Cycling during lockdown

Billet en français

This would have been such a special year for the Netherlands. In 2020 we would be the centre of the world’s attention with the Eurovision Song Contest, the Invictus Games, the Grand Prix in Zandvoort (where the audience could only arrive by public transport or by bicycle!) and we would celebrate 75 years of freedom. All that was cancelled. Even the national holiday King’s Day has been cancelled.

The busiest cycleway of the Netherlands was deserted during the morning rush hour of Friday 20 March 2020.

It is going to be a very special year; one for the history books and not only here in the Netherlands. A pandemic of this scale is extremely rare and all over the world people are facing challenging times. I can only hope you and your loved ones will remain safe.

The main hall of Utrecht Central Station. Never before did I see it so quiet. This is 9:45 on a Friday morning.
Deserted trains. Even a voluntary lockdown worked rather well in the Netherlands during the rush hours.

I’ve been working from home since Monday 16 March. The first week in lockdown was (relatively) voluntary in the Netherlands. Although a lot of institutions were forcefully closed by the authorities: schools, universities, bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas. Gatherings with more than 100 people were also forbidden. The government advised people to work from home as much as possible. Many shops closed although that was out of their own free will. All this led to much the same results as in countries with a more forced lockdown. For example rail transport went down by 85% in that first week. There was a small silver lining to all this: with 38% fewer vehicle kilometres, virtually all traffic jams disappeared (99%) and there were 63% fewer traffic crashes!

Only very few people were underway in the morning rush hour. This is one of the busier places in Utrecht.
The quietness was eery at some locations which I only know with a lot of people and life.

Last Friday we could still travel for non-essential trips. And I decided to go to Utrecht to see how things looked there during the lockdown in the morning rush hour. One day later that was already no longer appreciated. Not all rail travel is totally forbidden, but the train service was reduced considerably and people are asked not to use the trains without a very good reason. A total and forced lockdown wouldn’t work for the Dutch psyche. The Netherlands is a society built on mutual trust. The people trust their government and the government trusts its people to do the right things. So we can still go out on the street for no reason but to clear our minds. Cycling is also encouraged, as long as we keep a distance of 1.5 meter to others. The effects of these measures are rather similar to the forced lockdowns elsewhere. Last week Citymapper’s “mobility index” reported the percentage of people in cities all over the world still moving around. The figures for Amsterdam (68%, 12%, 7%, for two weeks ago, last week and yesterday respectively) decreased spectacularly and in a similar way as Paris (57%, 9%, 5%) and Barcelona (61%, 6%, 3%) while in those cities the lockdown is far from voluntary. (From Citymapper, but last week’s figures are no longer given.)

ʼs-Hertogenbosch, a day earlier, seemed a bit more busy than Utrecht even, although it is a lot smaller.

Unfortunately things got out of hand in some locations over the weekend with the very good weather. Nature reserves, the beach and some parks were teeming with people not observing the required minimum social distance. That meant the rules were tightened last Monday. I can’t reasonably go to Utrecht anymore because it is now only allowed to travel for people with essential jobs. Remaining train travel is just 10% of the normal figures this week.

Some of the (stricter) measures are now as follows:

  • Stay home as much as possible. Leave the house only to go to work if you cannot work at home, to buy groceries or to take care of others. You can go out to get some fresh air, but do not do so in groups. Always keep a good distance from other people (at least 1.5 metres) and avoid all social activities and groups of people. At home: limit the number of visitors to 3 and keep sufficient distance (1.5m) from each other.
  • As before, if you have a cough or a cold: stay home. If someone in your household develops a fever, all the members of the household should stay home.
  • All gatherings are prohibited until 1 June,
  • Mayors may designate areas, like parks, beaches or neighbourhoods, where people are not allowed to collect together. The authorities will take action against groups of 3 or more people, who do not all maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from each other. This does not apply to children or to people in the same household, such as families.
  • Mayors can also order specific locations to be closed, including parks, beaches and campsites. And people who violate the rules can be fined.
Social distancing observed in a number of parked bicycles and mopeds. ʼs-Hertogenbosch.

This lockdown will be in place until at least 6 April with the measure of the gatherings in place until 1 June. This means I can barely film for new posts. However, I looked through my vast archives of unused material and I think I can create the 10 posts to cover the coming lockdown period. I hope they will give some people a much needed distraction. For this week I have a number of virtual rides in the eerily quiet cities of Utrecht and ʼs-Hertogenbosch lined up for you. I know some of you love to ride with me in this way, if you do too, enjoy!

Utrecht in Lockdown

Ride 1 from Central Station to the Wilhelminapark starting circa 8:10 am
Unfortunately the image stabilising did not work as expected.

Because the quality of ride 1 is so poor I also show you the return trip from the Wilhelminapark to Central Station starting circa 8:25 am in this video with Ride 2

A short ride in ʼs-Hertogenbosch
filmed on Thursday 19 March 2020 from 7:55 am to 8:00 am

This is my “fake commute” to wake myself up before working from home.


9 thoughts on “Cycling during lockdown

  1. My wife has commuted by bike from Zandvoort to Amsterdam every working day for two years. I doubt a tourist could find the route, and that hasn’t improved during lockdown.

  2. Mark, As i recall, you once did a post describing the equipment and software you use to record and edit your videos, but I cannot find it. Can you direct me to it? If I’m wrong and you’ve never posted that info, perhaps now is a good time.

  3. Very similar restrictions to the UK. Are own cities still have people driving around but the air pollution levels have dropped through the floor (thank goodness)

  4. Wow…. What a difference.

    “Unfortunately things got out of hand in some locations over the weekend with the very good weather.”
    And not just the Netherlands. The U. K. had this issue, as well as Canada, where I live. In fact, Bylaw Officers (in the Province of British Columbia), have been given authority to enforce restrictions in regards to the virus.

    “Cycling is also encouraged, as long as we keep a distance of 1.5 meter to others.”
    The recommended distance to separate people is actually 2 meters. At least that’s what is being said here in Canada.

    “Mayors may designate areas, like parks, beaches or neighborhoods, where people are not allowed to collect together.”
    All levels of Govt. in Canada have implemented similar regulations. Playgrounds, beaches, Provincial and National Parks are either closed, or very limited.

    All that being said, now that you are working from home and thus limited in being able to shoot new vids, maybe you could do viewer requests, or something. Have a little bit of fun. For example, I’m trying to find a video (I’m certain you shot it):

    The vid in question has to do with a new bridge being built over a canal (if I remember rightly) to replace a previous structure. The existing cycle path was originally planned to be at street level. However, this was not feasible, due to space constraints. Engineers got creative. The bridge was built, but, the cycle path was built in the canal, BELOW the water line. It ended up being something of an attraction, obvious reasons being obvious.

    Apologies for the massive wall of text.

  5. We normally prefer your rural rides to the urban ones, but this time it was eerily fascinating “riding” through the cities.
    We could wish there were always so few motor vehicles!

    Our lockdown (UK) is similar to yours, with some notable exceptions:-
    – our “Social Distancing” is 2 metres (yours 1.5),
    – we must not visit other homes (surprised you can have 3 visitors),
    – we have no relaxation for children to mix beyond their own families – how will this affect their development?
    – our “rules” are not enforceable because they yet Law, but doubtless that will soon come, including fines.

    Keep up the good work Mark.

  6. If while stuck inside you had time to do another animated video like:

    That would be amazing. 🙂

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