A ride on a country road… in the city

On a beautiful summer’s day, I filmed a ride on what appears to be a small country road. But this country road is special, it is in the middle of the city.

For ages this country road ran through the fields, but the city expanded and new parts were built north and south of this east west road in the late 1970s. Residential areas to the north and an industrial area to the south. By 1980 the old road was suddenly in the middle of the city.

A country road in the fields in 1956 that was fully surrounded by city from 1980 on. But even in the 2013 situation the country road is still very recognisable and now a recreational cycle route.

When this was still a real country road there were many rural houses on it. The 1970s city planners deliberately kept the road and incorporated it into the city in a kind of city park. Many of the more contemporary houses were destroyed but all the monumental farm houses remained. There were so many of those that the road still has the atmosphere of a country road.

There were many farm houses in the 1960s. Left you can just see a couple of milk churns. Right the more monumental farm buildings and on the left hand side more 1930s-1940s buildings.
The same location today shows only the monumental farm houses remained, but they still give the route a country road feeling. From the left hand side of the road all buildings were demolished and replaced by a city park.

Motor traffic got new routes in the city expansion. This old road was not supposed to function as a short cut, so the access for motor traffic had to be restricted. All the remaining buildings can still be reached by motor traffic, but now usually only from one end. Since the original road was on a dike, and so elevated in the landscape, it was easy to create overpasses where the old country road crosses the new roads in the former lower lying fields. Three viaducts, only accessible for bicycles, make sure the route cannot be used as a through route any more. The down graded country road is now part of the recreational cycle route network.

A ride on a country road… in the city.

The map with recreational cycle routes from the Cyclists’ Union reveals how deep in the city this old country road really is. The part shown in the video is from the red dot via junction 90 to junction 50.

We can find his kind of urban planning all over the Netherlands. The city expansions from the 1950s and 1960s were planned with no respect for earlier structures like roads and waterways. Everything was levelled and city planners started with a blank canvas. However, from the 1970s urban planners kept some of the old roads and buildings and especially water ways. They were incorporated with a new function into the new urban developments, usually as routes for walking and cycling in park-like zones. This can only work if the original roads are downgraded and cannot function as short cuts for motor traffic. I know examples in Utrecht (Lunetten) and Houten, but other examples can be found all over the country.

8 thoughts on “A ride on a country road… in the city

  1. With no hustle and bustle on transport. This is a great way on enjoying each step of the way. Very encouranging.

  2. Absolutely fabulous. Routes like that make you want to ride a bike. Close one eye and you could almost be on one of the better “off-road” routes in the UK.

    The striking difference (apart from the excellent quality surface maintained throughout) was that this route started and finished on cycle lanes rather from a road. In the UK you have to ride on dangerous roads to get to a route like that, or take the bikes on the back of a car…

  3. My family from Washington State have enjoyed these posts and will be in Haarlem this summer. We will be using many bike lanes in the most bike friendly country in the world. Now the problem is to pick the routes to try out. Can I assume bike helmets are not a requirement as they are here?

    1. If you’re in Haarlem arriving by train, prepare yourself for the fantastic new road to the west of the station – there’s a wide two-way bike path and a one-way bus lane (separated, of course) on a road which on Google Streetview’s 2009 images was full of parked cars.

      It’s such a great “welcome to the Netherlands” moment!

    2. There is no law regarding helmets; no one wears a helmet except tourists.[*]

      For routes, you can use the Fietsersbond (Cyclists Union)’s route planner:

      You can also use the numbered junction system, which Mark wrote about here:
      The Fietserbond’s route planner also lists the junctions if you press the “numbered junctions” button in the top right of the map.

      You’ll also find directional signs pretty much everywhere, see this post by Mark:

      All these methods will bring you along very decent infrastructure which is cycle-friendly[*], so find some interesting destinations and start planning! I find planning routes for a vacation almost as fun as the vacation itself 😉
      Amsterdam (25 km) and Leiden (37 km) are nice destinations if you start in Haarlem. You can take the train back to Haarlem if a return trip takes to long (because you’ll also need time to see all the interesting stuff in Amsterdam/Leiden 😉 Then there’s the coast of course, from Haarlem you can cycle as far north or south along the coast as you like.

      [*As with all general rules, there are exceptions that prove the rule.]

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