the time you finally step off the second – very slow – travelator “your clothes are out of fashion”. This is one of the few negatives you can hear about the otherwise near perfect garage; it takes a lot of time to use it and if there’s one thing people rushing to the trains don’t have… it’s time! What is also striking is that at the time this garage was offered to developers (in 2016) the city did not require cargo bikes and e-bikes to be considered in the design. Which now means they cannot be parked here. The second new underwater facility for 4,000 bicycles, to be opened mid-February behind central station, is also not welcoming to those types of bicycles. I wonder where Amsterdam thinks people are supposed to park their cargo bikes and e-bikes? Maybe in the next new parking garage that is currently in development. One for almost 9,000 bicycles that is expected to open in 2030. By that time Amsterdam Central Station will have 22,000 indoor bicycle parking spaces.

This ceiling art called ‘Oculi’ is bringing in a lot of light. The illuminated pictures from the city archive all have to do with Amsterdam and water.
These maps of Amsterdam in different eras form the ‘Horizon’, almost 50 metres long on one wall. The maps consist of thousands of pictures used as ‘pixels’, again all depicting scenes of Amsterdam and its connection to water.
This exceptional piece of art called the traffic accident is by artist Lex Horn (1916–1968). Made in 1965, it used to be part of the wall of the 5th floor of the Jan Swammerdam Institute, a university building that was demolished in 2004. The wall was preserved and is very much in place here. Despite the fact that it is clearly from the 1960s it almost seems made for this garage. Pictures of the orginal location Stadsarchief Amsterdam.
Map of the Amsterdam underwater bicycle parking facility “Stationsplein”. Picture Wurck.

Some international media have also covered this garage, several articles were published.

My video report on Amsterdam’s underwater bicycle parking garage “Stationsplein”.

7 thoughts on “Amsterdam opened a new bicycle parking facility, underwater!

  1. This parking is a beautiful joke! It takes now 15 minutes to leave the bike and take a train while before you could do it in 5. The parking on the water side is not opened all night so if you have to take an early or late train you need to park on the other side of the station. Beautiful design but not conceptualised for who really need to use it every day

  2. I think it would have been a better idea to keep the Fietsflat open for bicycle parking and create more parking spaces for cargo bikes and E-bikes in the new facility. Cargo bikes and E-bikes are quite popular.

    1. Yes they are now. But not when this garage was conceptualised over ten years ago, nor when the final design was made in 2016. The Fietsflat is kept -closed- as a reserve, for when it may be needed later. I hope they do some maintenance then, that’s really necessary.

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