Historically, the Dutch have always been fervent cyclists. This enthusiasm is now growing even further as cycling is being discovered as a key ingredient of the sustainable city. New bicycle typologies such as the introduction of the so-called e-bike are helping to amplify this shift in mass transportation. More and more public transport hubs will be complemented with extensive and user friendly amenities for cyclists. And increasing amounts of people begin to favour the combination of cycling and public transport over car use.
The Utrecht Central station area is currently undergoing a major makeover. By healing the scars left behind by a number of ‘modernizations’ carried out in the sixties and seventies and adding new functions to the area this part of Utrecht will finally become a vibrant and friendly part of the city centre. To achieve this, inner city highways are being replaced by more modest streets and historic canals are being restored. Also, the huge modernist megastructure that once glued together the railway station and the Hoog Catharijne shopping mall (both the biggest of their kind in the Netherlands) has been taken apart, allowing for a new public street and square to be inserted, together with a bicycle parking garage with a world record capacity of 13.500 bicycles. Ector Hoogstad Architecten (in collaboration with Sant&Co and Royal Haskoning DHV) won the commission to design the project in a invited competition.
The new “Stationsallee” has a slight bend in it to focus attention on the new railway terminal. It rises to a level of 6 meters to widen into a square where the entrances of both the station and the shopping mall are situated. An enormous iconic canopy marks the square and enables a dry crossing.
The three storey bicycle parking is situated underneath the square.It has been designed with threeaims in mind: convenience, speed and safety. In order to achieve this in a facility of this scale cyclistsare enabled to pedal all the way up to their parking slot.The parking lanes branch off the cycle paths, to ensure that users do not get in the way of cyclists passing through the system. Room for mounting and dismounting is left alongside the parking lanes. The sloping areas where the bikes are parked are in open connection with the rest of the parking area. The walls are colour-coded to indicate the routing, and to improve the overall appearance. Electronic signals indicate the position of free parking slots. The high lighting level enhances user comfort. Additional facilities such as a cycle repair shop, a cycle rental outlet and several floor managers meet users’ every need.
Stairwells and tunnels create direct connections tothe elevated square, the main terminal buildingand the platforms.Ensuring good orientation and plenty of daylight, the stairwells are surrounded by atria covered by glass rooftops. Large windows in the outer walls show users where they are in relation to the outside world, providing views toward the platforms and the bus terminal. The exits on street level are visible from a number of spots.
The cycle parking area is constructed using durable materials such as concrete, steel and chemically treated wood. With these raw materials an atmosphere has been created in the building that is best described as warm and intimate. Three concrete columns supporting the giant canopy extend all the way down into the parking area. These trumpet-shaped elementshave a diameter of 5 metres at floor level, falling to 1.2mat the top, and each one is cast as a single element.
The building is more than just infrastructure. 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.
The first phase of the project was opened in early August 2017, providing room for 6,000 bicycles. When the cycle parking area is fully completed in 2018itwill have a capacity of over 13,500 bikes.