Now, I know what some people are going to be thinking... why the hell are you writing about a new parking facility? For Bikes?
Well, the Netherlands is famous for its bikes and its biking infrastructure on the roads. However, some of that famous infrastructure has been a bit lacking on the parking side of things... leading to bikes just chained up all over the place, and with multi-story bike parks that are crazily cluttered and sometimes quite disgustingly filthy.
Recently, the Central station in Den Haag (The Hague) has been undergoing some pretty hefty renovation. As part of that multi-year development, there has been a huge upgrade to the bike parking infrastructure. Previously, there was one single multi-story open sided structure to the side of the station. It was a pain in the arse to lug bikes up and down the stairs (there were ramps as well for the bikes) and the single entry point in both directions (in and out) would cause problems during peak hours or just if you were in a hurry.
So, definitely time for an upgrade! Just before summer, the new underground parking for bikes was opened up to the public. Seeing as I've not been using the trains so much during the Corona period, I hadn't had a chance to try it out... but now I have!
Well... first impressions are a bit mixed. The entrance point for the bikes looks like it is a temporary shed structure! I hope that they will make it into something that looks a touch more permanent... as the actual inside of the shed looks much better! Also, it is a nice addition to see the redundancy stairs/ramp on the two sides as well!
I've not had the opportunity to test it out in really bad rainy conditions. The grade is steep enough to require that you have the brakes on at all times (you are dismounted)... but when it rains and everything gets slippery on the metal, I wonder if it will work as intended. However, on a good day... this works really nicely, and it is a nice bonus not to have to push your bike up/down hill.
There are multiple rolling lanes that have been divided into incoming and outgoing lanes as required for the time of day and traffic.
At the bottom of the ramps is the check-in and check-out areas. You can easily check in with your OV-chipkaart (public transport card), and storage for a day is free. If you want to store overnight, then it will start to cost you. So, as easy as as tapping your card and walking on through. Again, multiple lanes to cope with traffic in peak times.
On the way out, you just tap your card again and if you need to pay, you can do it with a tap bank card or by paying to the attendant. Easy easy easy... Note that there are security cameras all around, in case there needs to be a check up on stolen bikes. You are still required to chain up your bike, there is no automated checking that you are entering and exiting with the same bike.
There is the OV-fiets (public transport bikes) that is now relocated to this section. It used to be in another underground park that also housed a bike repair shop. I wonder if they are planning to move the repair shop as well, because it was really handy to have it all on in one place!
OV-fiets is the best thing... at your destination, you just check-in with your public transport card and just take a bike to get you the last stage of travel, instead of walking or bussing!
The place has been designed with a great deal more traffic in mind than the older bike parks. There is more than enough space for people to pass with bikes in opposite directions or for the slide rails to be pulled out without blocking too much of the passage way.
The older style of parks were nightmarish, and it would be a bit of a chicken style showdown against other users when it came to trying to navigate through them!
The rails system is a similar system to that which is found on most of the Dutch bike parking infrastructure. There is a double layer in which the higher layer will lever downwards to act as a ramp when it is fully extended outwards, allowing you sit the bike into the rail and then easily hoist it up.
Despite that, if you have a particularly heavy bike, it can still be a bit of a struggle! The rails are newer... and probably better maintained and not exposed to the weather like in the older parks, making for a nice smooth operation instead of tugging and trying to defeat the friction from rust and lack of oiling.
Granted, I didn't use the park on a particularly busy day... but lets just say that there is ample room for expansion!
There are multiple foot exits from the park, leading to different exits around and in the station. The idea is that you use the main entrance for the bikes, and the foot traffic exits through alternative exits that are much closer to shops and public transport. Good design!
I'm really going to miss the biking infrastructure when I return back to Australia!