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.
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.