All about cycling in the Netherlands
Sports and I are not a great match, to put it very mildly. And it has been like that all my life. To give but one small example: I was always picked last for any team during the sports hour in school. But there are exceptions, I do like swimming. So, to stay in shape, I try to swim once a week. My prefered pool is 5.1 kilometres away in the next town. Of course I go there on my bicycle. Cycling, as you have gathered by following this blog, is not even considered to be a sport in the Netherlands, at least, not the type of cycling to get from A to B. So yes, to get to a sports facility I hop on my bike.
I filmed the return ride in the dark. As you can see on the map, the route is pretty straight forward, long straight streets. It is also a very safe route, even in the dark, and even with only limited cycle provisions.
The visible cycle provisions only make up 2 kilometres of the 5.1 kilometre route, so not even half of the route. This makes clear that the critisism that the Dutch would have an “extreme approach of total separation“* is not based on reality. On the other hand it certainly doesn’t mean that you have to mix with heavy traffic the other 3.1 kilometres when you ride your bicycle! Let’s look at this route in detail. The entire break down is as follows:
With cycle provisions
- Protected cycle path 1.5 km
- On street cycle lane 0.5 km
Without cycle provisons
- 30 km/h (18mph) zones 2.7 km
- 50 km/h (31mph) street 0.4 km (of which 0.2 km on a ‘suggested cycle lane’)
As you can see, most of the time the route goes through 30km/h (18mph) zones. These are traffic calmed residential areas (in both Vught and ’s-Hertogenbosch) and a traffic calmed high street in ’s-Hertogenbosch. Some of the 30km/h zones are actually service streets right next to the through streets. In those cases the central through street has a 50km/h (31mph) speed limit. These 30km/h zones are not used by through motor traffic, but only by motor traffic that has to be in the area or that specific street. So even though there is no visible cycling infra, these areas have been made more pleasant and safe for people cycling and for people using the streets in another manner: like by living there or by going there for shopping. (Because this ride was filmed outside shopping hours, that street is completely deserted.)
The part of the route that is used by faster through traffic is precisely the part that has protected separated cycling infrastructure. So even though there “can’t be cycle paths everywhere“*, when you are on your bicycle in the Netherlands, you usually still do not have to engage in heavy traffic for most of your entire ride.
In the video you can see a level rail road crossing with a passing train. I never encountered a train passing at a level rail road crossing before, so that is something entirely new in my videos.
The entire ride from the pool back home in real-time. Make sure ‘annotations’ are on, to see more info.
The first three minutes of the video are the darkest part, it gets better after that!
For reasons of privacy I do not really cycle home, but to City Hall of ’s-Hertogenbosch, which is about 200 metres from where I live. I think you’ll agree that is close enough!
Cycling over 10 kilometres round trip to go for a 1 kilometre swim is perhaps like doing sports twice to some. It may be the other extreme of going to a gym by car, and even worse: getting from your parked car to the gym using an escalator. As is the case for many visitors of the San Diego gym in the picture below. And that is not just behaviour in the US, a recent survey by Livingstreets in the UK revealed that 4 in 10 people in the UK use a form of motorised transport to get to the gym, even when that gym is less than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away. I think I prefer the Dutch situation: I need to work out a lot less because of the cycling to and from my work-out location! (And let’s not forget the cycling all the other days of the week.)
* Quotes like these can be heard in circles of UK cycle activists.