Large-scale Bicycle Parking

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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.”
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Now Where Did I Park My Bike?

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Just a small section of some of the bike parking near the station. They’ve added new indoor bicycle parking since I took these photos in January. That holds approximately 4500 bicycle parking spaces in a three-storey, automated lot under the station. They’re building more bicycle parking to hold roughly another 12,500. All of this is to help get rid of this “ocean of bikes“, though it sometimes seems that as soon as a new parking garage is built, it’s already full. Still, imagine if all of these represented cars. You can see a small overview of the area I photographed in this photo. The massive above-ground parking is partially seen on the right.
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This Is How We Park Our Bicycles

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As you may know, the bicycle is one of the leading forms of transportation throughout the Netherlands. Work commutes, outings with friends, shopping, you name it, people use their bike to do it. Great for the environment and great for the closely packed cities that don’t have cars overwhelming the narrow streets. Yet at some point, people get off their bikes to go into the shops, offices, etc. That’s when things get challenging. What to do with all of those bikes?
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Sure, there are plenty of old-fashioned bike racks that can hold a handful of bikes, and those are put to good use, often with multiple racks placed in a long row for busy neighborhood corners, especially corners close to bars and cafés. But even those fill up quickly and bikes are soon left chained up to anything remotely stable.

In the city center, it can be particularly challenging to find somewhere safe to lock up your bike. Finding and fitting your bike into a vaguely free spot in the racks can make Tetris look like a game for infants.

Obviously, the city is aware of the need for decent bicycle parking, so they continue to develop new parking options. On weekends, when even more people are coming into the city to shop and socialize, special mobile bicycle parking lots are created wherever there’s room for them. Neude, in particular, is a popular central spot for these pop-up parking lots.
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These free parking lots are set up by the city and provide a centralized parking spot where people can leave their bikes all day. With Utrecht’s city center being so small and walkable, Neude is a great spot to park and go.

Still, these bicycle parking lots are usually only on the weekend, so there’s still the need for additional, organized bicycle parking throughout the week. The latest instalment is also at Neude, but this time it’s indoor parking.
Fietsenstalling NeudeThe Neudeflat, the tall, rather unattractive building next to the old post office, has become the latest bicycle parking receptacle. The ground floor, which has been home to a variety of city information spots in recent years, has now been converted into a free indoor bicycle parking spot.
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Considering the tangle of bicycles that usually develops in multiple spots around Neude, this seems like a decent use of space that might otherwise have sat empty. Easy to use, less chance of ending up with a soggy bottom on a rainy day, and hopefully a few less dings, dents, and broken bicycle bells when you return. After all, who wants to mess up a unique paint job like this!
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