All about cycling in the Netherlands

Riding in the dark

The days are incredibly long in the Dutch summer. At the end of June there is daylight from about 4 am to 11 pm. And yet I managed to ride in the dark! The video in this week’s post was filmed on a summer evening (last summer!) just before midnight. I came back from filming the dynamic street lights just outside the built-up area between ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Vlijmen and it struck me how well-lit the route was when I rode back into town. Very soon after that occured to me, I went back to the edge and rode the route again, this time with the camera on.

The sign with the city name is also the indication where the built-up area starts in the Netherlands. The blanket speed limit decreases from 80km/h to 50 km/h right where the sign stands.

A unidirectional cycleway next to the main carriage way for motor traffic. There should be at least 1 metre between the two according to the regulations. That is the case here.

A roundabout that is smaller than it would be had it been built according to the regulations. Here there is only minimal separation between the carriage way and the cycle way. There is no room for one car to stand out-of-the-way of other traffic between the roundabout and the cycleway. But this design is also common and it also works in the Netherlands.

A camera is not able to capture all the human eye can see, so the video is a lot darker than it seemed to be in reality. The pictures show much better how I saw it. I rode from the edge of the built-up area (literally; the sign with the city’s name is the exact border of the built-up area) to the city centre, namely the square in front of city hall. The route is 3.7km and according to Google Maps that should take about 12 minutes and that is indeed how long it took me.

The route (from left to right) on Google Maps. The edge of the built-up area is usually very sharp in the Netherlands. Strict planning regulations are the reason for that.

A continuous cycleway on a raised side street crossing. The design is also clear in the dark.

On this route, that is quite direct and mainly follows main routes for cars, we most of the infrastructure we get to see are unidirectional cycleways alongside the main route for cars. The cycleways are on either side of the road. I encounter quite a few roundabouts. They all have priority for cycling (as is the norm in this country) but they were not built according to the latest design standards. Partly because they already existed before those recommendations came into force and partly because for their location a type of roundabout with a smaller footprint was chosen due to a lack of space. Even while the roundabouts do not meet current design standards, they are still very recognizable and safe.

During the day this tunnel under the railway tracks at the station of ‘s-Hertogenbosch is the darkest part of the ride. In the night it is the brightest part. One of the last trains is just leaving for Utrecht (to the left).

This roundabout bears almost no resemblance to the roundabouts in the design manuals. There would be no space for a standard roundabout. But this works too. There are always many pedestrians here, the main walking route from the city centre to the station.

Where the 30km/h zone starts the cycleways stop. In this case an on-street painted cycleway does continue for a bit, but at the other side of the bridge it does stop.

When I reach the city centre the cycleways abruptly stop and a 30km/h zone starts. In 30km/h zones separated cycling infrastructure is not necessary. With such low speeds and with a reduced traffic volume it is perfectly possible to combine cycling and motor traffic in the same space.

Here the 30km/h zone changes into the pedestrianised area. Some residents have a keycard to lower these retractable bollards so they can reach their parking garage. I wrote about these retractable bollards in an earlier post.

The pedestrianised shopping area is almost deserted around midnight.

The route ends in the city centre shopping area that is pedestrianized but where cycling is allowed. With the shops long closed (they close at 6pm) there is more than enough space to cycle. There are a few pedestrians, but there is no conflict at all.

A ride from the edge of town to the centre.

This is the third of three posts that are published during my holidays. They are therefore a bit shorter than usual.


10 comments on “Riding in the dark

  1. Mike
    19 August 2018

    If batteries die lights fall off it is time to get better lighting. Here in the Netherlands a majority of all bikes have build in lights using a dynamo, no batteries needed and will not fall off.

  2. Pingback: Riding in the dark

  3. Eugene Ayindolmah Balfour Junior
    14 August 2018

    Why don’t all the residential streets connect (with traffic diversions of course) like in the city center

    • Bicycle Dutch
      14 August 2018

      I don’t understand what you mean. In my eyes everything is connected. So perhaps you talk about something different than I think.

      • Eugene balfour
        19 August 2018

        I was just talking about how the residential areas only have few connections to each other and how you have to use the main roads to get around the city. Where I live is like that too. But Some cities like Portland or Los Angeles or New York every single street is connected so that you take any street to get across town and I was just wondering why Den Bosch isn’t like that.

        • Mike
          19 August 2018

          The reason it looks like residential areas only have few connections to each other and that you have to use the main roads is that cyclist prefer (smooth) cyclepaths and for this route it the cyclepaths are along main roads.

          For sure there is a route possible using only residential roads but that is not faster nor more comfortable nor neither safer.

          Have a look at the route using the bicyle route planner and play at little with it:


        • EDHD van Hout
          20 August 2018

          cars have to follow the main roads. But for bicycles there are usually shortcuts. The reason the traffic is organized this way, is that the residential areas are traffic low this way.

        • andreengels
          22 August 2018

          The main reason, as Mike writes, is to minimize the number of cars driving where people actually live, but there are other advantages too:
          * by reducing the number of roads where cars go fast, the number of roads that have to have cycling infra to be able to cycle everywhere is reduced
          * Because the few through roads do not have parking cars and cyclists, and less turning traffic, they are actually quite fast for car traffic
          * For the same reason, there are fewer car-car accidents because all cars are moving, so there is less difference in speed

  4. Tyler Pelletier
    14 August 2018

    I live in St.Catharine’s Ont Canada we have the Waterfront trail Greater Niagara circle route and I can’t name a single trail that has illumination. I’ve encountered animals in the dark, biked down the side of a highway in the dark, Almost biked into the Welland canal in the dark. Batteries die lights fall off.

    • Mike
      19 August 2018

      If batteries die lights fall off it is time to get better lighting. Here in the Netherlands a majority of all bikes have build in lights using a dynamo, no batteries needed and will not fall off.

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This entry was posted on 14 August 2018 by in Original posts and tagged , , .


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