Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fietsenstalling Jaarbeursplein - the new huge bicycle parking lot in Utrecht

I had already mentioned in a post on Facebook that the city of Utrecht was preparing to launch a new huge parking lot for bicycles. Well, the inauguration took place on Monday May 19th, and yesterday I finally used it for the first time.

The parking lot is located just outside the central station, where I park my bicycle every day, but so far I had not yet tried the new structure because of the good weather ( the parking is underground ) and because I am always late in the morning, and this kind of makes me habitudinary.

Yesterday the rain was pouring down, I was early, and - most of all - the racks where I used to leave my bicycle had been fenced off to prevent access: a great reason to try the new parking lot. The gradual removal of the racks around the station is in my belief an attempt by the municipality to clean up the city by abandoned bicycles - a plague only known to the Netherlands - and renovate existing facilities, to make the parking system more efficient. For weeks, various signs and straps affixed to the bicycles were informing citizens of the date on which the racks would emptied, inviting them to move their bicycle and use the new huge bicycle park (which is called Fietsenstalling Jaarbeursplein, or "bicycle parking lot in Jaarbeurs square" - but Huge Bicycle Park sounds better to me) .

So, how is this new huge bicycle park? Super cool!

Modern, technological and indeed huge - 37 lanes of double-decker racks, arranged over 3 floors, which can accommodate up to 4,200 bicycles. A remarkable figure, but not enough to meet the demand for bicycle racks in the area: in fact, 40% of the 1.2 million travelers who take the train every morning in the Netherlands arrives at the station by bicycle. If you consider that Utrecht has 330,000 inhabitants and is the main railway station in the Netherlands, with commuters leaving their bicycles both ways, I'd say that we are short of at least 25,000 bicycle spots. At least!

Some more information about the parking lot: open 24/7, guarded day and night, equipped with digital displays indicating the number of free spots for each floor and lane. Parking is free for the first 24 hours (which means it's always free for people like me who take their bicycle to work every morning and go back home at the end of the day). If you leave your bicycle parked for more than 24 hours, you will pay a daily rate of € 1.25. One-year subscriptions are available for € 75. Check-in and check-out times are registered with the ubiquitous OV- Chipkaart, the single prepaid card that is used for all means of transport here in the Netherlands. Just like when travelling, you check-in by approaching the card to a sensor at the entrance, and check out in the same way at the exit. The only difference is that in the huge fietsenstalling the check-out is supervised by an employee with a scanner, probably to discourage theft. So, if you have not checked-in, they will notice and you won't be able to take the bicycle away.

The parking lot is a pilot project by the Dutch railways (NS), the municipality of Utrecht and ProRail (the company that maintains the railway network), that together share the costs of the structure and that in 2 years will evaluate its performance and see what's next. The city indeed needs to build more parking lots, as it is planned to have 22,000 new bicycle spots built over the next 5 years.

Below are some photos I took yesterday in the fietsenstalling, and an official video by ProRail introducing the new parking lot (it's in Dutch but if you read the post you already know everything about the place ;)).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Crazy hot winter!

Nothing suits small talk better than a good ol' weather discussion. But this year the Dutch indeed have a good reason for bringing this subject up: look at the images below!

It is indeed strange to see that Bologna, 1250 km south of Utrecht, has the same temperature we have here. How crazy is that?

I had been warned that January would have been f***ing freezing, and was expecting to have a real bad time when back from my holidays in warm Italy. But honestly, the difference was oh-so-slight!

I know the weather is unusually mild for Italy as well, but look at this: the average temperature in the Netherlands, in January 2013, has been around 3°C!

Quoting from Dutch Amsterdam: According to the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI1), January is the coldest month in most of the Netherlands. (...) Normally the average temperature in January is 5° Celcius (41° Fahrenheit). But the Netherlands just had the warmest January 3rd on record , with 11.9° Celcius (53.42° Fahrenheit). Not only that, but we also just experienced the warmest January 6th on record — 13.1° Celcius (55.58° Fahrenheit). In fact, so far this winter is the sixth warmest ever in the Netherlands (since meteorological record keeping began, in 1901).

I am shamelessly happy in this unusually warm weather. I mean, I know it may be the global warming and everything, but I can't help enjoying the average 10°C, especially when I take my bike in the morning! More so when I think that these days last year it was snowing in Utrecht...

Lots of love and positive vibe to the folks in NY who instead are going through an insanely snowy weather! Hold on guys!

And you? How's the weather in your city? And how are you reacting to it?

Lots of love,

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Welcome 2014!


Welcome to the first post of the year. It's a bit late, but I have been busy lately...yeah, busy eating, drinking and sleeping during my 2-week holiday in Italy! :D

It's been great to be back, be with my love, meet my friends and family, and enjoy the food and polemics frenzy that are typical of us Italians.

Even if we are 6 days into 2014, I thought I would pay tribute to 2013, as it has been a great year. Full of love, travels, new people and places, big decisions, changes, inner growth.

These are 24 of my favourite Instagram moments (if you know me, you know I LOVE Instagram) chronological order, from January to December 2013. Let's see if you can guess where these pictures were taken?