A man rides his bike in a bicycle shed near Central Station Amsterdam. REUTERS/Koen van Weel

The cycling mecca of the Netherlands plans to build a partially underwater bike parking facility to deal with its crush of two-wheeled commuters.

Amsterdam is currently tackling a problem most cities can only dream of having: It has way too many bikes.

So massively popular is cycling in the Netherlands' largest city that the city center has run out of places to put them all. Amsterdam’s daily two-wheeled commuter flood fills downtown with more bikes than it has space to park, forcing the city come up with a drastic, visionary solution. It’s going to park those bikes underwater. Oh, and on water, too.

A women parks her bike in a bicycle shed near Central Station Amsterdam. (REUTERS/Koen van Weel)

The city has just announced a plan to excavate a 7,000-space bicycle garage under the Ij, the former bay (now a lake thanks to the construction of the Afsluitdijk barrier) that forms Amsterdam’s waterfront. The lake forms a sort of moat around the city’s Central Station, its main transit hub and a place where it could be possible to connect a subaquatic bike catacomb directly via tunnel to the city’s metro system. Stacking a total of 21,500 new bike spaces around the station by 2030, Amsterdam also plans to create two new floating islands with space for 2000 bikes each. Add this to the 2,500 spaces already in place and you have what will comfortably be the largest bike parking accomodations in the world.

This might seem like a pretty grand infrastructure overhaul just to stow a few bikes, but Amsterdam’s cycling statistics are phenomenal. A massive 57 percent of Amsterdammers use their bikes daily, with 43 percent of them commuting to and from work using pedal power. It helps that this is a city in which cycling is particularly easy to do—the terrain is flat, the city compact and segregated bike paths make it pretty safe, while central canals often make road widening to accommodate cars impossible anyway.

The problem is what to do with bikes when they arrive downtown. Inner Amsterdam is densely built with often narrow streets, and bicycles chained up randomly here and there can become a major headache. So infested is Amsterdam with wrongly parked bicycles that in 2013 the city had to remove a phenomenal 73,000 of them from the streets. This is expensive—it costs from €50 to €70 per bike, while owners pay €10-12 to retrieve them from the pound. The city could increase the release fee, of course, but Amsterdam is also a great place in which to buy a cheap used bike—there’s a sense that many local scofflaws would simply buy another before paying a large fine.

All round, offering a lot more real parking places is a better and ultimately cheaper option. But where to put them? Not only is central Amsterdam full, but thanks to its marshy soil, it’s not an easy place to create basements either. Plans a while back to give canal houses parking places went as far as planning to temporarily drain the canals to build vaults in the clay beneath them. In a tight, soggy space like this, constructing under and on water is often the best solution, which makes the plan for Amsterdam’s Central Station less surprising. It should be impressive when it's finished. Within 15 years, the building will bristle both above and below ground with so many stacks of bikes that it may end up resembling some sort of vast brick pincushion.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A brownstone in Brooklyn, where Airbnb growth has been particularly strong in recent years.
    Life

    What Airbnb Did to New York City

    Airbnb’s effects on the city’s housing market have been dramatic, a report suggests. And other cities could soon see the same pattern.

  2. Design

    Will Copenhagen’s Eco-Friendly Man-Made Islands Pay Off?

    The Danish capital is expanding its land mass and creating climate resiliency. But is it sustainable?

  3. A photo of a Family Mart convenience store in Japan.
    Life

    The Language Debate Inside Japan's Convenience Stores

    Throughout Japan, store clerks and other service industry workers are trained to use the elaborate honorific speech called “manual keigo.” But change is coming.

  4. A photo of Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct
    Transportation

    As an Elevated Highway Closes, Seattle Braces for Traffic Hell

    By closing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle ushers in a period of short-term commuter pain for long-term waterfront redevelopment gain.

  5. Two men plant a young tree in a lot in Detroit.
    Environment

    Why Detroit Residents Pushed Back Against Tree-Planting

    Detroiters were refusing city-sponsored “free trees.” A researcher found out the problem: She was the first person to ask them if they wanted them.