Bicycle park Satellite-C

One Planet believes her bicycle plan ‘Satellite C’ along and over the rail track behind Twynstra Gudde, is technically better and €5 million cheaper than the Underground Park-&-Tunnel that the municipality of Amersfoort insists on building under stations plaza. Satellite C costs about €8.5 million and the Underground plan costs €13, 3 million. Besides saving taxpayers money, Satellite C is also far more accessible for cyclists, and does not block future developments on the station plaza. The financial advantages of Satellite-C were confirmed by the large engineering consultancy Movares in Utrecht. Satellite C is the only one of 8 designs with a positive realisation and exploitation businesscase. The Underground plan that the municipality wants to build, emerged from the survey as the most expensive variant. The underground park requires an additional bicycle access tunnel of €3.7 million, plus additional lifts for disabled people of €0.5 million, and has met with widespread opposition from local residents. 

(bron: Movares)

The cost per parked bicycle with Satellite-C are 50-100% cheaper than the municipalities Underground design. Satellite C can be carried out as a separate project; it is not linked to or dependent on other developments on Stationsplein. It is a prefabricated construction on an unused piece of land, in contrast to the Underground design which will block future development on stations plaza.

What does Satellite-C look like?

Above: more than half of all cyclists (53%) come from the east side, so they can easily cycle directly into the Satellite C, park their bikes and walk directly to the train platforms via their own ticket-gates. Cyclists from the south (34%) go under the current building of Twynstra Gudde to the bicycle parking at ground level. Cyclists from the west (13%) park in the existing bicycle shed at the west entrance of the station.

Above and 2x below: entrance to bicycle parking Satellite-C for cyclists from the east (the city).

Above: the entrance for cyclists from the Smallepad.

Above and below: this shows the top deck of Satellite-C used as a park. If necessary, this can later be used as additional bicycle storage for another 2500 bicycles. This increases the capacity of Satellite-C from 5000 to 7500 bicycles, at little additional cost because no extra structure needs to be added.

Above and below: Bicycle park Satellite-C gives direct access to the station hall and the platforms, via its own ticket-gates. You cannot get closer to the trains than this!

Above and below: this shows how bicycle park Satellite-C integrates seamlessly into future developments on the station plaza, and can now be carried out as a stand-alone project because it is no obstacle to future developments. 

Why does the municipality stubbornly refuse to reconsider bicycle park Satellite C?

We think the municipality has made a historical blunder that they do not want to admit and face up to. This has to do with a combination of factors:

1).  At the start of the bicycle storage project 6 years ago, the municipality asked the Fietsersbond (Bicycle Union of The Netherlands) for their opinion about Satellite-C, which was a design first proposed by One Planet. That was a sensible move of the municipality; except that the municipality made the mistake of showing the Fietsersbond an OLD preliminary sketch of Satellite-C with only one small entrance via the Twynstra Gudde building. In that first sketch – shown below – the accessibility of Satellite C was indeed downright bad, so the Fietsersbond correctly assessed this plan negatively. Then the municipality interpreted this original idea – referred to by One Planet as a discussion document – as a final design. The municipality did not discuss it further with One Planet and the concept plan Satellite-C died a premature death. This communication mistake was never noticed or corrected afterwards. The closed and inwards-looking way of working of the municipality, had dire consequences for the project, because Satellite-C has the best potential of all 8 bicycle plans proposed for Amersfoort Station. One Planet only discovered by chance this communication error at the end of 2017, when the municipality asked the Council for internal approval on her much more expensive Underground plan. When One Planet enquired about this, the municipal project leaders asked One Planet please not to raise the matter further or ‘it would cause unrest amongst the local population.’ This attempt by the municipality to quietly get approval from the Council of their underground plan without public discussion, and cover up their mistakes, got our backs up! The municipality was using public money to finance bad choices then trying to cover it under layers of bureaucracy! One Planet decided to go public with her alternative vision for Satellite C. It was not until January 2018 that One Planet, without the municipality as intermediary, was able to present in public her broader ideas for Stationsplein and for bicycle park Satellite C. We did this through two Information Evenings. A local media company made three tv-programs about this controversy.

2). The municipal alderman, for political and economic reasons, did not want to admit that Satellite-C is perhaps technically and financially better than his own Underground park plan that also requires an expensive access tunnel. The municipality had already bought up basements in the adjacent buildings (which delayed the project by nearly two years) and commissioned expensive studies for its underground plan, and obtained subsidies from the province to cover the extra costs. The municipality had gone so far in their own self-created problems and ‘tunnel vision’ that the alderman did not want to turn back, even though his underground plan causes other traffic problems that are not yet solved and makes further delays. The alderman defended his decision to go ahead with the underground plan on earlier decisions taken by the previous (misinformed) City Councils. He refused to take a extra three months to compare his plan with the One Planet plan Satellite C and he succeeded, through political manoeuvring during a chaotic Council meeting in January 2018 that ran nearly two hours over time, to ramrod his plan through the council without an open technical and economic comparison of the alternatives. He told the Council the municipality would lose its provincial subsidy if they did not immediately approve his Underground plan, and that Amersfoort would then be left with no solution to the bicycle problem. 

3). The third important reason why the inferior underground plan was passed, is that the Council itself does not have an in-depth technical or financial understanding or an independent insight into the various bicycle solutions for the Station Square. The Council has traditionally agreed with plans that were worked out and presented to them on a plate by the municipality. The Council asked a few light questions but actually got dragged along in approving the municipal plans without much understanding or critical questioning of the alternatives. When the bicycle park issue got tricky, they then voted on traditional party lines rather than individual judgements, so  the alderman got away with it.  One Planet is very critical of the closed-minded, inwards-looking and secretive way the municipality has handled this bicycle park project. The municipality has no integral vision for the future of Amersfoort Stationsplein and therefore takes haphazard isolated decisions that do not hang together long-term in building a better Amersfoort. The Council itself is too politicised, has a poor technical and financial knowledge of the alternatives, and is unable to act as an independent watchdog to protect the interests of her citizens against mistakes by the municipality.

4). The fourth reason such expensive and inferior plans as the Underground park get passed, is that very few ordinary citizens actually follow and know what goes on inside their own municipality,  especially on long projects that are technically and financially complicated. Most Council members themselves are unable to follow the real issues of the projects they rubber-stamp, and are changed or re-elected halfway though the a project, so how can the citizen on the street have any real insight into what goes on with his own taxes? The municipal mandarins get away unseen with public money.

If the municipality can only defend their decisions on procedural and political grounds, but not on price-technical merits, then Amersfoort will have to live a long time with the consequences of poor planning and a lack of vision. That the citizen is dissatisfied with this course of events can be seen in this video:

What does the Underground plan of the municipality look like? This can be seen in:

Below: the extra tunnel for € 3.7 million needed to access the Underground bicycle park of the municipality. Invalid lifts will cost another €0.5 million. And the Underground park will block future developments on and under the station square. With the Satellite-C solution from One Planet, these measures are not necessary, cyclists have direct access to all layers of the bicycle shed without tunnels or elevators, and it does not stand in the way of future developments.

However, the problems of the municipality with this project continue. Because of the public opposition to a tunnel in front of their houses from residents in both Berkenweg and Regentesselaan, the municipality is now considering sacrificing their building on Stationsplein 14-16 to build a tunnel under this building, out of sight of residents. In other words, the municipality is trying to buy their way out of their own self-created problems. This has caused more delays and  increases even further the final costs of providing a new bicycle park for cyclists on Stationsplein Amersfoort. The One Planet solution Satellite C could have been completed several years ago at perhaps less than half the cost, leaving Stationsplein completely free for future developments.