Utrecht station cycle parking is absolutely astonishing. See it before it disappears underground.

sea of bikes Utrecht

Recently I went to Utrecht in the Netherlands. My mind is still slightly overwhelmed by what I saw, so despite the delay I just had to post this. With a health warning. As I write this I have a feeling that any “normal” people discovering this blog will wonder how somebody could get excited about parked bicycles.

All I can say in my defence is that I have spent most of my life as a cyclist and the past 15 years in cycling promotion.  The scene at Utrecht station ranks as an extraordinary moment, I am still reflecting on it three weeks later. So maybe I don’t publish 50 photos of parked bikes, but I have to share.

In Utrecht I saw a sea of bikes. In fact no I didn’t, I saw an ocean of bikes. The visual impact of these walls of pedal powered machinery painted a picture in my mind that is hard to let go.

Utrechts bicycle parks

I came out of the station and saw the cycle parking. And the cycle parking. And more cycle parking. I have seen Dutch, Danish and Flemish railways stations before. I have seen the 6000 bike multi-storey bike park in Amsterdam. But I have never, ever seen anything like the number of bikes in around Utrecht station.

I was so astonished I decided to start at one end and time how long it took me to walk to the other end because I couldn’t take it in any other way. Six minutes. Enough said. We have to measure cycle parking here in minutes of walking time.

Start - minute zero

Start – minute zero


2 minutes - still going

2 minutes – still going


Only another 3 minutes to go

Only another 3 minutes to go

Let me explain the background to these impressions.

Because most of my work is supporting countries and groups where daily cycling is struggling my trips to the Netherlands are actually quite rare, despite its proximity to Belgium. This was my first time in Utrecht. That in itself feels almost impossible, everywhere you go on the international cycling scene there seems to be someone from Utrecht. It is the home of the Dutch Cycling Union, Fietsersbond, so lots of my colleagues come from here, but also there are city staff, Utrecht regional staff, university academics studying cycling and cycling consultants so Utrecht gets a lot of exposure and it features in a lot of study tours. Other bloggers wax lyrical about it. So I felt I should know it.

Cycle paths in Utrecht

Utrecht can call itself one of the “capitals” of Dutch cycling culture with an amazing 50% of trips in the inner city by bike and 30% overall. In a population of about 300,000 that’s one hell of a lot of cyclists. The city centre itself was lovely, sleepily coming to life in the spring sunshine.

Utrecht in the morning

It was just full of bikes and people were meeting, studying and going about every element of life by bike.

Utrecht centre cycle parking

Unfortunately my brief visit was not enough to see much of the city’s celebrated cycling infrastructure or the cyclist traffic jams at rush hour. However I was really pleased to cycle out to the Fietsersbond offices on one of the Blue Bikes on hire from near the station and Saskia, the Deputy Director of Fietsersbond took me around a little of the cycling sights.

Utrecht cycle routes

But at the heart of the tour was the station, where many routes converge on this overwhelming sea of parked bikes.

Utrecht cycling

Saskia showed me several more parks that I hadn’t even noticed in the morning. More people were measuring their cycle parking by time too, the time it was taking them to find their bikes. I can nearly bike to my nearest station in Belgium in ten minutes, I cannot imagine spending at least another ten minutes looking for parking. That’s like being a car driver!

This parking is full Cycle Parking Utrecht

When we returned to the station it was approaching 5pm so the traffic on the cycle paths was beginning to build. The area is currently a massive building site so lots of the routes were temporary which apparently causes short term chaos each time a section is rerouted but the hordes soon settle down to the new pattern.

Utrecht cycling traffic congestion

But this redevelopment will also create the jewel in the crown of Utrecht cycle parking. Part of it is the new city hall with all the civic functions in one modern building. And below the building is a pyramid of sorts, a ziggurat of concrete steps. And inside it will be the world’s biggest bicycle park. 30,000 bicycles moved to one location.

New undergroup cycle store Utrecht

It is something I really look forward to seeing. I often tell city officials – “Whatever number of cycle parking places you think you need – double it”. Now I have seen Utrecht I suspect even 30,000 places may not be enough here. Because when I see this number of bicycles in one place I realise the extraordinary role cycling plays in this city.

However I have just one sneaking thought. Wouldn’t it be amazing to keep those bikes up on the surface as an extraordinary symbol of cycling? Possibly not if you are a city manager, but I felt privileged to see Utrecht’s sea of bicycles in such a prominent position before they disappear underground. I hope this post gives you a taste before they bury it!

26 thoughts on “Utrecht station cycle parking is absolutely astonishing. See it before it disappears underground.

  1. Meanwhile in London.. the new multi million pound development of London Bridge station will include 314 ‘semi vertical’ racks http://planningonline.southwark.gov.uk/DocsOnline/Documents/343767_1.pdf
    plus ‘Sheffield’ hoops to make up 700 cycle parking spaces around the new station. Not a 2 tier rack in sight

    The sorry tale is told here http://planningonline.southwark.gov.uk/DocsOnline/Documents/355029_1.pdf

    We have much to learn I fear.


    • Lack of ambition one fears!

      Not for lack of role models certainly. What they never learn is that the cyclists will come anyway and just cover the surrounding area in bikes.



  2. Here an impression on the to-be-build new underground parkingplace for 30.000 bikes in Utrecht:


    • That is seriously impressive! I would have trouble finding my bike every day without the numbers.

      Thanks for the link.



  3. Living in Utrecht for 30 years, I think it is safe to say the bikes are actually really a problem. They are indeed ALL over. In parkings, but also on bridges, across streets, on sidewalks, in front of busstops / doors / exits, you name it. SO many dangerous situations, that I hope the city (and the sight of it) will improve when the giant parkings open around the station. #hopefullbutnottoomuch


    • Thanks for commenting. I guess one of my immediate responses is to reflect what many people were saying on social media – imagine if they were cars!

      Best wishes



  4. Unfortunately, the figure of 30.000 parking spaces is a bit inaccurate. The ‘ziggurat’ in the picture is Stationsplein West, which will accomodate 4.500 parking spaces under the steps. This parking will open very soon. On the other side of the train station, Stationsplein Oost will accomodate 12,500 bikes. Although this is a bit less than 30.000 places, it still will be the largest single bike parking in the world. This is the facility in the movie Rolf posted. In addition to these large facilities, there will be another 5-6.000 places in smaller facilities adjacent to the station. The number of 30.000 probably includes parking facilities for offices and the shopping mall near the train station. Given the explosive growth of cycling in the last couple of years, we will have to see if this is enough.

    Kind regards,
    Bram Fokke (city council member)


    • Thank you for the update on what I was told in Utrecht. The numbers are still hugely impressive.

      It has been very interesting to see the interest this post has created, clearly cycle-parking remains an important topic in Dutch cycling.



  5. now imagine how many acres would be needed if they were all using cars for their segment to and from the train station…


  6. I don’t know how your Dutch is but ‘deze stalling is VOL’ means ‘this cycle parking is FULL’ 🙂 We are reaching the limit of the number of bikes we can handle in the city. A big problem is especially that there are many ‘orphan bikes’. People leave old bikes for which they have no use simply in the parking. Or move away and forget about them. This may have a lot to do with the universities where the amounts of students leaving every year are of course huge. The current policy is that the municipality tags them, and if the tag or bike hasn’t been removed after 28 days, takes them to some central storage. There, owners have two weeks to come and pick them up, and otherwise the bikes are sold. Brilliant!


    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, I realised the significance of the sign, I thought it told part of the story.

      Every instinct tells me that even after your new bike parks are built you will still need a lot of capacity around the city centre and the station. Public authorities always underestimate the fact that better parking stimulates more cycling!

      If the orphan bikes started going to Africa that might stimulate the students to look after them rather than just buy another cheap one at an auction 🙂




      • Dear Kevin, in Burgundy, France they’re is an excellent initiative to revaluate orphan bikes: RE-FAB Dijon of La Bécane à Jules, membre of l’Heureux Cyclage (as in Happy Recycling). In short they re-use old material into a unique model. They also learn people how to take care of bikes for daily use. They call it improving your “velonomie” and students like this. It is locally aimed, sustainably integrated and associatively self supported. One of the many great features of biking: it’s all about balance one step ahead.


        • Thanks for the information. We did a very similar scheme in the UK when we ran a national project called Bike Club. Bike maintenance skills was a great learning opportunity for young people who did not learn well in conventional education.


  7. Hi Kevin,

    Great article! You probably saw my bike on your tour. It took me a little time to get a good routine in the morning, because 10 minutes is indeed precious to me when I am only half awake. Big mistake I made in the beginning is to just park the bike wherever you see a space. After a few days you will get back and forget the space-of-the-day. Finding your not so special bike becomes a task that takes way more than 10 minutes. I now have my secret spot; there is always room and I know where to find my ride (sorry, can’t disclose where, this is very sensitive information).

    Another fun fact: according to the Fietsersbond there are 18 million bicycles in The Netherlands. Humans in the low lands only amount to 16.8 million. You might be right; 30.000 is not going to cut it.


    • Your secret is indeed safe – because if I saw your bike I almost certainly saw a thousand like it!


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