Ride from Grubbenvorst to Venlo

You can ride just about anywhere in the countryside of the Netherlands in a relatively safe and convenient way. But the quality of the cycle infrastructure is very different from municipality to municipality. In this photo post I will show you a ride in the province of Limburg, in the south of the country. Starting in the village of Grubbenvorst we ride to the railway station in the town of Venlo, 8.22 killometres to the south-east. This ride was filmed late August 2016.

The province of Limburg isn’t perfoming well when it comes to cycling. The people of Limburg cycle a lot less than the rest of the Netherlands, only 2.2km, or less than 9 minutes on average per day. Compared to the province of Utrecht (the best performing province), the difference is 1.2km per person per day. With Zeeland, the province of Limburg has the highest death rate per cycled kilometre. This was published by Statistics Netherlands on 12 December 2016. The reason is not entirely clear, but it could have to do with the lower quality of the infrastructure. Let’s have a look what that is like on a random ride in the countryside of Limburg.

Map of the ride, I rode the 8.22km in 23 minutes,
which means an average speed of 21.4km/h or 13.3mph

Real time ride (23 minutes)


Sped up ride (5 minutes)

We start in Kloosterstraat in Grubbenvorst, in the municipality of Horst aan de Maas. This is a sort of pinch point at the edge of the village to slow down motor vehicles. This type of infrastructure is a bit older and there is more of that in the rest of the village.
The first roundabout we encounter (Kloosterstraat/Baersdoncklaan) is a roundabout with a circular cycleway around it, with priority. Standard Dutch design, so that is good. The only downside of this roundabout is the surface of the cycleway. The concrete tiles are not very modern.
The other roundabouts we see in Grubbenvorst (3 times in Burgemeester Creemersstraat) are of a design that you do see in the streets of the Netherlands, but that is not in the “Design manual for bicycle traffic”. The manual advises against on-street cycle lanes on roundabouts. You could use a mixed traffic roundabout, when there are up to 6,000 vehicles per day. I estimate this location to be under that threshold. With more vehicles per day, a roundabout with separate cycleways is advised. Even while you do (still) see this type of roundabouts, they should not be copied.
An on-street cycle lane is the least common type of cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands. They are not advised on a 50km/h road such as this one, but they are acceptable when the motor vehicle volume is between 2,000 and 4,000 vehicles per day. The interrupted lines on the cycleway make it allowed for motor vehicles to use the lane in case of an emergency, but stopping in (or next to) the cycleway is prohibited, as is parking. The crossing is raised, so it not only protects crossing pedestrians, but it also reduces the speed of motor vehicles.
The zig-zag markings are there to reduce the speed of motor vehicles, because we approach an unmarked crossing and a side street here.
Turning into a smaller residential street, we can see that they are more modern, with a speed limit of 30km/h. But only the surface makes that clear. The street is a bit on the wide side for a 30km/h zone.
We then turn into a solitary cycleway. It is bi-directional and of a reasonable width. The surface of smooth red asphalt is also current design. What is not so good are the three bollards. Especially the one on the right hand side has become rather invisible with the hedge. Current views on road safety would advise to only use bollards when it is absolutely necessary. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.
We leave the built-up area of Grubbenvorst. This cycleway is quite okay. It is lit at night which is good, but the surface is a bit worn. The edge of the cycleway is not clearly marked. This could be a problem in the dark.
When we reach a point where cars can use the road, there are again bollards. This could also be dangerous at night. The route to Venlo is signed well. You can see the sign pointing left on the lamp post on the right.
This is effectively a short stretch of a cycle street. It wasn’t signed as such, but the surface is red and the lines are those of a cycleway, yet cars may use it, so this street is effectively a cycle street.
This is the rural road between Grubbenvorst and Venlo (Venloseweg). The red lanes on either side of the roadway are suggestion lanes. They don’t have the bicycle symbol, but they do look like cycle lanes. The design manual states this can be used for estate access roads for up to 2,000 vehicles per day in one direction, but they shouldn’t be red, to avoid confusion with real cycle lanes. It is only not allowed to park on suggestion lanes when there is also a parking ban. Motor vehicles may enter the suggestion lanes to pass other traffic such as this driver does.
The Dutch always cycle side by side, even on such narrow roads. Drivers are used to this and generally accept it. They will generally not honk at you, but they may pass closer than people expect. The Dutch drivers are usually cyclists too and they expect you to hold your course even when they pass closely, as they would do themselves.
At this point the suggestion lanes change into real on-street cycle lanes. It also becomes clear why this road has such low motor traffic volumes. As the sign indicates, it is a dead-end street for non-residents.
Just after the curve in the distance, the road is closed for most motor traffic. That is why the speed limit is lowered from this point.
The road is closed for motor traffic (also motor cycles) by means of a retracting bollard. People with a permit (residents or emergency services) can lower the bollard and continue on this road. All other traffic needs to turn here. People cycling can bypass the road closure.
At the other side of the bollard, the road is again a 60km/h road, with just one space in the centre for all motor traffic in both directions. The pole on the right indicates a bus stop, without any further facilities. At this location, the road runs parallel to the railway from Nijmegen to Venlo. Only a single track railway for diesel trains (the line is not electrified).
When we reach the municipality of Venlo the cycling infrastructure is of a totally different type. A bi-directional cycleway alongside a bigger road. It is lit at night and the surface is smooth red asphalt.
However, when we enter the suburb of Blerick, in an industrial zone, the cycleway ends and we are back at on-street cycle lanes, quite narrow ones.
The crossing of Groot-Bollerweg is a standard Dutch protected crossing. The cycle way has to give priority. There is a large place in the median to wait, so you can deal with traffic from one direction at the time.
Further into Blerick the road (now Horsterweg) turns into a 30km/h zone.
A nice demonstration that cycle lanes are an inferiour type of infrastructure. This car is parked illegally. It is possibe that the owner sits in the outside café on the right hand side.
Turning into Kazernestraat we find a crude type of separation. Only a painted parking strip. You won’t find this in the current Dutch design manuals.
This used to be a military compound, but it has become public space now. I took a wrong turn here, into a street that is forbidden to cycle into. The cycleway is on the other side of the street, behind the shrubs. But I hadn’t noticed that, nor did I notice the ‘no cycling’ sign. I only realised I had mistakenly used this street when I saw this video at home, later.
You can now pass through the former military area, but the infrastructure has not really been developed yet. This is a gravel path, that is a non-mandatory cycleway, according to this sign.
Somewhat further, the path then turns into a solitary mandatory cycleway in two directions, but still with a surface of gravel. Not very common, to say the least!
Here we enter the built-up area of Venlo proper. We have just passed the bridge over the river Maas (Meuse). An older type of surface (concrete tiles) and the cycleway is a bit on the narrow side for the volume of cycling. This was filmed on a Sunday evening, late August, at about 8 in the evening.
The only traffic signal on this entire ride is here, to cross Prinsessesingel. It was green (for a very long time), so no delay.
This type of infrastructure is considered so safe, that parents let very young children cycle on their own little bicycles.
Even smaller children are transported in child seats on the front or back (or both) of the bicycle. This cycleway has again modern red asphalt and an appropriate width.
It really is very busy for a sunday evening!
Overtaking this elderly couple was only possible when they decided to ride single file for a while and the people coming in our direction did the same.
We have reached the railway station of Venlo. In the distance the entrance to the underground bicycle parking facility comes in view. This facility also rents out OV-fietsen. That is where I returned the rented OV-Fiets, to change my means of transport. The rest of the journey home to ‘s-Hertogenbosch will be in a train.
On Twitter, Jitensha Oni analysed the ride.
On Twitter, Jitensha Oni analysed the ride.


This was the last ordinary post of this year. I hope to publish a review of 2016 next week and then I will close the blog for the holiday season.

16 thoughts on “Ride from Grubbenvorst to Venlo

  1. Your crazy I use to live in venlo from manchester uk ,it was cycling heaven. if limburg aint great for cycling l need to cycle more in other parts of the netherlands lovely post

  2. Thanks for showing different eras of Dutch bicycle infrastructure. It is very nice to see the evolution, because it reminds me that my city’s infrastructure is not up to 21st-century Dutch standards, but that it may evolve in that direction.

    To that end, what comes first more cyclists or more infrastructure? Is there a blog post you’ve done about this chicken and egg problem?

    1. There isn’t a chicken or egg problem. Most people won’t cycle unless it is safe, comfortable and more convenient than driving, so infrastructure first is the answer. If safe, continous and convenient infra is built, people will cycle on it.

  3. The city of Los Angeles installed over 21 centerline miles of bike lanes in the southern port community of Wilmington. The cost to install these bike lanes was over a million dollars. Most of these miles were installed in fiscal years 2013 and 2014. A couple of short segments have been added since the article, that I have a link to below, was written. Most of those bike lanes are less than a mile long.


    By clicking on bicycle program on the first page of this LADOT website you can see a map of bike lanes installed. You have to scroll down on the map to get to the port area of Wilmington:


    The reason why most of those bike lanes were installed was not due to a need that was recognized for the area, it was because of a goal to install a lot of bike lanes in a short amount of time under the previous mayor. Wilmington just happened to have a lot of very wide streets that had space which was not being fulled utilized by motor vehicles.

    There were two studies done using the average of bike lane miles in the 90 largest cities in the U.S. and the bicycle commuting share. One study was of 17 cities and the other all 90 cities. Both had an average of about a one-percent gain in bicycle commuting of all workers in a one square mile area if one mile of bike lanes were installed within that one square mile area.

    That average result did not happen in Wilmington.

    Here are five-year averages for every year listed for the percent of bicycle commuting in Wilmington. These results were obtained from Census household survey results released by postal ZIP code.


    The average bicycle commuting share for the city of Los Angeles in 2015 was 1.2%.

    Right in the center of the bike lanes that run north/south is Avalon St, which is a major street for the area. Anaheim St. which runs east/west is another major street which may get bike lanes soon. But if what has been installed has not gotten more people to bicycle will adding striping down Anaheim St make any difference?

    An obvious suggestion to improve this would be to install protected bike lanes. The problem with that is the city of Los Angeles only has $2.1 million in the current fiscal year devoted to creating on-street bike lanes. To install beyond a hand of miles of bikeways per year, there is only enough money to use temporary materials placed on top of existing road surfaces.

    The head of the LADOT, Seleta Reynolds, has stated that she believes protected bike lanes are worth 50 times more than unprotected bike lanes. The problem is that she doesn’t have 50 times more money to install a lot of protected bike lanes per year. Since the budget for resurfacing the streets in the city of Los Angeles is about $150 million per fiscal year, there is almost no chance that tens of millions of dollars will be spent installing bike lanes per fiscal year. At 1% mode share, bicycling is only a tiny fraction of the transportation in Los Angeles.

    I compiled a list of the number of bicycle commuters in 103 postal ZIP codes in the city of Los Angeles for 2015. At the top is the USC university area with 1,624 bicycle commuters out of 16,578 workers. Wilmington is at #39 with 189 bicycle commuters out of 23,826 workers. The communities of West Hills and Porter Ranch have had what would be considered a complete network of bike lanes on almost all major streets for years, well before any other area in LA, they came in at #93 with 28 bicycle commuters for 11,886 workers in West Hills and Porter Ranch at #95 with only 9 bicycle commuters out of 19,835 workers.

  4. Your comment about how drivers pass cyclists is very interesting and certainly chimes with my experience as a Brit riding in the Netherlands, something which I have done a lot (I was there this weekend, a bit further west near Eindhoven).

    “The Dutch always cycle side by side, even on such narrow roads. Drivers are used to this and generally accept it. They will generally not honk at you, but they may pass closer than people expect. The Dutch drivers are usually cyclists too and they expect you to hold your course even when they pass closely, as they would do themselves.”

    This is very true. I have been honked at a few times, but not often, and my Dutch friends always completely ignore it (in the UK we would normally make a ‘gesture’ at a honking driver!). But the most noticeable thing as a foreigner is how CLOSE drivers pass. Like you, I have always put this down to their expectation that you are probably competent and will hold your line. But I can honestly say that I have been passed much closer in the Netherlands than in the UK. In the UK when I am passed close I usually attribute it to impatience, inattention or, occasionally, to deliberate intent (a “punishment pass”). When cycling in the the Netherlands, I have to readjust and get used to the fact that it is probably none of those things (except maybe the first): it is just normal. … but I still find it extremely uncomfortable.

    Another problem for a foreigner cycling in what is, in every other respect, a paradise, is that when you do stray onto a road where you should not be (as you did on this ride), you face wrath on a different scale even to that shown by British drivers. I was once punished by a honking bus driver by literally being driven off the road. There are many circumstances where it is difficult to know what you are supposed to do, especially for those who are new to the infrastructure. If there are other people on bikes it’s OK because you can just follow what they do. But sometimes, especially at night, it happens that you get it wrong. And woe betide you!

    I used to think that I should ride with a British Flag on my bike to alert drivers that it might have been an honest mistake, but since my countrymen decided to vote for Brexit, that doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

  5. North Limburg has an average modal share for cycling. Despite the second rate nature of its cycle infrastructure. Imagine what could happen if they really invested in cycling.

  6. Most motor traffic has been taken off the old main road between Grubbenvorst and Venlo. On school days there is an endless stream of cyclists along there.
    I never liked cycling in the Groot Boller industrial zone. Along the main access roads cycling was separated but elsewhere you had to mix with large vehicles. Not great for those commuting. One hopes the roads to the trade port to the west of Venlo have been developed with cycling in mind, especially since it is served by the only fast cycle route in Limburg.
    The military barracks were in use and out of bounds on my day and the preferred route continued on the Horsterweg along the northern and eastern perimeter of the area, leading to the railway bridge. The city council has been debating the area’s reuse and development, with a potential move there by VVV. Recently it was decided the club stay in De Koel, allowing the club to improve their ground for this year’s championship and promotion. Ahem.
    The railway bridge path was narrow when I was a child for the volume of cycle traffic, but not narrow enough for an intrepid or lost German driver to attempt crossing the river there one day. Still, for a 60 year old cycle path it isn’t doing too shabby.
    The Zomerparkfeest was happening in Venlo explaining the very large numbers of cyclists in town.
    The main improvement in the last 30 years has been the removal of through traffic from the Venloseweg in Grubbenvorst, but I agree more can be done to make it safer for cyclists in the Province.
    I hope you stopped off at IJssalon Clevers in Grubbenvorst, the only reason one goes there?

    1. I visit relatives in Grubbenvorst! But yes, getting an ice cream at Clevers would be reason enough to go there. The railway station Horst-Sevenum is about 1km closer, but only has 6 OV-Fietsen and in an automatic system. This has proven to be unreliable. So we go two stations further, where there are about 80 OV-Fietsen in a manned station. Even though we prolong the trip by about a quarter this way, it is more convenient!

  7. It depends on the location. There’s business parks type of industrial areas, which may or may not be traffic calmed and be 30 or 50 km/h with or witouth on-street cycle lane. Areas with heavy industry and many big trucks usually have seperated two-way cycle lanes on the main roads, the smaller sideroads usually being so calm bike facilities are rarely needed.

    1. Yes, there’s definitely quite a bit of variation between larger towns/cities compared to smaller ones, and even between provinces. In Yerseke (Zeeland), where I currently live, there’s almost no bike-specific infrastructure. Where it does exist, it’s not really up to the best standards. In fact, my research institute is located along a busy road (Korringaweg) where all the mussel factories are located. It is full of the large 18-wheeler type trucks but there’s no bike infrastructure whatsoever. The road itself is built like a 60 kph road, but apparently to “address” the heavy truck traffic they made the road 30 kph, which no drivers obey.

      But in the larger towns of Zeeland, such as Goes and Middelburg, the infrastructure is more prevalent and much better. Another interesting thing to note is the drivers in Yerseke. I don’t know if other small towns have the same situation. While the cycling experience is way better than anything I’ve ever experienced in other countries, many of the drivers here are absolutely crazy, especially the youth. Throughout the day, you can hear some people in both cars and scooters going full throttle through the narrow town streets and around tight corners. My Dutch colleagues from all other parts of the Netherlands share the same sentiment about the drivers here, even the ones from Amsterdam and Utrecht for instance. Luckily, you don’t really have road rage or impatience, probably since cycling is still quite mainstream in this town.

      1. Small towns, villages and the surrounding polders in rural areas really are car territory. Here you can see Dutch car drivers are just as the same as elsewhere in the world. (Maybe a reason why we have such good infrastructure.) The only reason there isn’t any road rage is because they know they’re wrong.

        This isn’t just a problem of Zeeland itself, but nationwide. I rode in Flevoland where it’s even more dangerous, because the polder roads are very straight instead of bendy like in Zeeland. Idiots trying to imitate Autoblog passing by like at least 100 km/h (after braking severely) is no exception. Also people like to race in industrial parks at those nice asphalt roads. Your Korringaweg is just one commercial street, but people still call it a “industrieterrein” (industrial park). Lots of streets like these in the Netherlands, all designed as terrain for motorised traffic-only. Somehow there’s still the idea only motorised traffic is bringing in the money and thus no bike infrastructure is needed.

  8. What do the Dutch typically do for cycling in industrial areas? Normally you’d share in 30 km/h zones and separate at 50 km/h, but even at just 30 trucks seem rather intimidating. Maybe it’s just that semi trucks up to I think 60 thousand kilograms are routinely allowed on small industrial roads where I live, at least 40 thousand kilograms.

    1. Where I grew up in The Netherlands, there are a lot of tiny country roads with heavy farming equipment and some trucks as well.

      The same goes for those as for normal cars – the drivers cycle themselves (often to and from work) and I’ve found they are generally *more* patient than drivers in normal cars. They’ll usually pull partly off the road when passing you to make sure you as a cyclist don’t have to.

    2. Newer industrial estates often have segregated cycle paths, so local riding among traffic is limited. They also like to build isolated cycle “main paths” that are not only segregated by a few meters but completely removed from nearby road traffic, sometimes. It makes for comfortable cycling, although it can few a bit low on “subjective safety” for people not used to cycle around (since they go through the backyards of industrial estates and have no adjacent stores, buildings or even pedestrians in sight.

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