A bicycle ride in Alkmaar

Another “real” ride, because some of my viewers have asked for more rides that show a real journey from beginning to end. This time I rode a long way from my home, all the way up in the north of North-Holland province, in Alkmaar. Alkmaar is about 40 kilometres north of Amsterdam or 1 hour and 40 minutes by direct train from my home. This is considered the other side of the country by the Dutch. I rode from the station to a community centre in the north of the city where my aunt celebrated her 70th birthday.  It is – as always – an easy ride. Even when you are in an unfamiliar place, the infrastructure is recognisable throughout the country and a look on the map of the routeplanner from the Cyclists’ Union (Fietsersbond) is usually enough to find your way. The captions tell you a bit more of what I found along the 3.55 kilometre long route through Alkmaar.

The most convenient route as it was advised by the Routeplanner of the Cyclists’ Union.
Start at the Alkmaar station. Like any bigger station in the Netherlands it has a guarded bicycle parking facility where you can rent bicycles and get an OV-Fiets (shared bicycle).
The street in front of the station is in a 30km/h zone but has on-street cycle lanes. That is not very common, or necessary, but it seems the cycle lanes were used to optically narrow the roadway here.
At the intersection the 30km/h zone ends and the speed limit changes to 50km/h. That is why – just ahead of the intersection – the separated protected cycleways start.
Ordinary side-by-side crossings for cycling and walking. Note that the walk signals are always on the far side. They are the only signals you will find on the far side. The signals for cycling are on the near side, just like they are always on the near side for motor traffic as well. These lights function independently. Cycling may have a green light and walking may not, or vice-versa. You must only pay attention to your own type of signal in the Netherlands.
The cycleway on the railroad crossing is much narrower than the cycleways are on either side. The cycleways must have been widened at some point and the railways did not also adjust their crossing. A bit awkward and it should be changed, but I did not realy have a problem, even with the oncoming person who passed me exactly on the tracks.
This one-way protected cycleway alongside the Noordhollandsch kanaal has recently got a new top coat of asphalt. The three boys are going against traffic. Apparently they didn’t want to cross the big road twice. Right behind the viewpoint of the camera the cycleway becomes two-way, so I understood why they broke the rules here. Can be more annoying when it is busier.
The width of the protective space is really at a bare minimum here. The manuals mention 35 centimetres as a minimum in the built-up area and it seems to be just that here. It would have been much nicer if the cars would have been further away. On such a narrow division you cannot have poles or signs (as they would require a width of at least 50cm from the pole). That is why the lighting masts and the directional sign for motor traffic are on the right hand side of the path.
This bridge over the Noordhollandsch Kanaal may only be used for walking and cycling and unfortunately also by mopeds of both kinds.
Those bollards are very unpleasant. They are placed exactly where you would ride. The white paint on either end on the surface to alert you they’re there does not help much. They should not be there.
A short but very unusual stretch of road which is a combined bus/cycle lane. That is so unusual in the Netherlands that there isn’t even a traffic sign for it. The municipality now chose for “no entry for any vehicle” and then added two “except” signs. The first says “except bicycles and mopeds” and the second “except regular service buses”.
A very simple but clear crossing of a larger road. You have to give way here, which is not indicated by sharks’ teeth, but by the “exit construction” (which is the level difference). This crossing lane is for one direction only. The opposite direction has an identical crossing lane left outside the picture. Both cycle directions meet again in the distance next to the blue construction sheds.
The change from the 30km/h zone to the cycleway with footway doesn’t align. That is to make traffic users realise they are in a zone where they should be slow. The fact that there is no level difference makes it easy to just go where you need to. The boy on the skate board was on the cycleway and didn’t seem to realise I wanted to pass. So instead of forcing him to go on the walkway bit I just rode wide around him on that footway and he could stay where he was.
This is a very odd bridge in a city park. The sign tells me it is not a bridge for cycling. But the two people cycling ahead of me used it on their bicycles. The bridge was in my route from the Cyclists’s Union as a cycle route. So I did what the locals do and simply cycled across it. The sign with the word “fietspad” (cycleway) is a bit unusual, it means non-mandatory cycleway. Some municipalities prefer that sign for parks, to make sure mopeds don’t use these paths. Mopeds are forbidden to use non-mandatory cycleways.
Right after that strange bridge the route became an obvious cycle route again that was well used on a Saturday afternoon.
Some parts of the cycle route were also for mopeds, as you can see on the sign. The route goes around a bus stop here. Bus stops with cycleways around them are very common all over the Netherlands and they have been for decades.
At the end of my route I turned from a street in a 30km/h zone into this street that had a sign saying this is a “woonerf”. That means the speed is 15km/h here. Strangely enough this street does not look like a “woonerf” or home zone at all. There is a separate footway and there are marked parking spaces. In a ‘real’ woonerf walking would be the norm and there would be no separate facilities for types of traffic. I think the city just wants the speed to go down in this residential street and that is why they put up this sign.
At the community centre there was ample space to park bicycles. I could conveniently leave my shared bicycle there, lock it and use it again for the return trip to the station. You rent an OV-Fiets for 24 hours typically, also to use it for a return trip.

I rode the 3.55km in 11:15 minutes. Which equals to a leisurely average speed of 19km/h.

A ride in Alkmaar.

11 thoughts on “A bicycle ride in Alkmaar

  1. The ‘Stationsweg’ is 50km/h. A part of it (in front of the station-buildings) will be 30km/h, but we are waiting allready 2 years for the traffic-signs.
    The narrow passage crossing the railroad tracks is a known problem of Prorail. The white bridge befor entering the Rekerhout-Park is a problem with the people who live nearby. Everybody uses it cycling.

  2. Hi Marc, would you happen to have a chart showing the cycle flow in a town such as Alkmaar? We are trying to see the potential here in Colchester, UK, for the daily number of cycle trips (if we had a decent network) created by primary/scondary schools, the hospital, the town centre, the station and the university.

      1. It’s amazing it isn’t closer to 100%. How could anyone think a car is a better way to get around than on a bicycle in that kind of environment? It’s a dream come true to me.

        1. Physical fit, nice summer day, riding a few km on your own to the gym, and you’d approach 100%. Not fit, raining, cold, dropping off the kids at school before a 50+ km commute, and you’d approach 0%.

          It’s all about circumstances. For distances between 500m and 5km, most people prefer the bike in decent weather. But not all trips are that short, most people doesn’t equal all people, and not-so-decent weather would reduce the overall number as well.

          On average, you end up with between 25-50% of all trips, depending on the city. More rural areas typically have longer commutes, higher car ownership and lower parking costs. Big cities have better public transport, which might be another alternative. Medium sized cities with high student counts will be on top of the list (physical fitness being high among students, and car ownership low).

  3. Nice enjoyable peaceful ride. Thanks.
    Do you keep up with cyclo-cross? Sunday’s Women’s European championship had an all orange podium!

    1. Because every light is timed perfectly. You cycle faster than you can walk. That means on a bike you could be on the other side of the road while crossing traffic still has green there. Walkers need more time so they should start earlier to reach the same point at the same time. Also, the lights respond to all traffic including pedestrians. If there are none the lights will not turn green, to give other traffic more time to clear the intersection.

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