Bicycle parking at the station
Since I live in a city that has no bicycle parking facilities at the central station (which in the 21st century is a scandalous situation), I am always amazed at the marvelous facilities that other cities have to offer, not only in the Netherlands but also in German cities such as Münster and Freiburg.
According to David Hembrow’s blog, the central railway station in Groningen has parking for around ten thousand bicycles, which works out to one space for every 19 people who live in the city. (And he adds: “You can work out a comparable ratio for your own town.”)
The main bicycle garage is roofed over and has a sign at the entrance showing how many spaces are still available in each of the five sections. When I rode in one afternoon, four of the sections were full, but in section B there were still a few spaces available, so I quickly found one, parked my bike, locked it and noted down the number of the space (B 132 or some such) so I would be able to find my bike again afterwards.
Bike parking here is free. There are several guards on duty, but since they can’t keep an eye on all ten thousand bikes at once you do have to lock your bike when you have parked it.
In addition to the main parking facility, which was built in 2006, there is an additional bicycle garage called the Fietsflat (fifth photo), which accommodates an additional thousand bikes on two levels.
The parking racks are constructed in such a way that it is easy to park your bike, even on the upper level, without much lifting.
Even though there are ten thousand free parking racks for bicycles, some people prefer the added security of guarded parking in a bicycle shop. This is possible for a small fee at the Rijwiel bike shop in the station.
Location of Groningen railway station on OpenStreetMap
Next: Cycling to and from the station
Return of the trams?
The city and province of Groningen had an extensive system of tram lines (streetcars) from 1880 to 1949. After that, the trams were replaced by buses – and by private cars, which dominated the streets in the 1950s and 60s.
Now there are plans to build a new, modern tramway system in Groningen, beginning with two lines that could go into operation by 2016, if all goes well.
Judging from the images published by the city and provincial governments, these proposed new trams will look very much like the ones that are running with great success in French cities like Strasbourg, Lyon and Paris.
As in these other cities, the objective in Groningen is to increase the capacity of public transport, reduce pollution, reduce noise levels, reduce the number of buses and reduce car traffic. Though cars have been banned from the center of Groningen for many years, there is still considerable car traffic in the outlying districts, much of it unnecessary. Commuters, in particular, tend to use cars to get in and out of Groningen.
It appears, however, that there is a lot of opposition in Groningen to the new tramway plans. Opponents claim the system will be too expensive, will be dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists (which is not true in other cities that have the new trams) and will displace existing bicycle lanes. Since I have only spent a few days in Groningen up to now, I can’t really form a detailed opinion about all this. But my first impression is that even Groningen, with all its bicycles, would benefit from having a modern tramway system.
Next: De Oosterpoort concert hall
Cycling in Groningen
Groningen must have been an unpleasant place in the 1950s and 60s. There were no restrictions on cars being driven through the center of the city and there were hardly any cycle routes. In the 1960s they even started building motorways right into the city itself.
The turning point came in 1972, when the old car-loving politicians were voted out of office and a new local government changed the emphasis of planning. The center of the city was designated as the "living room" and town planning was integrated with transport policy. In 1977 a six-lane motorway intersection in the city center was replaced by greenery, pedestrian zones, cycle paths and bus lanes.
Now it is no longer possible to drive a car through the city center, because the only way out by car is the way you came in. Many streets are completely closed to private cars.
New housing developments were purposely built close to the center and equipped with safe, direct and convenient bicycle routes. Reportedly 78% of residents and 90% of employees now live within 3 km of the center, so that cycling is the ideal means of transportation for most journeys.
Although the city center of Groningen has been car-free for many years, it is not bus-free. For the minority of people who do not walk or cycle, buses are the only means of transportation within the city. (I suppose there are also taxis, but I don’t remember seeing any.)
Buses and bicycles seem to co-exist fairly well, getting out of each other’s way when necessary, but the buses are very big and wide considering how narrow some of the streets are. There is certainly no space for more or bigger buses!
As a cyclist I have never used the buses in Groningen, but I’m told there about a dozen bus lines, all starting at the central train station and fanning out in different directions.
Next: Return of the trams?
The Nieuwe Ebbingestraat is one of the main bicycle routes coming into Groningen from the north, yet it has no bicycle lanes and is also used (in one direction only) by cars, buses and motorcycles. Nonetheless, cyclists are clearly in the majority.
The reason for this is that the Nieuwe Ebbingestraat is part of a direct route for cyclists into the city center. For cars, it is not a direct route to anywhere except the P-Route, or parking route, which circles the inner city. Along the P-route, digital signs indicate whether or not space is available in the car parks ('vol' or 'vrij'). If a car park is full ('vol'), motorists are told to follow the parking route on to the next one.
When I was in Groningen I rode on the Nieuwe Ebbingestraat several times and never felt threatened by the few cars that were also using the street.
In 2012 there was an internet café in the Nieuwe Ebbingestraat, but now that people have started carrying their own Wi-Fi devices the internet cafés are a dying business, so I can’t guarantee it will still be there if you ever need it.
Location of Nieuwe Ebbingestraat on Google Maps
Next: Bicycle shops
Trains to and from Groningen
Train service to and from anywhere in the Netherlands is very good and Groningen is no exception, even though it is a bit out of the way at the north end of the country.
I came to Groningen on InterCity trains from Osnabrück, Germany, with a change at Amersfoort.
The Groningen train station (second photo) is a combination of old-timey waiting rooms with modern shops and facilities.
When I left Groningen I took an InterCity train to Utrecht, where I changed to the InterCityExpress International that went directly to Frankfurt am Main.
Location of the Groningen railway station on OpenStreetMap
Back to my Groningen intro page to leave a comment
Back to my first review: Cycling in Groningen
On the Museum Island, which forms the main walking and cycling route between the city center and the railway station, there is a drawbridge which is raised occasionally to let a boat or barge pass through.
When this happens a warning sounds, lights flash, gates go down and the bridge goes up. This all happens rather quickly, so be careful to get out of the way.
It’s amazing how many pedestrians and cyclists can accumulate in just a few minutes while the drawbridge is raised.
Location on Google Maps
From the Groningen bus station, next to the train station the following Arriva Buses are available:
City of Groningen:
-1 -Station Noord
-3 -Lewnborg & Vinkhuizen
-4 -Oosterpark & Hoogkerk
-5 -de Wijert & Paddepoel-Selwerd
-6 -Beijum & MZs - Hoornsemeer
-11 -Station Noord - Zernike
-12 -de Wijert
-15 -Paddepoel - Zernike
-18 -de Held -Gravenburg
Groningen City Parking Buses:
-22 -P+R Citybus: Grote Markt - Sontweg
-23 -P+R Citybus: Grote Markt-Zaanstraat
-47 -Groningen/Kardinge - Ten Boer
-52 -De Punt
-53 -De Punt
-58 -Annen - Assen
-82 -Nieuw Roden
-85 -Leek - Oosterwolde
-134 -Holwerd - Ameland Express
-137 -Groningen Zernike - Zuidhorn NS
-300 -Emmen (QLINER)
-301 -Veendam (QLINER)
-307 -Bedum (QLINER)
-314 -Drachten (QLINER)
-315 -Heerenveen-Joure-Lelystad (QLINER)
-316 -Leek (QLINER)
-317 -Roden (QLINER)
-318 -Annen (QLINER)
-319 -Assen (QLINER)
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It is very far to Groningen
To people from the densly populated west of our country Groningen is very very far away.
It is at the top of our country, but in a corner people normally don?t come. In real it is not that far, just over 2 hours fom the Randstad.
But if you want to relax while getting there the train is your best option. The trainstation is in walking distance of citycentre.
Trainscedules can be found at: http://www.ns.nl
Groningen does not have an on-street bike-sharing system (and probably doesn’t need one), so I rented a bike from my hotel for 8 Euros per day.
I could have rented one for half a Euro less at the station (second and third photos), but it was more convenient to rent from the hotel because I could simply leave it there on my last evening when I was finished riding.
Next: Bicycle parking at the station
Take the bus! Or just walk :-)
The bus is a good way to get around in the city. I am not so sure if it is the best way to get into the city, as they don't tend to go that often during the evening and weekends. I would prefer taking the train to go to Groningen.
All the busses depart from the central station and most of them have a stop on the "Grote Markt" and "Zuiderdiep" which both are in downtown Groningen.
But you don't need to take a bus to go from the Central Station to downtown. It is is an easy walk to the city center from here. When you get out of the train station, walk to the right along the canal and cross the bridge (alternatively take the first small bridge at the Groninger Museum). Go straight ahead and you are in the city center in a few minutes.
Cycling to and from the station
A very popular means of transportation in the Netherlands is a combination of train and bicycle – they cycle to the station and take the train from there.
There are also bus stops at the station – and in the future perhaps even trams again – but as soon as you come out of the station and start looking around it becomes clear that cycling is the main form of local transportation.
Location of the Groningen railway station on OpenStreetMap
Next: The drawbridge
The Vismarkt (Fish Market) is a long car-free public square in the center of Groningen. It used by numerous cyclists.
The Vismarkt is the site of the Aa-Kerk, a church which is now used for concerts, exhibitions, business dinners, fairs, weddings, receptions and parties.
It is also the site of a large and very popular supermarket, Albert Heijn.
Location of Vismarkt on Google Maps
Next: Nieuwe Ebbingestraat
Brugstraat (Bridge Street) is a main cycling street for those coming into the city from the west. It is a good place to get an impression of the volume of bicycle traffic entering and leaving the city center.
The street is car-free but not bus-free.
This is the street where the Northern Maritime Museum is located.
Location of Brugstraat on Google Maps
Bus link to Groningen from Oldenburg and Bremen
A Publicexpress bus service runs daily from Oldenburg or Bremen to Groningen and back. I would recommend checking timetables before travel to ensure you return the same day if you wish to. I did not travel by bus but I know people who did and they encountered no problems and found it cheaper than the train. Discounts may apply for university students with valid student and national ID.
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