Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

New bike parking facility at Maastricht train station in the Netherlands reminds me of the need to create high profile bike hubs in the US

In October, based on the example at Heathrow Airport, I wrote a piece, "Why not a bicycle hub at National Airport?," suggesting that there is a great opportunity to create a high profile bike hub at National Airport in Northern Virginia, which is adjacent to the Mount Vernon bicycle trail.

I wrote similar pieces in 2015/2016, including comments on the Environmental Impact Study for DC's Union Station's expansion, making the point that Union Station should have a high profile set of bicycle accommodations, far beyond what is available in the current small bike station facility ("D.C. Bike Shelter Gives Commuters A Ticket To Ride," NPR), in part because Union Station is owned by the Federal Railroad Administration and this site could serve as a demonstration project for creating the kinds of bike support facilities at train stations that are common in Europe (e.g., the Cycle Hub program in the UK).

-- National Cycle-Rail Awards, Rail Delivery Group
-- Cycle Facilities at Interchanges, EU
-- Leeds Cyclepoint, Ned Railways

British cycle resources are "more relevant" to the US case than are those from Northern Europe, where cycling take up is significantly higher, whereas US and UK cycling rates are comparable.  That being said, the UK has a big program of adding high quality, protected and secure bicycle parking to train stations, while the US does not.

The EU publication, Cycle Facilities at Interchanges, is particularly good and the kind of "guidance" we need in the US, although I would argue that the issue isn't just cycle facilities, but a broader and more complete approach to sustainable mobility facilities more generally (along the lines of what I discussed in reviews of the Silver Spring Transit Center and the Takoma Langley Crossroads Transit Center).

The cycle point at Leeds Station
The cycle point at Leeds Station

The Bicycle Dutch blog alerts us to the grand opening of one such facility, "New underground bicycle parking facility in Maastricht" (pictured).
Maastricht train station bicycle parking

From the blog entry:
It has room to park 3,000 bicycles, 5.5 metres under the station square. It is guarded, has a repair service and parking your bicycle is free for the first 24 hours.

That total number also includes 100 rental bicycles of the OV-Fiets scheme and the special places for bicycles of types that wouldn’t fit in a rack. There is room for 80 such “extraordinary bicycles”; cargo bikes, tandems, bicycles with baskets or the heavy e-bikes. The Maastricht facility has a completely separated room for 40 mopeds or scooters, which is not something you often see in other facilities.

The first 24 hours of parking are free. This has become the norm in the Netherlands at railway stations. After that initial day parking a bicycle costs €1.25 per day. If you plan to park your bicycle for longer periods, an annual subscription might be more attractive, at €75,00 per year. You check your bicycle in by swiping your public transport chip card. If you don’t have such a card you can buy an anonymous one for €7.50, that you can then always use. You check out with the people who are guarding the facility. The same people who can also do repairs and take care of the rental bicycles. The parking fee for cargo bikes and mopeds is €2.50 per day and €150,00 for a one-year subscription.
Maastricht train station bicycle parking

Think of a "travellator" as a stepless escalator.
This facility is open daily. In the morning from 15 minutes before the first train leaves Maastricht, until late in the night, 15 minutes after the last train arrived. The closing hour is a bit dynamic. When the train is delayed, this facility stays open until 15 minutes after the actual arrival time of the last train that day. These opening times mean that the garage really only closes for a little under 4 hours of the night during the week.

Two 30-metre-long travelators (one going down and one going up) give an easy access to the parking garage at 5.5 metres below the surface. The purpose of this garage was to increase the amount of available bicycle parking racks. A second aim was give the station area a “quality impulse”. In other words, to get the sea of bicycles, that were parked in front of the station up to now, out of sight.
Granted, today we don't have demand for such a large bicycle parking facility in the US, let alone DC, but to promote multi-modalism and sustainable mobility, and given that the expansions of Union Station are expected to accommodate growth for the next 100 years, it makes sense to think more grandly about this element of the station, and build a facility on the scale of those in Europe, even if they aren't nearly as big.

Except for the indoor facility, the outdoor bicycle parking at the Union Station is sub-standard, it's not particularly secure or protected and one main area also serves as an ersatz smoking lounge, which sucks.
Outdoor bicycle parking at Washington DC Union Station
Outdoor bicycle parking on the west side of the station (the parking on the east side of the station is more visible, and in better condition, but still is not secure nor protected from the weather).

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