Literally just 27 city metro stations with really cool names

Puerta del Sol square, Madrid. Image: Santiago Díaz/Wikimedia Commons.

Sol, Madrid Metro

Literally “sun”. Named after the Puerta del Sol square. For several years it was known as “Vodafone Sol”, which was rather less attractive. 

Étangs Noirs/Zwarte Vijvers, Brussels Metro

“Black ponds”. This being Brussels, we get it in two languages.

Besses o’ th' Barn, Manchester Metrolink

Named for the area of Bury, north of Manchester, in which it stands. No one’s entirely sure why it’s called that but it might be to do with a pub.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Paris Metro

The Paris metro is a particularly great one for names. This one opened as Rond-Point des Champs-Élysées – literally, “roundabout of the Elysian Fields”, which is lovely enough in itself, really.

But its name was changed in 1946, when the nearby Avenue Victor-Emmanuel III (named after the king of Italy, which had just fought against France in World War II) was renamed Franklin D. Roosevelt Avenue (in honour of the US president who helped win the thing).

Délices, Lausanne

Named for a neighbouring street. Means “delights”. The Swiss have a station called “Delights”.

Clot, Barcelone Metro

The name means hole/cove/hollow. Basically, it’s a hole in the ground. Called Clot.

Onkel Toms Hütte, Berlin U-Bahn

You’re thinking this can’t possibly be what it looks like, but, yes, it genuinely is. It translates as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, like the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel about slavery.

Image: DXR/Wikimedia Commons. 

The area seems to have taken its name from a pub run by a bloke called Thomas, whose beer garden was full of huts. There’s no pub there now, anyway, but the name remains.

Bonne Nouvelle, Paris Metro

This one’s named for the district above it, which took its name from the Notre-Dame de Bonne-Nouvelle church. Which is all very sensible – but it does mean there are on-board announcements which literally translate as, “The next stop is good news.”


Admiralty, Hong Kong MRT

Takes its name from the area which once housed Admiralty Dock. While looking it up we also found...

Адмиралте́йская, St Petersburg Metro

...and decided it sounds so much better in Russian, where it’s “Admiralteyskaya”. Say it out loud. Pleasing, isn’t it?

While we’re at it:

Комендантский проспект, St Petersburg Metro

This one means “Commandant Avenue.” But that doesn’t sound as cool as “Kommandansky Prospekt”.

Keeping with the Russian theme:

Stalingrad, Paris metro

Located in the Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad, which was named for the battle.

Brockley Whins, Tyne & Wear Metro

Named for the area it’s in, though where that got its name is anyone’s guess.

Dudley Street Guns Village, Midlands Metro

Named after a street in West Bromwich, and the neighbourhood it’s a part of. That in turn took its name from the area’s once dominant industry.

The local Guns Village Prime School is currently debating a name change on the grounds that guns are bad.

Image: Clicsouris/Wikimedia Commons.

Les Gobelins, Paris Metro

Avenue des Gobelins disappointingly takes its name from a family of medieval dye manufacturers, rather than some actual goblins. But still.

Crossmyloof, Glasgow commuter rail

This one’s technically a mainline station, not a metro, but nonetheless: what a name. It might come from the Gaelic Crois MoLiubha – “Saint (Ma)lieu’s Cross”. Then again, it might not.

In October 2012, Wikipedia tells us, “a highland cow escaped the nearby Pollok Park and walked the rail line to this station, where it was captured and returned”. Wikipedia has one of those “citation needed” notes there, but it’s kept the line in anyway. And little wonder: this is one of those stories that’s just too good to check.

One stop further out of Glasgow on the same line you’ll find:

Pollokshaws West, Glasgow commuter rail

Pollokshaws. Another one that it’s genuinely worth saying out loud, just to hear yourself.

The city’s subway also has a Cowcaddens and a Cessnock, both named for the districts they sit in.

I seriously need to visit Glasgow sometime, that place sounds amazing.

Barbès – Rochechouart, Paris Metro

“A sneeze of a station,” says one correspondent. “Makes you sound like the sausages dog from That’s Life,” says another.

Anyway, it’s named for two streets, which take their names from a revolutionary and an abbess respectively. There’s a rom-com for you right there.

Foggy Bottom-GWU, Washington Metro

Named for a low-lying suburb next to the Potomac River prone to filling up with mist, and also George Washington University. Anyway, it’s where you get off the train if you want to visit the State Department.

Wedding, Berlin U-bahn & S-bahn

During the Cold War, some of the lines this station sits on were closed, to prevent travel between East and West Berlin. They re-opened in 2002, in an event known – inevitably – as “Wedding Day”.

It’s actually pronounced “veding”, but there we are.

The winning bike. Image: David Edgar/Wikimedia Commons.

Eddy Merckx, Brussels Metro

Okay, the name’s hard to pronounce, but the guy won the Tour de France five times. How many cycling tournaments have you won recently?

Luchtbal, Antwerp commuter rail

Means “air ball”. Of course it does.

Burpengary, Brisbane commuter rail network

A suburb whose name is derived from the aboriginal word “burpengar”, meaning the “place of the green wattle”. But which, joyously, has both “burp” and “Gary” in it.

Kunst-Wet/Arts-Loi, Brussels metro

Sitting at the corner of Art and Law streets, the station takes its name from both, and the result is, well, yes.

Picpus, Paris Metro

“Picpus on the Paris metro is adorable,” writes Tom Forth, “and sounds like a type of Pokémon.” Yes. Yes, it does.

It’s not, though. Nearby there’s a Picpus Cemetary.

Thanks to the readers of the CityMetric Twitter feed for doing all the hard work on this one. If you have suggestions for ones we’ve missed, get in touch.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook

 
 
 
 

How can cities become more bike friendly? The Netherlands offers useful lessons

(Aurore Belot/AFP via Getty Images)

It might seem like cycling is in the DNA of the Netherlands, a country where even the prime minister takes his bicycle to work. But the Dutch haven’t always lived as one with their bikes. In the Amsterdam of the early 1970s, cars were considered the wave of the future. They can be seen filling up squares and streets in historical photographs, and killed an average of over two Amsterdammers per week, including many children.

It is nothing more than an “accident of history” that the Netherlands embraced cycling, says Marco te Brömmelstoet, the director of the Urban Cycling Institute in Amsterdam and a man better known as the city’s cycling professor. Today’s bike rider’s paradise was created after parents and activists took to the streets to protest “child murder” by car. A Saudi oil embargo, rising gas prices, concerns about pollution and anger about the destruction of entire neighbourhoods to build motorways did the rest. 


Amsterdam, 1958. Not a cyclist's paradise. (Keystone/Getty Images)

What’s important about this history is that it can be replicated in other cities, too. Of course, the Netherlands has certain advantages – it’s flat as a pancake, for example. But in the eyes of traffic reformers, the rise of e-bikes (and even cargo bikes) means there’s no excuse for prioritising cars everywhere. 

So how can cities, flat or not, follow Amsterdam’s path to creating places where cycling is a pleasant, safe and common way to get around? The Dutch have some tips. 

Separate bikes from car traffic

Any city could start painting dedicated bike lanes on the streets. But in the Netherlands, those white marks indicating space for cyclists are considered just a minor first step. 

“A line on the road is not enough. Motorists will ignore it,” says Frans Jan van Rossem, a civil servant specialising in cycling policy in Utrecht. If other cities want their residents to choose bikes instead of cars when dodging pandemic-era public transport, protecting them from fast-moving car traffic must be the priority, Van Rossem says. 

The Dutch research institute CROW developed a widely praised design manual for bicycle infrastructure, full of tips for creating these protected lanes: A row of vertical white posts or a curb can serve as a physical separator, for example. Still, cyclists tend to feel safest in a "solitary" path, separated from the road by grass, trees, or an elevated concrete island. 

“The main bottleneck, the main reason why people don’t cycle, is that they don’t feel safe,” Van Rossem notes. “To start, construct separate paths.”

Turn those bike paths into a network

Many cities may have some bike lanes on some streets, but leave cyclists to roll the dice everywhere else. Will conditions still be safe when they turn left or right? Often they have to continue their way without any protected facilities for cyclists. 

“In many cases, cities take fast action, without thinking it through very well,” says Lucas Harms. He leads the Dutch Cycling Embassy, a partnership between the Dutch government and several companies, which promotes Dutch bike knowhow globally. “Don’t build small pieces of bike lane from nothing to nowhere. Think about a network of cycling infrastructure.” 

Utrecht aims to have cyclists within 200 to 300 metres of a connected path anywhere in the city, Van Rossem says. Avoid constructing those paths in sketchy industrial areas, he warns. “A connection through an unattractive area may be fast, but won’t be used a lot.”

Embrace the ‘fietsstraat’, a street where bikes come first


On some streets, drivers have to give up their privileges. (Rick Nederstigt/AFP via Getty Images)

A peculiar Dutch invention called "fietsstraat" (cycling street) holds strong potential for the rest of the world, Kevin Krizek says. He’s a transportation professor from Colorado who spent three years at Radboud University in Nijmegen. 

On cycling streets, cars are “guests”, restricted by a speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour. Drivers are not allowed to pass, so cyclists comfortably dominate the road. In the Netherlands the fietsstraat is usually paved with red asphalt, to resemble a bike path and notify drivers of their secondary status. But creating a cycling street can be easy. “All you need to do is put signs at intersections,” Krizek says. The effect is revolutionary in his view. Drivers have to give up their privileges, and cyclists can take the lead. 

Some Dutch traffic experts worry the cycling street won’t work if a city doesn’t also have a robust cycling culture. In the Netherlands, drivers are aware of the perils of urban cycling because they too use bicycles. Moreover, Dutch cities use sophisticated “circulation plans” to direct cars away from city centres and residential areas, onto a few main routes. 

Without “calming” traffic this way, the cycling street could be a step too far, Harms says. “In a city like New York, where all roads are equally accessible and full, it’s better to separate bicycles and cars,” he says.

Redesign intersections for cyclists' safety

If cyclists have to cross intersections “at the mercy of the Gods”, you’re not there yet, says Harms. When he travels abroad, he often finds clumsily designed crossings. As soon as cars turn, cyclists may fear for their lives. 

Harms recommends placing physical barriers between cars and bikes in places where they must cross. The Dutch build elevated islands to direct traffic into separate sections. The golden rule: cars wait behind bicycles. That way, drivers can see cyclists clearly at all times. Barriers also force Dutch cyclists to turn left in the safest way possible. They cross the street first and wait for their turn again before making their way left.

“You can create that with simple temporary measures,” Harms says. Planters work fine, for example. “They must be forgiving, though. When someone makes a mistake, you don’t want them to get seriously injured by a flower box’s sharp edge.”

Professor Krizek points out how the Dutch integrated cycling routes into roundabouts. Some are small; some are big and glorious, like the Hovenring between Eindhoven and Veldhoven, where cyclists take a futuristic-looking roundabout lifted above the highway. Most of those traffic circles move high volumes of cars and cyclists through intersections efficiently and safely. For a simpler solution, the Dutch manual suggests guiding cyclists to quieter streets – crossing a block up or down may be safer. “Nobody knows how to do intersections better than the Dutch,” says Krizek. 

Ban cars, or at least discourage them


A man rides down from a three-level bicycle parking garage near Amsterdam's main train station. (Timothy Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

The quickest, most affordable way to make a city more bikeable is to ban cars, says Ria Hilhorst, cycling policy advisor for the City of Amsterdam. It will make streets remarkably safe – and will most likely enrage a significant amount of people. 

Amsterdam doesn’t outlaw cars, but it does deliberately make their owners feel unwelcome in the historic city’s cramped streets. Paid parking is hugely effective, for example. Many car owners decide to avoid paying and use bicycles or public transportation for trips into the city. Utrecht, meanwhile, boasts the world’s largest bicycle parking garage, which provides a dizzying 12,500 parking spots.

To further discourage drivers from entering the city’s heart, Amsterdam will soon remove more than 10,000 car-parking spaces. Strategically placed barriers already make it impossible to cross Amsterdam efficiently by car. “In Amsterdam, it is faster to cross the city on a bike than by car,” Harms says. “That is the result of very conscious policy decisions.”

Communicate the benefits clearly

Shopkeepers always fear they will lose clients when their businesses won’t be directly accessible by car, but that’s a myth, says Harms. “A lot of research concludes that better access for pedestrians and cyclists, making a street more attractive, is an economic boost.”

Try replacing one parking space with a small park, he recommends, and residents will see how it improves their community. Home values will eventually rise in calmer, bike-friendlier neighbourhoods without through traffic, Van Rossem says. Fewer cars mean more room for green spaces, for example.

“I often miss the notion that cycling and walking can contribute a lot to the city. One of the greatest threats to public health is lack of exercise. A more walkable and bikeable city can be part of the solution,” says Ria Hilhorst. “But in many countries, cycling is seen as something for losers. I made it, so I have a car and I’m going to use it, is the idea. 

“Changing this requires political courage. Keep your back straight, and present a vision. What do you gain? Tranquility, fewer emissions, health benefits, traffic safety, less space occupied by vehicles.” 

Again, she points to Amsterdam’s history. “It is possible; we were a car city too.”

Karlijn van Houwelingen is a journalist based in New York City.