Bikes are so entrenched in Dutch cities that if they’re gone, a part of their culture is gone as well. These pedal vehicles are so important to this country that the fourth largest city of the Netherlands made a three-storey bicycle park.
Designed by Ector Hoogstad Architecten below Utrecht Central Station, this park can store over 12,000 bikes. Even larger than the previous world’s largest bike park in Tokyo, Kasai underground station, which stores 9,000 in a 15-metre-deep basement.
This project is a part of a wider redevelopment of the area surrounding the city’s railway station and it enables cyclists to ride from the street to the bike park. From there, they can have a quick access to the station or platforms using digital and color-coded systems that guides those cyclists. The systems also lead them through the park itself and to the allocated lot.
The redevelopment of Utrecht Central Station includes improved street layout as well as public plaza. There’s a canopy similar to the shape of a white honeycomb to protect people from the heat. There’s also a shopping centre near the station.
Cyclists can access the bike park through pink cycle lanes that continue down inside and wrap around the edges of the structure. Other than parking spots, this project also incorporates a repair service and bicycle hire outlet, so people will have no reason to not use bicycles.
Another purpose of this development is encouraging the locals to use bikes and other public transport instead of cars. Other than reducing congestion, this will lead to a more sustainable and environment-friendly city.
Ector Hoogstad Architecten stated, “Our integrated, comfortable bicycle parking is the answer to a major problem in the inner cities of our urban communities worldwide: pollution and logistic indigestion. We created a mobility hub that favours cyclists and pedestrians and makes car use less attractive.”
Each parking spot branches off from the cycle lanes in order to give a lot of space for cyclists when they get off of their bikes. This way, people won’t bump into others or get in the way of the cyclists.
“The concept is about speed and safety. The layout allows to separate pedestrians and cyclists intuitively while approaching the station’s entrance. A digital system guides cyclists rapidly to free places. The parking can be used with the public transport chipcard, convenient and quick,” stated the Rotterdam-based studio.
The architecture studio also explained that they didn’t design this project to be functional only. They wanted to make a bike park that’s unique and serves as another attraction spot in the city.
“The building is more than just infrastructure,” added Ector Hoogstad Architects. “It adds an exciting and surprising architectural dimension to the city. Cycling through the garage has become a unique experience; not just another part of everyday life in the city, but almost an attraction in its own right.”
Forget about grim and gloomy parking lots with minimum light, this bike park is enclosed glass walls and skylights. The staircases, which are available in each storey to let people have direct access to the main terminal building, platforms, and public square, also double as a lightwells to bring natural light into the depths of the building.
The colors of the park are derived from durable construction materials such as concrete, steel, and wood. Ector Hoogstad Architects hoped that these interiors and colors create and inviting atmosphere. “With these raw materials an atmosphere has been created that is best described as warm and intimate, creating the feeling of social safety.”
Before this park officially opened
This bike park wasn’t built in a day since it’s a part of a bigger redevelopment. In 2017, before this park opened, Ector Hoogstad Architecten firstly designed a bike garage that can store about 6,000 parking spaces in three storeys. The project was planned to finish in late 2018, measuring 17,100 square metres.
One thing that we always learn is that not everything can go according to our plans. And this was the case of this project as well. This particular part of Utrecht station’s redevelopment officially opened recently.
According to last year’s news, this parking lot is the only manned and monitored bicycle parking where indoor cycling is permitted. Cyclists can enter and exit the underground park on a one-way system of ramps that circle the central parking spaces.
The park uses a public-transport chip card. Cyclists don’t pay for anything for the first 24 hours and they have access to a service point for repairs, maintenance, parts and accessories. It’s great that these plans are fully realized in the final part of the project.
Most of the bicycle parking places are funded by private investors. The whole park is intended to accommodate employees and visitors, and 700 public-transport bicycles, called OV-bicycles, that as we know now, are available to rent.
Utrecht’s bicycle park wanted to have 22,000 bicycle parking places around the station. But for now, we get around 12,500 slots. Perhaps the project doesn’t end here and the city as well as the architecture studio will continue to find ways to increase the cycling culture in the future.
The municipality of Utrecht said in a statement, “It is the ultimate wish to have as many bicycle racks as there are bicycles, so that all cyclists can park their bicycle in a rack.”
A little bit about the architecture studio
As briefly mentioned before, Ector Hoogstad Architecten is an architecture studio founded in Rotterdam in 1959 by Jan Hoogstad, one of the leading post-War Dutch architects. Today, the member of the boards include Joost Ector, Gijs Weijnen, Max Pape, Chris Arts and Koen Klijn.
Ector Hoogstad Architecten has designed a lot projects in both the Netherlands and abroad the country. There are university campuses, police headquarters, nursing home, theater, and many more. They’ve also done projects that transformed a former steel plant into offices and cladded a concert venue in the city of Leiden with panels of weathering steel.
In 2011, Ector Hoogstad Architecten won a competition to design the bike park at Utrecht Central Station. The first phase was finished in August of 2017.