The city of Utrecht in the cycling-mad Netherlands opened on Monday what it said would be the world's largest parking garage for bikes with room for 12,500 once completed next year.
The move by authorities in the city of 344,000 people aims to prevent a sprawling clutter of bicycles outside its main train station, overwhelming limited parking space.
"This is a side-effect of the success of the bicycle in our cities," city councilor Lot van Hooijdonk told Reuters. "We are happy so many people use bikes, but it creates huge challenges for the city, especially around the station."
The Dutch love for cycling is increasingly being tested by a worsening shortage of parking space. An ever-growing number of bikes is forcing municipal authorities to spend millions of euros on state-of-the art parking venues, maintaining cycling lanes, removing wrecks and impounding badly parked bikes.
Utrecht's 40-million-euro ($47 million) garage is designed to resolve the problem of cyclists leaving their bikes anywhere they want, preferably next to the station entrance.
The three-story garage will be directly linked to the street by bicycle paths and offer access to train platforms via elevators and stairs. Parking will be free for the first 24 hours and 1.25 euro for each following day.
Elsewhere, The Hague plans a garage for 8,500 bikes while Amsterdam - with 835,000 people and around 847,000 bikes - is working on a storage space for thousands under the city's Amstel river and linked to its central station.
Parking space in Amsterdam is scarce partly because of the many bikes left behind in and around the racks. Last year the Dutch capital removed some 24,000 neglected bikes and 40,000 were seized for parking violations.
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