All about cycling in the Netherlands
When I wrote about the cycle route from Oirschot to Boxtel, two years ago, I was very critical about the state of maintenance especially of the Boxtel part. Tree roots had damaged the cycle path considerably and I drew parallels to the cycle route that had been here in the first half of the twentieth century. That path disappeared in the late 1940s because it was not maintained by Boxtel. Today I am happy that I can write: history is not repeating itself.
A short while ago I cycled to the stunning new bridge in Oirschot and on my way there I noticed something was very different on the Boxtel part of the excellent cycle route between the two towns. The part that had been badly damaged was no longer there. That part was already bad when this route had just opened in 2007. That it was still bad in 2018 was inexcusable in my opinion. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what had changed exactly, but that seems amazing after I compared the footage of two years ago with today. Not only the root damage had been taken care of, Boxtel also made sure it wouldn’t happen again: over 130 trees were removed! This changed the entire appearance of the road. That is a bit more than “something different.” The removed trees were mostly poplars. The wood from poplars was always used for wooden shoes and as such they are seen as a material rather than a valuable tree. Some older oaks and beeches have also been cut, those are types of trees that are generally considered valuable. A cutting permit from March 2018 already stated that 94 poplars and 4 oaks were in a dangerously bad state, and needed to be removed. On top of that, over another 30 trees were considered an urgent safety hazard for passers-by, in July 2018. This led to the immediate removal of those additional trees. I am not sure whether that is true or maybe a convenient reason to make this legally possible, but a spokesperson was very serious about it in the local press. “Heavy branches could fall off and it cannot be ruled out that entire trees could snap.” It is a pity about all those trees but it is clear that the cycle way improved a lot from their removal. The cycle path was widened and there is now a completely smooth new top layer of red asphalt. The cutting permit states that the lost trees will be compensated with new trees. That is not always at the same location and in this case no trees were planted alongside the reconstructed cycleway (yet).
That wasn’t the only major change to this cycle route. While I had been harsh about Boxtel there was also a part in Oirschot that had root damage two years ago. I didn’t write about that because compared to the Boxtel damage it wasn’t quite worth mentioning. But with the Boxtel repairs this part would now have become the worst part of the entire route. That is not what happened. The municipality of Oirschot also repaired the damage. The town has had a stretch of asphalt of about 100 metres completely replaced. At this location the trees causing the damage weren’t cut, I hope the foundation was also improved or the roots will almost certainly cause the same damage again in a couple of years. The Oirschot part of this route is in black asphalt, while the Boxtel part is in red asphalt. Red is recommended, but not required.
There was a final minor repair very close to Oirschot that looked brand new. So fresh even that the asphalt was still “spilling”, a phenomenon that usually stops after a while. This method of patching the asphalt is not very common in the Netherlands, we usually replace the entire width of a cycle way, but when I looked up the footage of 2018 I saw that there had already been a patch at the time. A pothole had temporarily been filled with bricks. There is a driveway at this location. Motor vehicles using the cycle way (in this case crossing it) are the only other reason for cycleways to get damaged. Roots being the other as we have seen at the beginning of this post. Bicycles do not damage the asphalt. Even with their very small footprint (where the tyres put pressure on the surface) they are simply not heavy enough to cause wear.
Maintenance is essential to keep cycleways in top condition, but as I wrote in a previous post it has been noted by foreign observers centuries ago that maintaining things in a good state of maintenance seems to be a Dutch trait. Fortunately, the cycle route between Oirschot and Boxtel is now also in excellent condition. In the short video you can see a comparison between the path two years ago and now. The longer video shows the entire ride from Oirschot to Boxtel filmed with my new camera.
The before and after video shows the difference between 2018 and 2020.
Video showing the entire ride from Oirschot to Boxtel.
The sped-up version of the ride.