All about cycling in the Netherlands

Cycling through the heath (1)

Some weeks ago the heath was in full bloom all over the Netherlands. I decided to cycle through the heath and film it. I will show you my video of the heath near Hilversum and Laren in North-Holland province today.


Cycle path through the heath near Hilversum and Laren (North-Holland province).

There are beautiful cycle paths. The white of the crushed shells used as paving material stands out against the purple heath, the blue sky and the green of trees and grass. This heath is special in the history of cycling in the Netherlands, but not the recent history that I covered in last weeks post. These cycle paths go back a long way. A very long way. In fact they were among the first to be built in the Netherlands. Money for their construction was brought together by societies founded for the specific reason of building and maintaining cycle routes in this richer region of the country. The paths were needed for the well to do who wanted to spend a nice Sunday afternoon on their brand new bicycles. The “Vereniging voor aanleg en onderhoud van wielerpaden in Gooi en Eemland” (Society for construction and maintenance of cycle paths in Gooi and Eemland) was founded on 4th March 1914. Albeit under a different name, the society still exists and takes care of 110 kilometers of cycle paths in a relatively small region. [There is a later post with the full story on this society!]

first paddestoel

Chosing the model for directional sign posts for cyclist in the Netherlands, February 1919.

Early in its existence the society also pushed A.N.W.B. the –then– national cyclists’ union to place road signs. At the heath near Laren some members of the board gathered around three proposed designs. On 21st February 1919 they chose a simple low and square shaped concrete sign post. It was painted white and the destinations and distances were hand painted on all four sides. The signs were soon to be nicknamed ‘paddestoelen’ or toadstool/mushroom because of their shape. To this date the sign posts can be found all over the Netherlands. A replica of ‘mushroom’ number 1 is placed at the heath near Laren on the exact location where the decision was taken.


Highland cattle in the Netherlands

The video shows how pleasant it is to ride your bicycle through the heath. Not only do you meet many others cycling, there is also some wild life. We see roe deer, a lot of sheep and –more surprising– highland cattle too.

The video ends in Hilversum with the world famous city hall building by architect Dudok.

This post, written by me, was first published on a different platform.

The original 4 comments:

Micheal Blue said… Looks very nice. Thanks for not adding music to the video. It was nice hearing the nature sounds – the bird singing. In places the path was quite narrow. You seemed to rent a bike for the ride. Here in Ontario they make multi-use recreational paths out of old railway tracks; they pull out the rails; the surface is hard soil, pleasant enough for biking. I like cycling on them, though they don’t form any interconnected network. Some are only 20 km or so in length and some can be quite long. 27 October 2011 18:25

timooohz said… Glad to see you weren’t ignoring the bull! 😛 I didn’t see any bullshit on the paths, so is the cattle fenced away from the paths? 27 October 2011 20:53

Mark Wagenbuur said… @Micheal yes I always rent an OV-Fiets when I’m not in Utrecht or ‘s-Hertogenbosch where I have my own bikes. And I do enjoy the silence too so kept it for you to enjoy as well. @timoohz those bulls are free to roam also on those paths and they are quite impressive. I did stay well away from them! You can see I cycle over cattle grids in the video, like at 1:35. So they cannot escape the heath. There were big heaps of poo in the woods. I already wondered what the deer were on, until I met the bulls… 😉 27 October 2011 21:40

Frits B said… timooohz – Actually the bulls are not the most dangerous, it’s the cows with calves you need to stay away from. These cattle were selected because they are rugged enough to stay out all year so they more or less live in the wild. Not unlike the red deer in some London parks which last month attacked passers-by during the rutting season – of the deer, that is. 27 October 2011 23:45

3 comments on “Cycling through the heath (1)

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  3. Koen
    31 May 2012

    I’ve always liked riding on those shell paths. They’re a bit narrow, but these recreational paths do give that holiday feel and easygoing style of riding. When not used by tractors, cars or horses (which is nearly always), they’re very smooth.

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This entry was posted on 27 October 2011 by in Original posts and tagged , , , .


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