Underground revolutions

  • 2018-03-14 01:58
  • Tom Stone, Intertraffic World Magazine
  • Intertraffic World Magazine English

Photographs | Petra Appelhof

In Utrecht, 28 miles (45km) south of Amsterdam, something big is taking shape beneath the city’s train station: the largest bicycle parking facility in the world.

The Netherlands is famed for being a nation of cyclists. It was therefore appropriate that August 2017 saw the grand opening of the new Utrecht Centraal Station underground bicycle parking facility, with space for 6,000 bikes. And even more fitting that this is just the first phase; once building is fully completed in 2018, there will be room for more than 13,500, making it the largest bicycle park in the world – surpassing the record currently held by an underground facility in Tokyo, Japan.

Ector Hoogstad Architects, which is also responsible for project planning, collaborated with Sant&Co studio and Royal Haskoning DHV in designing the space, which has created an elevated street level to accommodate the underground parking. The facility links Utrecht Centraal and the nearby Hoog Catherijne shopping center.

“The three-level ‘bike trough’ has been designed with three aims in mind: convenience, speed and safety,” says architect Stijn Rademakers.

Convenience and speed are embodied by the fact that, as far as possible, users will be able to cycle all the way to their parking space, without having to dismount and push for any great distance. Safety is still maintained, however, as parking lanes branch off the main cycle paths. This ensures that riders who have stopped to park do not get in the way of other cyclists who are passing through the system. Room for mounting and dismounting is left alongside the parking lanes and the sloping areas where the bikes are parked are open to the rest of the parking area, to ensure ease of use.

Design and construction
The cycle parking area is constructed using durable materials such as concrete, steel and chemically treated wood, which helps to soften the lines and temper any industrial feel.

A central part of the development is a giant, elevated roof, which resembles a honeycomb but is actually designed as a series of tessellating circles. This covers the pedestrian area directly outside the main entrance to the station. Three of the pillars that support the giant roof also extend all the way down into the parking area. These trumpet-shaped structures have a diameter of 5m (16.4ft) at floor level, and taper to 1.2m (3.9ft) at the top. Each one is cast as a single element.

Color and light
As with advanced car parking garages, electronic signals are used to indicate to riders the exact position of free slots. A further innovation is the use of color-coded walls and floors to further help with route finding – a feature that also serves to enhance the overall appearance of the entire complex.

Despite comprising, in total, three subterranean levels, the architects have succeeded in maintaining a high level of natural light throughout, which helps to enhance user comfort.

“Stairwells and tunnels have open lines of sight to the elevated square in front of the station, and to the station’s booking hall and platforms, thus ensuring easy orientation, even from beneath ground level,” says Rademakers. “Large windows in the outer wall show users where they are in relation to the outside world, and the end of the cycle parking space can be seen from a number of spots. The stairwells are surrounded by atria extending all the way from the elevated space in front of the station to the basement, which are provided with natural lighting through a glass roof.”

The facility is so large that it is natural that there should also be more than simply parking on offer – additional facilities include a cycle repair shop, a cycle rental outlet, and a site office, where a manager is located to meet all users’ cycle parking needs.

Source: Tom Stone, Intertraffic World Magazine

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