All about cycling in the Netherlands
The train and the bicycle are a powerful combination in the Netherlands. This mode-combination was never really promoted; the Dutch found this out for themselves. They realised in great numbers that it is very convenient to ride the first or last kilometre (or both) on your bicycle and use the train for the longer middle part of a journey. That over 40 percent of the train travellers arrive by bicycle to the train station is easy to see. Again in the afternoons and evenings when all those people return from their day’s work or school. With every train arriving, scores of people walk back to the bicycle parking facilities, where they pick up their bicycles, to return home. Especially at the smaller train stations that is very visible. So I filmed it for you in Zaltbommel.
The railway station of Zaltbommel was opened in 1869 in the railway line from Utrecht to ʼs-Hertogenbosch, about 700 metres to the south of the location of the current station, that was in turn opened in 1984. The station is now closer to the town itself, even though it is still about 1 kilometre to the centre. The current location is much closer to the bridge over the river Waal. Since that bridge is very tall, the approach ramp to that bridge is also very tall. Consequently the station’s platforms are high above ground level. Stairs and elevators make it possible to reach those platforms. During the day, 4 trains leave every hour, 2 in every direction. (After 8 pm that drops to 1 train in each direction.) The first trains leave at 05:42 to Utrecht and at 06:16 to ʼs-Hertogenbosch. The last trains depart at 00:12 to Utrecht and at 00:59 in the direction of ʼs-Hertogenbosch. That makes the train a very good option for a lot of travellers even though intercity trains do not call here. The municipality of Zaltbommel has 27,536 inhabitants (2016, source) but the neighbouring municipality of Maasdriel, which is home to 24,126 people (2016, source), is also served by this station. According to the Dutch Railways, the number of people taking the train in Zaltbommel is 3,440 per day (2014, source) If indeed 40% of those people arrive by bike, that would mean roughly 1,375 bicycles at that station.
Zaltbommel’s station bicycle parking facilities were completely updated in the first half of 2011. There supposedly are “more than enough parking spaces” now, at least if you should believe what the council’s website tells us. The numbers do indeed come really close to my rough calculation. The covered bicycle parking facility was renewed and expanded. The smallest part of the facility is only accessible for paying customers. There are 192 places (was 144, before the update). The largest part is not supervised and freely accessible for everyone. In that part there was room for 608 bicycles before, but in the 2011 update that has been expanded to 1,034 places. Which means a total number of 1,226 bicycles can be parked at Zaltbommel station nowadays.
The route to the town follows a street called Koningin Wilhelminaweg. The sewer pipes under that street were about 40 years old and they were therefore due to be replaced. The council of Zaltbommel took the opportunity to update the street’s design to make it more convenient and safe to cycle from the station to the town’s centre. While they were digging up that street anyway, and because of the then new bicycle parking facilities, it was decided to also update the station square and its connection to the said route to the town. That way the new bicycle parking facilities could also be reached in a good and safe way. The station square was also improved for the (mini)buses arriving and departing there and for the taxis. Lastly the so-called “kiss and ride” area for private motorised vehicles, dropping off travellers, was also improved. At the other side of the Koningin Wilhelminaweg a large new parking area was constructed. This P&R (park and ride) parking lot also has to be reached and to make all that possible, the municipality decided to change the existing standard crossroads into a roundabout. The roundabout has bi-directional cycleways around part of it. So people cycling (including a lot of school children) can take the shortest and most convenient route around the roundabout. Even if that was not allowed they would still do that. That is why Dutch authorities do allow it, so it is clear to drivers of motor vehicles that that is the case, which improves safety. Other parts of the cycleways around the roundabout are one-way. Cycling has priority at this roundabout, which is the standard for roundabouts in the built-up area in most of the Netherlands. The alderman for traffic for the municipality of Zaltbommel, Han Looijen, explains in a video that a roundabout was chosen so the road could be more easily crossed by pedestrians (drivers who have parked their car and who walk to the station) and people cycling, in an also safe way.
The street’s reconstruction took place between November 2013 and July 2014, but the roundabout had already opened in February 2014. The Koningin Wilhelminaweg now has better protected cycleways on both sides and also footways. It is hoped the street is again good for another 40 years.
This week’s video shows you people using the bicycle parking facility at Zaltbommel railway station.