Amsterdam’s underwater parking storage matches 7,000 bicycles and nil automobiles

Perhaps at some point, flying automobiles and jetpacks would be the hallmarks of futuristic cities, however right this moment — in 2023 — it’s large underwater bicycle parking garages just like the one which simply opened at Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. The construction has area for six,300 private bicycles and 700 extra for bikeshares to facilitate the primary or final mile of rail journeys. Capability will broaden to 11,000 bicycles when a second storage opens in February.

The four-year, €60 million (about $65 million) venture might sound outlandish to anybody exterior of the Netherlands, however it’s enterprise as regular for Dutch cities, that are slowly however methodically reworking private cars into relics of a misguided previous — a time when cities had been constructed across the wants of automobiles, not individuals. Hell, there’s a fair greater underground (however not underwater) bicycle storage within the metropolis of Utrecht, able to internet hosting 12,000 two-wheelers. In a rustic the place bicycles simply outnumber residents, data consistently shows about 35 % of Amsterdammers utilizing their bicycles each day, which will increase to 50 % of Utrecht’s residents.

A timelapse launched by the town of Amsterdam reveals this marvel of engineering being constructed. Staff needed to first drain the water in entrance of the Nineteenth-century station earlier than laying the storage flooring and putting in big columns, shipped in by barge, to help the roof that might finally be submerged.

An estimated 200,000 vacationers arrive at Amsterdam’s Centraal Station each day by rail, ferry, tram, bus, and subway — about half arrive by bicycle. Historically, they’d park in lots of the messy above-ground bicycle stalls that also encompass the station and are scheduled to be eliminated within the weeks forward. Whereas the biggest of those is so large that it’s turn into a vacationer attraction in its personal proper, locals take into account them smelly monuments of frustration that always lack any free areas attributable to a excessive variety of semi-abandoned bicycles. In consequence, common commuters threat impoundment by locking their bikes to close by bushes, road lamps, and signposts, or by leaving them on any slab of accessible concrete which will increase their likelihood of theft.

This is what’s being replaced, freeing up tons of street-level space in the process. Click here for a larger image.
Click here for a bigger picture.

Not less than for now, the brand new underwater parking construction I toured is immaculate, giving off severe 2001: A House Odyssey vibes. It simply opened on Wednesday and was solely sparsely utilized by Thursday once I visited. Contained in the 24-hour managed facility, I noticed possibly just a few hundred private bicycles and a number of other dozen OVFiets bikeshares accessible to take a look at. Importantly, I additionally noticed a each day cleansing crew arduous at work and a handful of pleasant staff prepared to clarify how all the things works. 

Parking within the storage is free for the primary 24 hours, then €1.35 (about $1.46) for every extra day. That’s each handy for each day commuters and a very good motivator for individuals to take away their bikes rapidly. To enter, you must swipe your OV-chipkaart (Dutch transport card tied to your financial institution) or have a Fietstag (“bicycle tag”) fitted to your bike. The chipped tag is free for subscribers and took simply two minutes to request and course of as soon as contained in the storage. 

A street-level bike path leads you on to the above-ground entrance of the underwater storage, which is marked by a big blue signal and bicycle emblem, making it seen from a good way. The signal reveals the variety of parking locations nonetheless accessible (it learn 5792 in illuminated inexperienced numbers upon my arrival) permitting you to search out alternate parking if full. Right here, you hop off and both stroll or stand on a pair of rolling beltways that descend under the waterline, bringing you to the doorway of the parking storage. 

Since my bike was fitted with a brand new Fietstag, I used to be capable of roll proper by way of the so-called “check-in and check-out zone” with none delay. Others might want to faucet their OV-chipkaart on the clearly marked spot under the show. The encompassing lights flip inexperienced, and the show reads, “Fiets ingecheckt!” (Bicycle checked in!) to let you already know you may proceed. 

Purple and inexperienced lights on the vertical columns contained in the storage make it straightforward to see which rows of bicycle racks have open areas nonetheless accessible. All the things was inexperienced throughout my go to. You possibly can seize any accessible area to park your bike. As soon as parked, an escalator on the far finish of the storage gives direct entry to Amsterdam’s Centraal Station.

The underground storage is an engineering marvel, however it’s not with out its faults. To begin with, there’s no designated parking for bulky cargo bikes, that are quite common in Amsterdam for households with young children. There additionally aren’t any charging factors for e-bikes, which is an actual oversight in a rustic the place greater than half of all new bicycles offered are electrical. 


You can also’t verify in with a smartphone, smartwatch, or debit card at present. Vacationers with a bicycle rental or anybody else with out an OV-chipkaart can ask an attendant for a mortgage move to verify out and in. 

And as somebody who leaves my bicycle parked exterior in a single day, I’m not too eager on having the Fietstag left completely on my bicycle. It will possibly simply be stolen and utilized by anybody to surreptitiously verify in or out of the storage, with all payments routinely charged to my account. 

Nonetheless, these are such minor nitpicks I’m nearly ashamed to say them. However trendy cities like Amsterdam solely arrived at this level although many years of steady enchancment. The venture round Centraal Station may need began in 2019, however its basis was laid way back.

Build it and they will come. Click here for a larger image.
Click here for a bigger picture.

Amsterdam didn’t turn into a bicycle wonderland in a single day — it took many years of infrastructure funding that started within the Nineteen Seventies with the assistance of locals and enlighten politicians who, in live performance, demanded a extra livable metropolis. And changing privately-owned automobiles with electrical variations that require simply as a lot area and spend most of their time idling received’t assist obtain that.

Granted, not each metropolis may be like Amsterdam. However even new bicycle cities like Paris have confirmed that in case you construct the lanes, the bicyclists will come. And you must begin someplace. 

All images by Thomas Ricker / The Verge


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