In any other country, the opening of what will become the world’s largest bicycle parking garage – with space for 6,000 cycles initially, and another 6,500 by the end of next year – would be heralded as a great success. The 17,100 sq metre space under Utrecht’s central station will soon knock the current title-holder, under Kasai underground station in Tokyo, off its perch.
Yet such is the intensity of the Dutch love affair with the bike, authorities in the Netherlands are being accused of complacency, rather than praised for their foresight. The 12,500 places at Utrecht station are all very well, critics say, but with 43% of journeys under 7.5km (4.6 miles) being taken by cycle in Utrecht – creeping up from 40% five years ago – they simply aren’t enough, said Martijn van Es, spokesman for the Dutch cycling organisation Fietsersbond.
“To quote John Lennon, ‘Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans’,” said Van Es. “By the time the politicians have made their decisions, and by the time things are built, there are more people cycling.
“It goes up every year in Netherlands. I look at a lot of cities in the Netherlands and they are just talking about building the infrastructure, but at the same time the figures are still rising. I am from Utrecht. They have been talking about updating the city since 1989. The infrastructure hasn’t changed enough. And there are a lot more cyclists today than there were, [and much of the infrastructure] was built in the 1980s.”