Amsterdam’s underwater parking storage suits 7,000 bicycles and nil vehicles
Perhaps sooner or later, flying vehicles and jetpacks would be the hallmarks of futuristic cities, however at present — in 2023 — it’s huge underwater bicycle parking garages just like the one which simply opened at Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. The construction has house 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 may appear outlandish to anybody exterior of the Netherlands, nevertheless it’s enterprise as typical for Dutch cities, that are slowly however methodically remodeling private vehicles into relics of a misguided previous — a time when cities have been constructed across the wants of vehicles, not folks. Hell, there’s an excellent 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, information persistently reveals about 35 p.c of Amsterdammers utilizing their bicycles day by day, which will increase to 50 p.c of Utrecht’s residents.
A timelapse launched by town of Amsterdam reveals this marvel of engineering being constructed. Employees needed to first drain the water in entrance of the Nineteenth-century station earlier than laying the storage ground and putting in big columns, shipped in by barge, to assist the roof that will finally be submerged.
An estimated 200,000 vacationers arrive at Amsterdam’s Centraal Station daily 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 most important of those is so huge that it’s change into a vacationer attraction in its personal proper, locals contemplate 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.
Not less than for now, the brand new underwater parking construction I toured is immaculate, giving off critical 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 a couple of hundred private bicycles and a number of other dozen OVFiets bikeshares accessible to take a look at. Importantly, I additionally noticed a day by day cleansing crew laborious at work and a handful of pleasant workers prepared to elucidate how the whole lot 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 day by day commuters and a very good motivator for folks 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 brand, making it seen from a long 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 beneath 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 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 beneath the show. The encircling lights flip inexperienced, and the show reads, “Fiets ingecheckt!” (Bicycle checked in!) to let you understand you may proceed.
Crimson 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 pieces was inexperienced throughout my go to. You’ll be able to seize any accessible house to park your bike. As soon as parked, an escalator on the far finish of the storage supplies direct entry to Amsterdam’s Centraal Station.
The underground storage is an engineering surprise, nevertheless it’s not with out its faults. To start out with, there’s no designated parking for cumbersome cargo bikes, that are quite common in Amsterdam for households with babies. 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 bought are electrical.
You can also’t examine 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 go to examine 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 probably simply be stolen and utilized by anybody to surreptitiously examine in or out of the storage, with all payments mechanically charged to my account.
Nonetheless, these are such minor nitpicks I’m virtually ashamed to say them. However fashionable cities like Amsterdam solely arrived at this level although many years of steady enchancment. The venture round Centraal Station might need began in 2019, however its basis was laid way back.
Amsterdam didn’t change 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 vehicles with electrical variations that require simply as a lot house and spend most of their time idling gained’t assist obtain that.
Granted, not each metropolis might 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 pictures by Thomas Ricker / The Verge