A ride from Market to Market (2)

The almost 16 kilometre ride from the fortified town of Heusden to ʼs-Hertogenbosch takes you through a typical Dutch river landscape. You can cycle mostly away from traffic on endless dedicated recreational cycleways that you only have to share with sheep sometimes. I filmed the entire route from the Fish market (Vismarkt) in Heusden to the market (Markt) in ʼs-Hertogenbosch.

The former fish market (Vismarkt) in Heusden is now a square where you can sit and have a drink. The entire fortified town is a 30km/h (18mph) zone, but there are almost no car free streets. Tourists do not drive into town though. There are large parking lots just outside the fortified town.

Heusden is the starting point in this second part of my new series showing rides from Market to Market. The municipality of Heusden is formed by a number of towns and smaller villages. Combined they are home to over 43,000 people. The fortified town, after which the municipality is named, only houses about 1,500. Yet this tiny town has had city rights since the 13th century. In 1968 a large restoration project started which took about 40 years to complete. The fortifications – originally built from 1579 to 1597 – were brought back to their former state. The bastions, ravelins and the walls with windmills on them, draw a lot of tourists nowadays. Part of the route I cycled is also part of the long distance cycle route (430km) alongside the river Maas (Meuse).

The ramparts around the town are a lot higher than the surroundings and that is why windmills were always built on top of them. This meant they could catch even more wind.

Two years ago, the chair of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, Mark Treasure, cycled from Gouda to ʼs-Hertogenbosch. With André Engels (a local follower of my blog) I picked him up in Heusden. After we had a drink on the Vismarkt, we cycled to ʼs-Hertogenbosch with Mark. We then decided to ride through Vlijmen, because we wanted to show the good cycle route from Vlijmen to ʼs-Hertogenbosch, but to get there we had to go to and through Vlijmen, a town that has almost no cycling infrastructure. Mark was not impressed. He even mentioned Heusden and Vlijmen in his post about “bad bits” in The Netherlands.

“The town of Vlijmen, in the municipality of Heusden, was very poor, with no infrastructure at all to speak of, on quite busy roads and streets. It felt uncomfortable, even on a Sunday afternoon.”

In this post I’ll show you that you can avoid those bad bits in this alternative route. The route I take now is actually the better route, which the route planner from the Cyclists’ Union advises.

A detail
This map shows all the fortificatons very well. Detail from a map of the municipality of Heusden from Wikipedia. The red line I added shows how I left the walled town.


The cycle path through the fields alongside the river is rather narrow but that is because this is a recreational route. The picture shows one of the many cattle grids that make a gate unnecessary, even though cattle (sheep) can roam freely in these meadows, also on the cycle paths. The warning sign informs that it is not allowed to bring dogs into these meadows for obvious reasons. Horse riding is also prohibited.
The sheep seem not at all startled or bothered by people cycling past. They are obviously very used to it, even the lambs were totally unimpressed and just continued with what they were doing.
Occasionally one of the sheep was a bit in the way, but it was possible to cycle around the animals. I did reduce my speed here, you never know what such animals could do.
The route takes you through the village of Bokhoven (in the municipality of ‘s-Hertogenbosch) where this young girl was learning how to ride a bike. She panicked a little when she saw me approaching. But her mother reasured here, shouting “Don’t worry, that man is not going to ride into you!” while she rushed to her daughter to grab and stop her. Apparently the girl had not yet mastered the skill of braking.
Just outside Bokhoven, a short part of the route is on a rural road shared with cars. It was not really busy, but on this picture you can see that already three cars can cause a small traffic jam. The road is not wide enough to easily pass and so the drivers had to decrease their speeds drastically. I even had to wait for them.
The route has many bollards, which seem quite unnecessary, but this bar was the worst of all. Because of the hedge in the background, the bar becomes completely invisible. So I assumed this was just another of those bollards. I only saw the horizontal bar when I was already really close. I was just able to turn the handlebars and pass on the “wrong” side of the post. This horizontal bar should be marked much better! This is where the recreational type of infrastructure ends and the ordinary infrastructure starts in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
These three boys were kind enough to demonstrate just how wide the ordinary bi-directional cycleways really are. Even with his arm stretched out like that, the boy could not reach me.
In the built-up area of ‘s-Hertogenbosch I encountered 4 traffic lights. Three of which turned green as I approached, because of the detection loops (also triggered by other people.)
This was the only signal which was red. I had to stop here for 4 seconds. That is because the advanced detection loops had seen me coming and the installation was able to give me a short green time in between the green cycles of other traffic users. More on how traffic lights work in an upcoming post.
The cycleways have priority over every side-street. This driver on the right was waiting for the other person and also for me to pass on our bicycles. Only after we’d passed he would be able to move further to the roadway.
The street from the central station to the city centre of ‘s-Hertogenbosch is one of the few streets to have on-street cycle lanes. The street is traffic calmed, it is not a through route for motorised traffic, but it is outside the 30km/h zone, so the default speed limit in the built-up area is applicable here (50km/h or 31mph).
This driver makes a bad left turn. He shouldn’t have started to turn before all the pedestrians had finished their crossing. Now he blocks the way for people cycling straight-on.
The destination: ‘s-Hertogenbosch city hall on the Markt (Market).
Map of the route. This is from the route planner of the Cyclists’ Union. The route was just under 16 km. It took me 53 minutes so I cycled 18 km/h on average. A bit slower than usual, but I had a fierce head wind and I had already cycled over 30 kms to film another 20 km ride that morning.

The full 16 km ride compressed into just 10 minutes.

The entire ride real-time (53 minutes)!

25 thoughts on “A ride from Market to Market (2)

  1. My epiphany came in that police cell: I realised I was about to lose everything and it didn’t bother me, not in the slightest. I’d come to hate cycling because I blamed it for the lie I was living.

  2. I hope you have a chance to see some of the Giro d’Italia! The first 3 stages are in your area!

    1. “Your area” or “close” is relative. Apeldoorn is about 100km away, but to the Dutch such distances don’t feel close but rather like the other side of the country. Which is enhanced by the fact that it is a different province, there is a completely different landscape there and people have a different religious background. Doesn’t feel like my area at all. Arnhem still feels far away, that is less so for Nijmegen. But I’ve seen the Giro when it started in Utrecht (2010) and I’ve seen the Tour de France when it started in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (1996), for someone who is not at all into sports that is quite enough! 🙂

      1. I thought Noord Brabant was mostly Catholic anyway. Doesn’t really matter to the Dutch, just mean you happen to ride different churches and cathedrals. The Dutch tend to tolerate each other and not ask. The only people that tend to care about this would be the priest if you happen to go and your parents and children if you have any. Doesn’t really matter to Mark. I too am tolerant of other people’s beliefs and values. Why am I making such a large paragraph over this?

        100 km is far is almost hilarious to me. On a bicycle that would be a rather far distance unless you owned a velomobile, even then it would be something like 3-4 hours away. As you know of course Mark you don’t own a car, but you do own a OV chipkaart, and there are trains that assuming train delay centraal (Utrecht) doesn’t mess up, will take you 100 km in almost no time at all. I guess living in a country the size of the Netherlands really does make you feel like you live in a smaller world. The next biggest city is 300 km away, and about 330 to it’s city centre, well, biggest in terms of something that is larger than Edmonton. The actual nearest city of any importance is still 135 km away, or an hour at Dutch speed limits. It felt like no time to get there when I was driving with my family to visit relatives (I would have taken the train, except there aren’t passenger trains going to Red Deer).

  3. Great to hear that you guys enjoy our planner, and yes, we know our app is not yet how we would like it to be. We are working on that, but budget is the biggest problem here. Hopefully in the not so long future we can present you a great navigation app. That ‘bong’-sound, we will look in to that as well.

    Regarding the ‘knooppunten’-network: you can use that in our planner as well. One of the route types is ‘Junction Network’, with will guide you along the route and will give you the list of numbers you need to follow. It’s a very easy way to navigate. With the button ‘LF en knoopunten’ you can also show the routes on our map.

  4. My wife and I have been riding extensively in the Netherlands the last 5 weeks from a base in Berlicum (we have even been to Heusden). We used the “Fietsplanner” site of the Bicycle Union to plan our rides. I downloaded those plans to a GPX file before leaving California and lodged them in another app (All Trails) that I am familiar with as a backup. We tried using the Fietsplanner app, but it has two major bugs that forced us to switch to AllTrails and even Goggle Maps while riding: it does not continuously track you, which makes it almost impossible to use the map to navigate the twists and turns in Dutch villages and it has an extremely annoying bong that goes off after it does update your position. (I had the app running on my bike, my wife was complaining the most) Relying on written instructions in the app is not an option. I found using All Trails with the Open Cycle Map shown and my planned routes loaded work great and even facilitated last minute deviations in the route. (I also had a 20,000 mAh external battery in my handle bar bag to keep my Nexus 6p on continuously) The Fietsplanners routing options were great in planning different types of rides, just wish their app while riding was more friendly.
    Love your website.

    1. I agree, that’s the reason I also don’t use the bikeplanner app. I do check the route at home, but while on the bike it is too slow, I always miss turns because I am already past them before the app realises that and I find myself turning and riding back all the time. Not nice!
      It *is* nice that you enjoy yourselves here! Assuming that you still are here.

  5. “Apparently the girl had not yet mastered the skill of breaking.”

    Let’s hope she never does 🙂

    [I think you meant to write “braking”]

      1. Surely it would have been more useful for the mother to shout that the little girl wasn’t going to ride into you :-)?

        There were a disconcerting number of bollards just before that in the video, as the caption said. But it was nowhere near SUSTRANS levels in the UK, where they have apparently taken to installing them in minimum groups of 5! Perhaps `safety’ in numbers applies to street furniture, too?

  6. Just to be clear: you’re riding these trips with the camera in your hand, right? So this was a single-handed headwind 16 km trip? Your second that day? You’re forgiven for riding so slowly

    1. Well I do switch hands from time to time and on longer stretches I use both hands to hold the camera, but yes it was a bit harder than I expected to hold the camera for over two hours on one day while riding. 🙂

        1. Not sure what camera is used, but for a gopro or clone you can get a nice chest harness for a few euros.

  7. Excellent video. 16 kilometers is not an unreasonable distance to travel. Do you think people actually use this to commute to work?

    Are these routes organized based upon numbered points? I kept seeing signs with the number 45 on them. Also 44 and 56. It looked like we were heading toward number 45.

    Enjoyable travel. This will make a good rainy-day video for my turbo trainer! 🙂

    1. Maybe not this particular route but 16 km is about the max that ordinary people would cycle. There are of course many very sportsminded people who cycle longer, even to commute, but on average this is probably the max. (There are at least two more coming for your rainy day training!)

      1. Remember David’s yellow velo? He commuted more than 30 km each way on that thing. It shows that given enough efficiency, people can cycle for far longer distances than people might think. The longest I ever rode in on session each way was 12.7 km. It would have been nice had the municipal signage directors not put up stop signs on the side paths and I didn’t have to switch sides of the arterial that often, and perhaps if they did not create an artificial incline for me to go up when there was no benefit.

    2. The numbered points form a network of recreational cycling routes. A large part, but not all, of this video follows the number system.

      Using the full-length version of the video:
      At 2:06, Mark enters the network, on the route from 83 to 82 (he turns left, 83 would be straight ahead)
      At 7:43, he is at point 82, and continues towards point 41. Point 81 would have been left.
      At 12:57, he is at point 41, and continues towards point 45. Point 42 would have been right.
      At 28:03 he is at point 45, and turns right towards point 44. Point 46 would have been straight ahead.
      At 33:29 he is at point 44, and continues towards point 47. Point 43 would have been right.
      Around 37:25 he is at point 47, and continues towards point 56. Point 46 would have been left.
      At 39:01 he leaves the network by going straight ahead, the routeto point 56 continues right.
      On the roundabout at 49:13 he rejoins the network, following the route from 59 (to the right) to 53 (to the left, where he turns)
      At 51:48 he is at point 53, and continues towards point 88. Point 51 would have been left, point 54 would have been right.
      At 52:30 he leaves the numbered network again, the route towards 88 turning right.

        1. Thanks for your detailed explanation!

          Peachtree City GA has over 90 miles of paths, mostly in the woods. They have an excellent printed map showing the entire area, but there are no reference locations except for the surrounding street names (which you can’t see from the paths). It is easy to get thoroughly lost.

          Setting GPS waypoints is not always helpful. When I first started exploring the paths, I used the “trail” feature on the GPS. It’s like leaving bread crumbs. I was able to follow my own trail back to my starting point.

          The local track club has put wooden markers with arrows for 5k and 10k circuits. Many people use those.

          A point system is just the technique that Peachtree City needs! This could be an excellent project for the local Boy Scouts to undertake.

  8. I tried asking some girls out this week, even using some Dutch to try and impress. Not successful unfortunately. Even when I offered a ride on the rear rack on my omafiets to the mall a couple hundred metres away. Oh well.

    And thinking about teenagers, bicycles give us a lot of freedom too. Buses aren’t that frequent where I live, their hours aren’t that long, and they take very circular routes and not very direct routes and very little is given on the streets to give them priority like dedicated lanes. Cars of course are not the safest things to be in, and cars are rather expensive in the eyes of a teenager. You likely need a parent to help, unless you are Justin Beiber (on behalf of all Canadians, can I apologize for his existence?).

    Bicycles, especially when combined with the Dutch attitude towards how a parent and society should treat an adolescent and the high levels of social safety, even the system where people don’t feel embarrassed to ask for assistance if they get into a drug problem, makes it very convenient and safe, and parents don’t feel as much worry about their kids feeling safe. Over in North America, if a teenager is on their own or only with their friends and significant others then they often worry about spiked drinks, drugs, car crashes, their teens having sex behind their parent’s backs, not that safe in terms of how I feel about walking or cycling in the dark. It still feels like a person mugging me is still relatively likely (NRA take note, I do not want a gun to “protect” myself). The Dutch make it so safe that 13 year olds at midnight can cycle home partly through the forest on their own as David told me on the phone.

    It would be much simpler to me if I didn’t have to rent an expensive limousine to a prom, why not borrow a tandem and literally ride a bicycle built for two as that old song goes? The two of you together, that shows dedication from both of you.

  9. Heading to the Netherlands this summer and the plan is to visit both Utrecht and Den Bosch this year. Taking bikes in the train (daluren) for part of the trips in order to have more energy to actually bike around town.

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