All about cycling in the Netherlands
The first part of the fast cycle route from ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Oss was officially opened this summer. It is named F59, after the A59, the motorway between those same cities. It is hoped people will instantly recognise where this route takes them, because they know where the A59 would take them. The first part is 8.5 kilometres long (of a route that will in total become about 21 km long) and runs from the Central Railway Station of ʼs-Hertogenbosch to the present east border of that same municipality.
At the other end of the route, from the railway station in Oss in the direction of ʼs-Hertogenbosch, the route is also finished, at least to a large degree. Only in the smaller villages Nuland and Geffen, in the municipality of Maasdonk, there is nothing visible yet of the high-speed cycle route.
When the plans were confirmed with a signature of representatives of all parties involved, in June 2013, the alderman for traffic of that smaller municipality already raised concerns about the route in his villages. He said the route would possibly have to be reconsidered. The village council of Geffen said it is against the route because they fear for the safety of road users in their village. The municipality also had problems allocating enough money for the reconstruction of existing infrastructure to meet the higher standards of a fast cycle route. These problems may soon be solved in a very unconventional way. That municipality will cease to exist, because it was considered too small by the national government. One part of its territory will go to ʼs-Hertogenbosch and another part to Oss. This measure will be effective from 1 January 2015. That may give the new authorities just enough time to build the cycle route as planned, because it should be finished by the end of 2015.
When the entire high-speed cycle route is finished, there will be a direct, attractive and safe cycle route between ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Oss, which should offer a viable alternative to the motorway A59. If just a small percentage of motorists would start to use it, it would mean there will be less congestion and less air pollution, the underlying reasons to build the cycle route in the first place.
2008 First investigation into the feasibility of a high-speed cycle route ʼs-Hertogenbosch-Oss.
2009 The national government decides to subsidise fast cycle routes and local and/or regional authorities are asked to send in plans with a subsidy request. A total sum of 21 million euro will be available. (The Fietsfilevrij project; aiming at less congestion of motorways by offering alternative high quality cycle routes.)
2010 The Province of Brabant, together with the municipalities of ʼs-Hertogenbosch, Oss and Maasdonk, apply for a subsidy for the F59.
2011 The preliminary design is finished.
2011 The National Government grants 1.3 million euro to this project.
2012 The province and the municipalities try to allocate funds for their part of the route. The total costs of 4.8 million euro will be shared as follows:
National government 1.3m
Province 2.5m (including 0.6m as a guarantee for unforeseen costs)
Municipalities 1m (all three combined).
The municipality of ʼs-Hertogenbosch will be in charge of the project.
2013 Representatives of all parties involved sign an agreement to start building the route.
2014 The first part is officially finished and opened.
2015 (1st January) The municipality of Maasdonk will cease to exist and its territory will be split between ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Oss.
2015 The full route is expected to be finished by the end of 2015.
Now what does that mean on the ground, that a fast cycle route was built?
For this particular route, the F59, it meant that existing cycle tracks were improved and that connections to the further cycle grid were made more logical. If you were to cycle the entire route that would mean you would be able to do it 15 minutes faster than before. Cycling from ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Oss or vice versa can be done in exactly one hour.
There are only a few locations where the infrastructure is completely new. East of ʼs-Hertogenbosch a new canal is being built, as a detour for a canal that runs through the city centre now. This 9 kilometre long new canal will be finished early 2015. A lot of new infrastructure around that canal had to be built and the city took the opportunity to include a new cycle bridge for the F59 in these plans, without a lot of extra costs.
The real-time version of the video is over 27 minutes long. You will find a sped-up version at the end of this post.
As the video shows, the first kilometre of the F59 through the centre of ʼs-Hertogenbosch is not its best part. It starts with a small roundabout on which people cycling have priority. This is as it should be under the guidelines that are generally considered best practice in this country (with just a few exceptions like Assen and Tilburg, most municipalities rightly choose this type of roundabout). But then there are 3 sets of traffic lights within a few hundred metres. The waiting time for the three lights combined is about 47 seconds (0, 6 and 41 seconds respectively). Also the only on-street cycle lanes are in that first kilometre. After that it gets better with cycle streets (service streets in a 30km/h zone), a large roundabout with priority (and two-way cycling around that roundabout) and an overpass to cross a large urban distributor road. We have then reached railway station ʼs-Hertogenbosch-East and from there the bi-directional cycle way, directly next to the railway line to Nijmegen, is really up to ‘fast cycle route’ standards. With only a few side streets that part is indeed very fast and we quickly pass the football stadium and a tennis court. We then arrive at a part that has been newly built. The new overpass crosses the A2 motorway and right after that there is the new bridge over the new canal named after our present queen, the “Máximakanaal”.
After the canal is crossed we enter the former municipality of Rosmalen. This town belongs to the municipality of ʼs-Hertogenbosch since 1996. Some of the route here is new too. Existing cycle paths were better connected to form one direct route through the town. There are 3 locations here where we cross a road for motor traffic without priority. But I did not have to stop on either of the three. I filmed the video on a Sunday afternoon so that may have been the reason. These crossings were redesigned for the fast route and they can be used safely, also according to an advice of Veilig Verkeer Nederland (Safe Traffic Netherlands).
Shortly after we leave Rosmalen and after a straight path of about one kilometre we reach the village of Kruisstraat, still in the municipality of ʼs-Hertogenbosch, but at its present east border.
This marks the (temporary) end of the cycle route. From here the route will be expanded on existing infrastructure that will be updated to higher standards. The video ends on a path with tiles, that must become a surface of smooth asphalt.
The now finished route can already be used by a lot of people. Many children from Rosmalen go to schools in ʼs-Hertogenbosch for example. And even though the ‘fast route’ does not continue right now, it is perfectly possible to cycle further, all the way to Oss, on very good cycling infrastructure. It is just no longer up to the modern and very high Dutch standards of a ‘fast cycle route’. The only thing I miss on the present F59 is signs to indicate that it exists at all. The motorway A59 has signs and also the F35 fast cycle route in Twente has signage, I think the cycleway F59 should have signs too.
The sped-up version of the ride on the F59 from ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Kruisstraat, the temporary end of the high-speed cycle route to Oss.