Saturday, 22 September 2012

I Cycle Netherlands

As promised I have been away for the last week cycling from Amsterdam to Paris, I had several goals on the trip one of which was to experience first hand the infrastructure in the Netherlands, Belgium and France, but particularly the Netherlands.

Background - I was for many years an exponent of vehicular cycling and  very much 'keep your wits about you' and you'll be okay, but over the last eighteen months or so I have become much more interested in segregation, so this was an opportunity to see how good it could be. This post deals particularly with the Netherlands, later ones will look at France and Belgium and the adventurous side of the trip.

So I arrived in Schipol last Saturday, the intention for the day was to pass through Utrecht and reach Ede. I was using a Garmin 705 to navigate along routes planned in Fietsrouteplanner.

So what can you expect of Dutch roads when you are travelling cross country?

So I'm on this road...


Oops, no the road is way over there..


....I'm just on the cycle path next to it. As you can see here this sort of path is fantastic for inter-town travel, I cruised along for ages on beautiful smooth tarmac at 30kmh, happy enough to take my camera out and make videos and take photos while moving, don't think I'd do that on a British A-Road.

In some areas there wasn't space for this luxurious path, particularly on what we might regard as B-Roads or urban feeder roads, in these places I came across roads like this...


Cars and bikes mixed but speeds were quite low, never more than 40kmh and road markings make clear the importance placed on cycling, notice red tarmac too, not just red paint. These roads generally seemed to be just wide enough that one car could pass with a good safety margin, but it would be impossible for cars travelling in opposite directions for both to pass you simultaneously.

I soon reached Utrecht and was quite thrilled to see many examples of the Dutch side saddle

Dutch Side Saddle

As I reached the city centre I was astounded at how many bikes there were, particularly considering this was a Saturday night and everyone was dressed up for partying, click on the pano to see how many bikes are in one square in Utrecht on Saturday night


I eventually reached Ede, in the dark which wasn't fun as my routing had sent me through a few kilometers of unlit forest on a dirt track, it was a nerve wracking time as I didn't know how much power I had left on the Garmin and my light is very powerful but tends not to last more than an hour.

The next day I passed through Arnhem and Nijmegen on my way to Eindhoven to visit a cousin, which was great because only a week or two beforehand I had learned about the Hovenring that has been opened in Eindhoven and now my route took me right over it.


A couple of other nice touches I came across, when a road passes under a bridge designers like to leave about 7m headroom for vehicles, but this is unnecessary for cycles and would involve the cyclist climbing those extra meters back up, so they came up with a simple solution...


Then there is this one, which doesn't look like much...


But consider for a minute what it means? Once upon a time this was almost certainly an unbroken two lane road under the bridge, but the brave planners took the decision to reduce it to one lane and make it signalled  but add two lanes for cyclists, a fine example of where motor traffic has been allowed to be inconvenienced so that cyclists can continue safely and uninterrupted.

I won't ramble on anymore as I would just be repeating what more expert writers than I have already said. Suffice it to say all the expectations I had based on the writing of David Hembrow and the Cycling Embassy of GB were confirmed.

For balance I did try and find something negative to write about and the only thing I could come up with was that in some places, particularly towns, there seems to be a heavy dependence on these small red square flag stones for surfacing cycle lanes/tracks/paths, which aren't as comfortable to ride on as tarmac and considering it must cost more to lay them than tarmac I'm not sure what the point is. But if that's my biggest complaint...?

Next time I'll look at Belgium and France which is much more of a mixed bag.


  1. Yeah, you can never understand cycling in NL until you do it yourself.

  2. we don't like the tiled surfaces all that much either, but happily they all are slowly being replaced with the smooth red asphalt. municipalities used to claim they needed access to the utilities usually buried beneath the cycle paths. but indeed, it has been proven that tarmac is cheaper, even if you need to open the road surface for maintenance.

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