All about cycling in the Netherlands
Recently I cycled to the sea side resort and former fishing town of Scheveningen (now part of The Hague) and I noticed the road to the beach had completely changed since my last ride there several years ago. On my way back to The Hague Central Station I decided to film the new wide bi-directional cycle way with its perfectly smooth red asphalt surface. It can serve as an excellent example of what modern main cycle routes look like in the Netherlands.
This road was originally constructed as a new way to the beach in 1890. It was intended to be a prime location for new grand houses for the wealthier class of The Hague. Houses on the Nieuwe Parklaan (“New Park Avenue”) as it was named could only be free standing and needed to be at least 8 metres from the road. This led to a type of street that is unusual in this densely populated country. The also new electric tramway was constructed parallel to the roadway and both road and tram tracks were lined with trees. These later full grown trees in four lines turned this road into a beautiful boulevard.
The tram line was the reason for the recent reconstruction of the entire road. The tracks were too close together for a larger type of tram that the city of The Hague intended to use in future. The new tram carriages would also be too heavy, so the tracks needed to be replaced completely, including the foundation and also the overhead wires. Unfortunately, because the new tracks needed be further apart, most of the over a century old trees could not stay. As is customary in the Netherlands the city took this opportunity to also replace other services such as the sewer pipes and street lights.
The actual reconstruction took place between August 2015 and July 2017 and cost about €4.8 million euros. It has become practice in large parts of the Netherlands that the contractors doing a job like this inform the residents about the project and how it will impact and temporarily disrupt their lives. This contractor did that in a very modern way. They created an app to keep the residents up to date on events related to the reconstruction of their street. In just a short while the app was downloaded 400 times – far more than there are dwellings in the street – it meant that so many people were connected that the contractor would even have been able to give these people a push notification in case of an emergency.
Of course the residents of this street, but also people from the rest of The Hague and Scheveningen, mourned the loss of the beautiful trees. In 2018, one observer wrote: “Oh how different it all is. The Nieuwe Parklaan looks a bit sad at the moment and it will for some time. So many trees were removed for the new tram rails. It is true that many new trees were planted but how much time will it take before they are as grand as the former ones? And yet, sad or not, you can now see much better how the wide boulevard gently meanders. How wonderfully designed really.”
I can only agree. This is my way of looking to the world, always seeing the positive in things. That is not very hard to do when you look at the new cycle route. It has become a bi-directional wide main cycle route with a smooth surface of red asphalt following the gentle curves of the street with the grand buildings that you can now see much better. The four types of traffic in this street are now neatly running side by side. There is a wide foot path on either side for pedestrians and then there are three separate main routes, one for the trams, one for motor-traffic and one for cycling, beautifully separated by lines of newly planted young trees.
The upside of a bi-directional cycleway is that it is easy to overtake slower people. The downside is that you can sometimes be on the “wrong” side of the road when you have business on the other side of the street. But in this case the tram tracks can also only be crossed at a limited number of crossings so that is not really too problematic. In such situations (it is similar for roads alongside canals) bi-directional cycleways can actually be preferred. Car drivers do need to watch for cyclists coming from the “unusual” direction. That normally goes well, but in this particular ride you can see one driver clearly misjudges my speed and I can only barely pass behind her vehicle crossing my path. No real harm done, but I did give her a disapproving look. The transition, near the border with The Hague, from the bi-directional cycleway on one side of the road to two one-way cycle tracks on either side goes very smoothly on a roundabout with priority for cycling. From there it is one straight line to The Hague Central Station.
This new cycle route fits perfectly in the Traffic Vison for Scheveningen for 2025 drawn up by the city of The Hague in 2016. In this vision the city writes:
“With public transport the bicycle is an important alternative to the car. The city of The Hague invests in a network of main cycle routes and bicycle parking facilities. […]. These main cycle routes are direct, comfortable and of a high-quality. They connect areas on the edge of the city with the city centre. The main cycle route alongside Nieuwe Parklaan has recently been finished.”
Some other points regarding cycling from this Traffic Vision are:
Most municipalities in the Netherlands keep investing in new cycling facilities. Changing what the streets look like at an incredible pace. It is hard – for me on this blog – to keep up with all things going on in this country. I was happy to just stumble upon this particular project. I filmed the ride with my 360-camera attached to the handlebars of my rental bike. But in this particular case I decided to film from eye level, not from over my head. That means the view to the rear is just looking me in the face all the time, which I think is neither necessary nor aesthetically pleasing. This means you only get to see the forward images as an ordinary, yet very wide-angled video. Enjoy the ride!
My ride from Scheveningen to The Hague. Shown in real-time.
It was 4.7km in a little over 15 minutes or an average speed of about 19km/h.