A ride from Market to Market (3)

A high-speed cycle route from ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Zaltbommel had been considered feasible for a very long time, but it was never built. Two of the three municipalities the route runs through have now decided they are going to write an action plan for the (re)construction of the cycle route. So what is the route like now? See it in this third post in my series of cycling from Market to Market.

The cycle route from 's-Hertogenbosch to Zaltbommel, here in the municipality of Maasdriel.
The cycle route from ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Zaltbommel, here in the municipality of Maasdriel.

Zaltbommel is one of the larger towns in the west of the province of Gelderland at the banks of the river Waal. Mostly known in the Netherlands because of the bridge in the important motorway A2 to cross that river. The Dutch always call Zaltbommel a city, even though it only has a little over 12,000 inhabitants. Maybe because it was granted city rights in 1231 and had been mentioned already in the year 850. This historic town is about 16 kilometres (10 miles) north of ʼs-Hertogenbosch, which means it is an easy bicycle ride away. I cycled the 16.15 km from Market to Market in exactly 48 minutes. So (again) at an average speed of 20km/h.

Market Square in Zaltbommel. When I filmed here still with cars parked on it.
Market Square in Zaltbommel. When I filmed there, still with cars parked on it.

Zaltbommel doesn’t really seem a town where the bicycle comes first, but it is interesting to see that the town seems to be changing a little bit. Last November 2015, the council approved a trial to make the Market Square car free. It would be one of the first areas in the town to become car free. (Which is very late compared to other Dutch cities.) The council now stated the trial will start at the end of 2016. It will cost 15 car parking spaces and to “make up for that loss” the town will introduce 20 minutes of free parking in the city centre. To finance that, the town will have to introduce paid parking on the (up to now) free parking lots just outside that centre (at walking distance!). Will councils ever learn that car parking and a thriving centre have nothing to do with each other? A better change was the recent update of the bicycle parking facilities at Zaltbommel’s railway station. There are now 1,226 places to park your bicycle there. Even better news, with regard to cycling, was the council’s decision to start looking into the high-speed cycle route to ʼs-Hertogenbosch after all.

The bi-directional cycleway stops at the municipal border between Maasdriel in the foreground and Zaltbommel in the background. Cycling infrastructure is different in every municipality in the Netherlands. Which means you can sometimes see a real change in the type of infrastructure at a municipal border.
These three school boys anticipated that they have to change sides here, to reach the bi-directonal cycleway, but they chose a very early time to do that. This means they end up on the wrong side of the roadway too soon, while motor traffic passes them dangerously. The sign informs that the municipality of Zaltbommel starts right here.

Late 2015 both the councils of the municipality of Zaltbommel and neighbouring Maasdriel decided they will investigate the feasibility of that route. In January 2016 both councils agreed to start writing a plan. Maasdriel hopes it won’t cost too much and that could be the case. Most of the route in that municipality is already on a good bi-directional cycleway that may only have to be widened slightly and possibly resurfaced. The route in the municipality of ʼs-Hertogenbosch is also already largely built to the standards of a high-speed cycle route, but it is a very different story in Zaltbommel! The bi-directional cycleway running through ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Maasdriel stops right at the municipal border of Zaltbommel and changes into on-street cycle lanes on a 60km (37mph) rural road. Not quite the quality of a high-speed cycle route! Fortunately it is not a very busy road, as opposed to the provincial road around Zaltbommel that needs to be crossed to reach the town’s centre. That provincial road, bypassing Zaltbommel, is under reconstruction. The province has widened the road and it was partly relocated. The opportunity was taken to build an underpass to cross this new road. The bicycle tunnel was opened on 4 April 2016, but it will have to be finished in the coming months. One of the things that will have to be done is placing a work of art on the walls. It is good that there is a grade-separated crossing now, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be built according to the recommendations for a bicycle tunnel in a high-speed cycle route. It seems a bit on the narrow side. Which is a missed opportunity now that Zaltbommel has just decided to build such a route.

The new underpass for cycling to cross the relocated N322 provincial road around Zaltbommel.
The new underpass for cycling to cross the relocated N322 provincial road around Zaltbommel needs to be finished, but it is already in use.
Many surfaces of the cycleways in Zaltbommel still consist of concrete tiles, which is considered a bit old-fashioned nowadays.
Many surfaces of the cycleways in Zaltbommel still consist of concrete tiles, which is considered a bit old-fashioned nowadays.

In the built-up area of Zaltbommel we mostly find concrete tiles as cycleway surfaces, so that too means quite some work needs to be done. This all seems to be rather negative, but the route really isn’t that bad as a whole. You can see that in the pictures and the videos with this post. The sped-up video has some extra information to explain what you see. The real-time video, 48 minutes long, is especially for some of my fans who really want to study all of the route in detail.

The starting point of this ride was again the Market Square in ʼs-Hertogenbosch, where a street organ played as I departed.
Many streets in the historic city centre of ʼs-Hertogenbosch are one way for motor traffic and two-way for cycling.
A canal was dug in the old city centre of ʼs-Hertogenbosch in the early 1800s. The bridge across the canal is the narrowest piece of cycling infrastructure on this ride. A new canal, bypassing the city has only been opened a year ago. I showed you the cycleway alongside of it.
ʼs-Hertogenbosch has a lot of cycle streets. This is one of these cycle streets, a service street next to a main roadway (to the left). It is one-way for motor traffic, but bi-directional for people cycling.
The route in ʼs-Hertogenbosch consists of a lot of different types of infrastructure. This is a bi-directional cycleway alongside a main road.
Another part of the route is again a cycle street. This time it is bi-directional for all traffic. The median of bricks is not flush so it creates a barrier for cars to overtake. But it is mostly optical, so now that there is a truck obstructing part of the road the median can be crossed easily, also on your bicycle.
In the outskirts of the municipality of ʼs-Hertogenbosch the cycleway runs on one half of a former 2×2 lane road. Motor traffic uses one part of the road as a 2×1 road. This half is designated for cycling now. If you look carefully you can see that the cycleway is still on the original asphalt of the 2×2 lane road. Half the original two lanes is now a bi-directional cycleway, the other lane was hatched and is no longer used. In front of the trees to the right you can see the original one-way cycleway in the grass, of the time this was still a 2×2 lane road. It can now be used by pedestrians.
This is a bi-directional cycleway in the village of Hedel in the municipality of Maasdriel. Cycling infrastructure of this quality is obviously suitable for all types of people cycling.
Since this is a cycleway in the countryside people cycling have to yield at crossings with motor traffic.
This rural road in Zaltbommel has on-street cycle lanes. The driver turning left here is making a very bad turn. As you can see he drives on the wrong side of the road entirely and at high-speed. Had he made the turn as he should have, we would have had to interact and he would have had to wait for me. Now he could just cut in front of me. It is a good thing nobody was approaching from the right. A nice demonstration that Dutch drivers can be just as impatient as drivers anywhere in the world.
The historic town centre of Zaltbommel is a 30km/h (18mph) zone. These streets are not very busy and there is no through traffic, but you can still meet the occasional truck there.
The route from ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Zaltbommel is very direct. (From the route planner of the Cyclists’ Union).

The ride (sped-up: 9:33 minutes)

The ride in real-time (48:21 minutes)

Update 2 June 2016

A council member of Zaltbommel picked this blog post up and published it on his Facebook page. That in turn drew the attention of the local press, resulting a a page long article in the local newspaper (Brabants Dagblad) of 2 June 2016.


A quote from this article "Wagenbuur was not asked for his opinion, but it certainly reached the council" of Zaltbommel.
A quote from this article “Wagenbuur was not asked for his opinion, but it certainly did reach the council of Zaltbommel”.

8 thoughts on “A ride from Market to Market (3)

  1. My daughter and son (aged 8 and 10 respectively) cycle to school by themselves. They have to cycle through the city for about 5/10 minutes to arrive there.
    They are also allowed to cycle to their friends on their own if they don’t live too far away. Otherwise their mother or me will accompany/bring them there.

    I guess most parents in the Netherlands agree that when a child turns 7/8 and is in the 4th class of the ‘basisschool’ (elementary education), he or she should be able to cycle to school alone. (We in any case applied that “rule”.)
    Ofcourse this depends on the child: some children are not that bold in traffic at that age, while other children can already be trusted in traffic at age 6.
    It also depends on the route to school.
    And ofcourse it depends on the parents as well: some of them just think it is “gezellig” (nice, sociable, comfortable, ???) to cycle with their child(ren) to school at later ages.
    (And a small percentage are the opposite: bringing their child to school by car, each of them increasing the number of cars around the school by one too many.)

    The way we decided it was time for them to travel to school alone was not at all thought out in any way, it just went naturally. When I cycled to school with them as they were younger, I would pay attention to how they reacted to other traffic, teach them a little about when they should stop/go/yield/go slow/etc. Their mother did that as well, I’m sure. So we knew when they could be trusted on the road alone.

    Then the time came that our son (the oldest) preferred to cycle to school with two of his friends instead of with his mother. (He was 7, the age that being seen with your mother too often suddenly isn’t acceptable anymore…)
    And since last year we also sent our daughter to school on her own. At first she was a little bit hesitant, but after a while she quickly became more confident in traffic, and now she already finds it weird if I offer to accompany her to school one morning.

    The route to their school is quite busy, but not very dangerous, they don’t have to cycle where cars are. (Not entirely true, but the stretches where there are cars, the maximum speed is 30 kmph.)
    They are not allowed into the city centre (Groningen) on their own, they only cycle within our neighbourhood and areas close to that.
    They don’t cycle in the dark alone yet, but I’m sure my son will soon. (Come to think of it: my daughter cycles to her horseriding alone, and in winter it is still dark then.)
    The only thing I don’t like about their route is the increasing ammount of scooters on the cyclepath. I don’t know if they behave differently around (my) children, but they sometimes overtake me in a quite dangerous manner. You will hear a beep, and a second after that, they already are overtaking you with speeds that come close to that of a car. Also, the types that ride scooters (older teenagers) are not very concerned about traffic safety.

    I guess the general ‘rule’ is that children from age 7/8 should be able to cycle to school/hobbies/friends on their own, given the circumstances I already gave (the school is not too far, they are confident yet not overconfident, the route doesn’t involve very busy dangerous stretches, etc.)
    But one shouldn’t be too concerned, I think. Car drivers on the whole will pay much more attention to children cycling, since they sometimes will do unexpected things. Otherwise you will become that parent that brings your kid everywhere by car. In the case of a trip that is neither dangerous nor far, in an ideal world that should be banned.

    But the story which I sketched above certainly won’t apply anymore when my children go to high school (age 12). Then they will gain much more freedom, since some of their classmates will have to cycle from other villages to the highschool in this city. Not allowing them to cycle to their friends in those villages then, would be annoying and unnecessary.

    So in summary our situation:
    Age 2/3: they learned to cycle.
    Age 6: they cycled to grandmother/friends alone
    Age 7: they cycle to school alone
    Age 11/12: they can cycle where ever, alone
    Age 16: don’t want to think about that already!

    1. Age 16 you don’t want to think about that, that makes me laugh a little on the inside. When I do turn 16 and are getting ready for my next year of high school, I’m transitioning to a public school (from homeschooling), and given the distance, 12 km (not a difficult distance to a Dutch person, but given how many dangerous crossings there are and some spots where I don’t want to mix with the motor traffic at such speeds, like 20k cars at 60 km/h, sometimes 70, I am expecting to actually carpool with my younger brother, well, drive him (and me) to the high school. Yes, in Alberta 16 year olds drive on their own. Given that I don’t drink, use intoxicants or other drugs while driving (adivan for plane trips, yes, things like cocaine, no) and I don’t use my cell phone, not even hands free, it should be fairly safe, even on the motorway at 100, but a Dutch parent might feel terrorized by the thought that a 16 year old can do this (and it seems like from what I find the police say about the law, I have the correct license to drive there).

      It’s not a big expenditure, it’s a car my family has had for a long time that is likely going to be unsellable in maybe a few years, so it might as well come to me. I haven’t done anything reckless nor been out at times when I shouldn’t have or been with people I shouldn’t have, so my parents aren’t worried.

      Although comparing what you would let your children do compared to what parents in North America will let their kids do is interesting, also when it comes to where they can go. I haven’t even been outside my house past maybe 10 PM, and even then I was rushing to get home because of a missed bus, and I still feel uncomfortable with going out past 8. Maybe I’m overly cautious and maybe because I don’t interact with people, boys nor girls, my own age as a friend would. Maybe because of the fear that parents tend to have that their kid is going to do something reckless like binge drink at 16, walk in a dark alley and buy some suspect “product”, pick up an STD and crash their car into a tree that this stereotype exists.

      If you ever saw a guy in a yellow velomobile speaking with an English accent and either in English or broken Dutch, then his kid’s friend at the age of 13 rode home from a midnight dance, partially through the forest and partially through the city centre, and it’s apparently so common. I didn’t even take a train through a very slightly suspect area of town when I was 13.

      And I’ve heard stories of parents getting ARRESTED for walking or cycling with their kid to school. Absurd. And my sister brought home a newsletter from her school saying that a walking school bus would take kids to school. They need high viz jackets and are being chaperoned. My sister is 11 and a half. It’s absurd. It’s not even dark during the walk to school week, at all. We need cycling and walking and public transport being improved would be a bonus (like in Japan where 9 year olds take bullet trains) to be attractive to all people, to all parents, so that their kids can go in safety, at any time of the day when such trips are required, children only limited by their own capabilities rather than 1.2 tonne (1200 kg, not 2400 pounds) of a metal, plastic and rubber shell at 130 km/h driven by people who have to be 17 to even learn to use.

  2. Although its not about bike paths between two cities, I thought it might be of interest to show some of the cycle tracks that New York City has installed.

    Click to access nyc-protected-bike-lanes.pdf

    Page 4 shows the Pulaski bridge cycle track which opened this month. Before this the cyclists and pedestrians were mixed together on the space shown to the right where the pedestrians are walking.

    New York City installed the first parking protected cycle track in the U.S. in 2007. They simply copied that idea from Copenhagen. Now its the predominate way of installing cycle tracks in the U.S., using mostly temporary materials of paint and plastic on an existing roadway. New York City has by far the most miles of cycle tracks of any U.S. city. Its probably also the only large U.S. city where over 60% of residents want bike lanes.

    Here’s a study of the New York City cycle tracks that was released in 2014:

    Click to access 2014-09-03-bicycle-path-data-analysis.pdf

    Another report that shows the increase in cycling in New York City over the years:

    Click to access cycling-in-the-city.pdf

  3. Hey Mark, 60 km is actually 37 miles (why do I know this, I’m not American?), not 32.

    And also, this is a question directed at any Dutch parents reading, I’m wondering about how far and under what conditions can a child cycle for how old they are. As in, I’ve heard that 13 year olds can ride on their own at midnight 10 km to home, and that’s fine. But I don’t know about permissions given to children of other ages. I just want to see about what standard the Dutch fine acceptable, so I know what I could expect to write about as what the Dutch would support.

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