Anyone visiting the Netherlands will immediately notice how crazy the locals are for two-wheeled transport. Bikes are everywhere, making finding somewhere to park up a bit of a problem. Cyclists in Utrecht started using a three-storey parking garage under the train station last week, ahead of the official opening on August 21. It already boasts thousands of spaces, but when complete, it will be the world's largest parking facility for bikes.

The Stationsplein Bicycle Parking facility is part of a major redevelopment of Utrecht's railway station, which includes installing solar panels on the roof, revitalizing the canal and connecting the transport hub with the historic city center. It was constructed by contractor BAM from a blueprint by Ector Hoogstad Architecten, and will be managed and maintained by ProRail and the City of Utrecht, and operated by Dutch Rail (NS).

At the moment, the facility has space for 6,000 bikes over three floors. Another 1,500 spaces will be added over the coming months, but when it's running at full capacity by the end of next year it will be able to stow away 12,500 bicycles – which will make it the biggest parking center for bikes in the world.

Cyclists will have access to the facility 24 hours per day, seven days a week, and users with a public transport chip card can park up for the first 24 hours free of charge. A digital system has been installed to guide users to free parking spots. Non-standard bikes are catered for, too, such as those with wide handlebars and cargo bikes, in a special zone. And riders without their own wheels can make use of the 700 OV bikes available for hire.

Parking wardens patrol the facility to ensure correct usage, and there are service points for repairs and maintenance. All levels are reported to provide easy access to the train station platforms above, as well as the main hall and buses.

In all, some 22,000 parking places for bikes are planned for the Utrecht transport hub, so cyclists unable to find a free spot at the Stationsplein Bicycle Parking facility won't have too far to pedal to find another spot.

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