Bikes > Cycle

The world’s largest bicycle-parking facility is simply insane

Located in Utrecht, Netherlands

Cycling is a primary mode of transport for the Dutch. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

People in the Netherlands love cycling on a big scale. A really, really big scale. Traveling around on two wheels is more than just a pastime in the European country, and the millions of cyclists who take to the road there every day naturally need infrastructure to match.

That’s why you’ll find thousands of massive bike-parking facilities in the country, but none is bigger than the Bicycle Parking Stationsplein in Utrecht. In fact, this massive facility is the biggest cycle-parking place in the world, with currently 12,500 spaces.

People can park their bicycles here before riding the train. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

During a recent trip to Amsterdam, I couldn’t resist having a look at this place, and with Utrecht only a short train ride away, I managed to experience it during a proper morning rush hour. This is not only next-level cycling infrastructure, but it’s also a completely different worldand unlike anything you may have seen anywhere else.

Whereas cyclists in Metro Manila can be grateful if they get any parking at all or don’t have their bikes removed by misguided authorities, Dutch cyclists get to experience a purpose-built 17,000sq-m facility complete with an on-site repair and accessory shop that is access-controlled and has wardens to prevent theft.

Opened in 2019, the Utrecht bike park is right by the central train station and stretches over multiple levels, with gently sloping cycle paths connecting them all. Think of it as one of the big mall car parks we have in Metro Manila, but it’s all just bicycles as far as the eye can see.

There's even space for irregularly shaped bicycles. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

The way bicycles are used in Holland is also different from how we may do it in the Philippines. Dutch people don’t just use their own bikes to commute, for instance. The country is deploying an enviable mix of transport options to help residents get around.

For example, you may live in Amsterdam but work in the neighboring city of Utrecht. To cycle the distance would take you an hour or two, which is not something everyone is prepared to do just to get to work and back every day. Instead, you use your own bike to cycle from your home to the train station where you can safely park it.

You then hop on the train and travel to the city where you work. Once there, you use your same travel card to rent a bike and then cycle the distance from the train station to your place of work. In the evening you do the same journey in reverse.

You won't have trouble finding a ride with these rental bikes. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

Thousands of people are traveling like this every day, and to watch this two-wheeled ballet unfold in front of me in Utrecht was simply awe-inspiring. It’s a futuristic transport utopia, and shows what’s possible when a whole nation buys into an idea and competent politicians do the right thing.

Commuters that morning must have wondered who that guy was who stood in their way with his mouth open and his camera clicking away, and I hope the pictures give you some sort of the scale of the place and how next level it all really is. The facility was apparently built to make car use less attractive, and it seems to be working.

A service area is an important end-of-trip facility. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

The Utrecht facility is open 24/7, and the first 24 hours of parking is free. It’s designed as a one-way system to prevent collisions, and there’s even an electronic guidance system to show you where free spaces are located. To enter and exit, you check in and out with your public transport card. And apparently, there are already plans in place to extend it even further.

Utrecht is not the only bike parking facility like this. There are loads of them, usually around other public transport hubs, and this joined-up thinking paired with massive infrastructure investments is what we need to make cycling the preferred way to travel on a grand scale.

Mayors of Metro Manila, I hope you took notes during your recent visit to the country. My hope that Metro Manila can become the Amsterdam of Asia remains alive.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.