Large-scale Bicycle Parking


If you’re walking, or better yet, cycling around Utrecht, you may start noticing more and more of these signs. Despite my photo, which was taking in strong morning sunlight, the green numbers positively glow, even from a distance. This is one of a pair that has gone up in the last month or so by Voorstraat and even in the nearby park, I can see the bright red and green of one of the signs from a fair distance.

What are they, you may ask? They’re bicycle parking signs. More specifically, they show primarily how many parking spots are available in various designated parking areas. And yes, I do mean bicycles and not cars. Keizerstraat refers to a smaller parking lot that primarily serves university students, particularly those going to the library, which is part of the building in the background. UB Plein is a larger, underground parking area in the University Library’s courtyard area. The station refers to the train station, which has space for around 30,000 bicycles at the station, with additional areas nearby for alternative options. The Centrum parking I’m not exactly sure about. I know that on weekends they set up temporary bicycle parking lots at Neude and in other areas, but I’m not sure if this is referring to a more permanent location.

Still, the numbers shown on this early Sunday morning gives you a small idea of the volume of bicycles in the city. This also doesn’t account for all the free-range bicycle parking you see everywhere, along with the smaller neighborhood bike racks. These signs are more for parking while you’re commuting, shopping, or studying. Even with all of the parking available, there seems to always be a need for more. Like the old Field of Dreams quote says, “If you build it, they will come.”

Bicycle Parking in Utrecht

A few weeks ago, I posted about the “pop-up” bicycle parking that can be found at certain spots on the weekend. Now there’s going to be more designated bicycle parking around typically busy and popular spots. Beginning October 1, the gemeente (municipality) will begin a three-month trial of special bicycle parking. Designed to provide a safe and secure spot for short-term parking, the goal is to reduce the number of wildgeparkeerde (wild parked) bicycles that you see everywhere, while still encouraging people to bike, rather than drive, in the city.

The five test sites are located at:

  • Twijnstraat by the Albert Heijn
  • St. Jacobsstraat by Lange Koestraat
  • Oudegracht and Stadhuisbrug by Selexyz
  • Neude on the corner of Lange Jansstraat
  • Neude on the corner of Potterstraat

Speaking of bicycles, I was approached by Expatica a while back to participate in a blog contest they’re holding to culminate at their annual I Am Not A Tourist Expat Fair. We were to send in one of our favourite/most popular blogs. I decided to send in one I did about how difficult it is to make a forceful statement at the end of an argument when you have to bike away, rather than drive off. You can read the post again — and vote for me — at the official blog contest web page.

Time Travel: Neude Parking

(photo via the Utrechtse Archief)

This is a bit of a variation on the Time Travel posts. Usually, I post an old photo and compare it with a new one, showing how little has changed. In this case, however, there’s quite a difference. Although I suppose you could say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s all a matter of perspective.

In this case, the photo above is a great aerial view of Neude, one of the big squares in the middle of town. This is where the old post office is located, and where many of the festivals set up temporary housing. There’s almost always something going on at Neude, even if it’s just the caf├ęs setting up extra seating. The aerial photo was taken from the Neudeflat on the top of the tall building in this next picture. The big brick building is the former post office.

Multi Media in the Neude

You’ll notice that the aerial view showed the square being used for parking. I think that was common through the 1980s, perhaps even later. However, as cars became less welcome in the city center, and as bicycles became even more prevalent, there’s been a shift in how Neude is used.

The street on the left of the first photo is one of the main thoroughfares through the city center, but looking at the first photo, taken sometime in the 1960s, I can see how the cycling infrastructure has changed. There are now dedicated bicycle lanes on the main street. In fact, I was surprised to learn last week that much of the cycling infrastructure here has been relatively recent. Mark, at BicycleDutch has an excellent blog post and video about how the Dutch cycling infrastructure as we know it now came about in the 1970s. It’s definitely worth watching. Thanks, also, to Breigh for directing me to this particular video.

The use of Neude has certainly changed since that first photo. Yet, as I said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. You see, on Saturdays and shopping Sundays, there is once again parking on the Neude, but this time it’s bicycle parking.
Parking at Neude

Each weekend, these mobile bicycle parking lots are set up by the city in various locations around town to give people somewhere safe to park their bicycle for free. This allows people to bike into the center, park their bike and then go on foot to do their shopping, etc. It also means that the regular bike racks aren’t further packed, making it difficult for everyone. It also keeps the city a bit tidier, since you don’t have the same volume of bikes parked in random spots. Trust me, they’re still everywhere, but these fietsenstalling always seem to be in full use when they’re set up.