All about cycling in the Netherlands
RijnWaalpad is the name of the fast cycle route from the provincial capital Arnhem on the Rhine and the other big city in the province of Gelderland, Nijmegen, on the river Waal. These two cities – that will host the international cycling conference Velocity 2017 together – are now connected by the 15.8 kilometre long cycle route that makes it possible to cycle that distance in about 45 minutes. The route was opened on 3 July last. Arnhem and Nijmegen are also both on the long list for becoming the best cycling city in The Netherlands in 2016.
The route replaces an existing cycle route that was about 3 kilometres longer. The new path is 4 metres wide and has a surface of smooth red asphalt. Cycling gets priority on junctions as much as possible. The path makes it possible to cycle so fast that it offers an attractive alternative to driving to work for the almost 12,000 employees that work somewhere alongside the new route. It is expected that about 2,000 people will use the route daily. It is hoped that this will be enough to decrease the traffic congestion in the area.
The plans for the RijnWaalpad were made 7 years ago. The first building activities started in 2010, so it took about 5 years to build the route. The project was a collaboration between the four municipalities of Arnhem, Nijmegen, Overbetuwe and Lingewaard. The former city region of Arnhem and Nijmegen worked together with the province of Gelderland to create this high quality cycle connection between those two cities.
The total costs for the route were about 16 million Euro. Which amounts to about 1 million per kilometre. “It is a lot cheaper” said Sjors van Duren, project leader on regional television, “than a kilometre of motorway, that will cost 40 to 50 million Euro”.
Included in that amount were the costs for two tunnels and an overpass that I wrote a post about earlier. The tunnel under the A15 motorway has a special art installation in the form of a bicycle chain, also the logo of the RijnWaalpad. The chain lights up in different colours. When you download an app on your smart phone you can change these colours to your personal liking. When you use the tunnel more often you get more rights and more colours to choose from. A way to make people more connected with this tunnel.
The entire route is lit with very special lights also in the form of that bicycle chain. In total 134 masts with the especially designed led lights were placed, which cost 190,000 Euro. Over € 1,400 per light fitting is not very cheap, but the lights are supposed to make it possible to better recognize the route.
Not everything went right with this project. Apart from the special lights the project also got special signs. Not the standard red letters on a white sign, but purple letters. This too, to make the route more recognisable. But Arnhem didn’t agree that this was a good idea. So there were no signs in Arnhem at first. This made finding the route hard in that city, also because the route uses existing infrastructure there. This month the “Nationale Bewegwijzeringsdienst” a board of the Ministry of Infrastructure, which checks if road signs in the Netherlands are designed according to the law, decided that the purple signs are illegal and confusing, so they must be replaced. On top of that they forbade the number of the route – F1 – that the former Arnhem-Nijmegen City Region had given it. It must be F325 after the motorway that it offers an alternative to. This is the standard in the entire country. The high speed cycle routes cannot have regional numbers, they must be unique in the country. For the same reason the route from ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Oss is called F59 and the route from Enschede to Hengelo F35. Arnhem had already put up some signs with red letters stating the number of F325, which was even more confusing. But it will get better after the purple signs with F1 will all be replaced. This operation will cost about 8,000 Euro.
When I asked project leader Sjors van Duren, if he had any thoughts to share now that the route is opened and the project is nearing completion, he said: “There is such a lot to say. That four such different municipalities were able to work together very well to make this project a success is reason to be proud. We have accomplished many new things. The special light fittings – that shine their light to the sides – are beautiful! The same goes for the light-art-installation in the tunnel under the A15 motorway. Some things still need to be finished. The last underpass at Kattenleger is scheduled to be built at the end of this year, depending on the availability of the contractor. With that underpass we’ll get rid of a strange short detour. I am also proud of things that are maybe not so obvious to everyone. Getting priority for cycling everywhere, changing the situation here and there, being able to build wide curves, but also how we played with the landscape design. Even though you ride though a polder landscape all the time, the route has become very diverse, which makes it an attractive ride.”
I cycled the route from the central railway station of Nijmegen to the central railway station of Arnhem. That is longer than the official route, because I cycled from and to these stations at either end. But I was pleasantly surprised that I cycled those 19.85km in 51 minutes. An average speed of 23.4 kilometres per hour, on a single speed coaster brake OV-fiets; that is not bad at all, I think. This underlines the fact that the route is indeed a fast cycle route!
Video about the RijnWaalpad – F325 fast cycle route between Arnhem and Nijmegen
Sped-up version of the entire route (5 minutes – no sound)
Real-time version of the entire route (51 minutes).
Because of the long route I mounted the camera, which means the images are far less stable than my usual videos, because you now see every movement of the handlebars.