Written by 8:15 am Science & Technology Views: [tptn_views]

Amsterdam’s underwater parking garage suits 7,000 bicycles and nil cars

Perhaps in the future flying cars and jetpacks will likely be the hallmarks of futuristic cities, but today – in 2023 – they’re huge underwater bike parks just like the one which has just opened at Amsterdam’s Centraal station. The structure has space for six,300 personal bicycles and 700 more for shared bicycles to facilitate the primary or last mile of a rail journey. Capacity will increase to 11,000 bikes when the second garage opens in February.

The four-year, €60 million (around $65 million) project could appear bizarre to anyone outside the Netherlands, however it’s a standard thing for Dutch cities which might be slowly but methodically transforming passenger cars into relics of a vicious past – a time when cities were built around needs cars, not people. Hell, there’s an excellent greater underground (but no Underwater) a bicycle garage in the town of Utrecht with a capability of 12,000 two-wheelers. In a rustic where the variety of bicycles easily exceeds the variety of residents, the information consistently shows around 35 percent of Amsterdammers use bicycles on daily basis, which is a rise to 50 percent of Utrecht residents.

A time-lapse video provided by the City of Amsterdam shows how this engineering marvel is made. Workers first had to empty the water in front of the Nineteenth-century station, then lay the ground of the garage and install giant columns brought in by barge to support the roof that might eventually be sunk.

An estimated 200,000 people arrive at Amsterdam’s Centraal station on daily basis by rail, ferry, tram, bus and metro, about half of whom travel by bicycle. Traditionally, they’d park in the various scruffy above-ground bike stalls that also surround the station and are expected to be removed in the approaching weeks. Although the biggest of those is so massive it has change into a tourist attraction in its own right, locals regard it as stinking monuments to frustration, which frequently run out of vacancies attributable to the massive variety of half-abandoned bicycles. As a result, regular commuters risk being stopped by locking their bikes to nearby trees, street lamps and signposts, or leaving them on any available concrete slab, increasing their risk of theft.

This is what is being replaced, thus freeing up a lot of space at street level.  Click here to see a larger picture.
click here for the larger picture.

At least for now, the brand new construction of the underwater parking zone I toured is pristine and serious looking 2001: A Space Odyssey mood. Just opened on Wednesday and was rarely used until Thursday after I visited. In a facility managed 24 hours a day, I saw perhaps a couple of hundred personal bikes and a number of other dozen OVFiets public bikes available for inspection. Importantly, I also saw the cleansing crew working hard on daily basis and a handful of friendly staff ready to clarify how all the things works.

Garage parking is free for the primary 24 hours, then €1.35 (about $1.46) for every additional day thereafter. This is each convenient for day by day commuters and an awesome motivator for quickly removing bikes. To enter it’s essential swipe your OV-chipkaart (Dutch transport card linked to your bank) or placed on a Fietstag (“bicycle tag”) in your bike. The chipped tag is free to subscribers, and it only took two minutes to request and process it upon entering the garage.

The street-level bike path leads on to the above-ground entrance to the underwater garage, which is marked with a big blue sign and bicycle logo, making it visible from a distance. An indication shows the variety of parking spaces still available (on my arrival it was 5792 highlighted in green numbers), allowing you to seek out alternative parking if it’s full. This is where you disembark and either walk or stand on two rolling bypasses that descend below the waterline, leading you to the garage entrance.

Since my bike was equipped with the brand new Fietstag, I used to be in a position to go through the so-called “check-in and check-out zone” with none delays. Others may have to the touch their OV-chipkaart in a clearly marked place below the display. The surrounding lights turn green and the display shows “Fiets ingecheckt!” (Bike checked in!) to let you understand you may proceed.

Red and green lights on the vertical posts contained in the garage make it easy to see which rows of motorcycle racks have free spaces. Everything was green during my visit. You can take any free space to park your bike. Once parked, the escalator on the far end of the garage provides direct access to Amsterdam Centraal Station.

An underground garage is an engineering marvel, however it’s not without its flaws. Let’s start with the incontrovertible fact that there isn’t any designated parking for giant cargo bikes, that are extremely popular with families with babies in Amsterdam. There are also no e-bike charging points, an actual oversight in a rustic where greater than half of all recent bikes sold are e-bikes.

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Currently, you furthermore mght cannot check in together with your smartphone, smartwatch or debit card. Bicycle rental tourists or anyone else without an OV-chipkaart can ask the attendant for a rental pass to envision in and take a look at.

And as someone who leaves a motorcycle parked outside overnight, I’m not too keen on leaving the Fietstag permanently on my bike. Anyone can easily steal it and use it to stealthily check in or leave the garage and all bills are routinely charged to my account.

Nevertheless, these are such minor nuances that I’m almost ashamed to say them. But modern cities like Amsterdam only got thus far after a long time of continuous improvement. The project around Centraal Station could have began in 2019, but its foundations were laid a protracted time ago.

Build it and they will come.  Click here to see a larger picture.
click here for the larger picture.

Amsterdam didn’t change into a cycling wonderland overnight – it took a long time of infrastructure investment, which began within the Nineteen Seventies with the assistance of local and enlightened politicians who collectively called for a more liveable city. And replacing private cars with electric versions that take up the identical amount of space and spend most of their time idling won’t help to realize this goal.

It’s true that not every city could be like Amsterdam. But even recent cycling cities like Paris have proven that should you construct lanes, there will likely be cyclists. And you have got to start out somewhere.

All photos by Thomas Ricker/The Verge

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