Winter ride in the countryside

My posts often focus on cycling in urban areas, but it is also really pleasant to cycle in the Dutch countryside! Although cycling in the city may seem more regulated – with all the separate cycling infrastructure – the exact same measures of road hierarchy and modal filtering also apply to the road system in the Dutch countryside. Through traffic is on main roads where there is protected cycling infrastructure or – in the case of a motorway – an alternative route for cycling. The smaller roads, used by local traffic only, can be shared. You can experience what that leads to in the ride in this post.

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Just outside Uden, on this beautiful narrow tree lined cycle path, I decided to hit the record button on my camera, unplanned.
The most direct cycle route from Uden in the direction of ‘s-Hertogenbosch takes people to all sorts of infrastructure, from shared country roads to bi-directional cycleways and from muddy dirt paths in the woods to a high-speed cycle route alongside a canal.

In an earlier post I showed you the reconstructed F50 fast cycle route from the village of Nistelrode to the town of Uden. To be able to film that before and after I had cycled from my hometown ʼs-Hertogenbosch via Oss to Nistelrode (twice!). From that village I filmed the ride to Uden and then then I could take a direct route back from there to ʼs-Hertogenbosch. That full circle was about 60 kilometres long. For the “after” images that was an easy afternoon ride on a nice Tuesday in December 2020.

Even on small rural roads there are measures to get the speeds of motor traffic down, such as these bollards that force cars to almost zig-zag through this small village.
Sharing the road with other vehicles is okay as long as the drivers of larger vehicles take some care around more vulnerable and slower traffic users. That was not always the case. Some drivers were too much in a hurry or just thinking about themselves. This driver could have been slightly more to the left.

I hadn’t taken the camera down from my handlebars and just as I had left the town of Uden I thought: “Why don’t I film some more on my way back?”. I didn’t plan this, so I wasn’t sure what I would do with the footage. Realising that I hadn’t filmed from the beginning of the route I thought it may be useless and I stopped filming after a while. Also because I thought the route had become a bit boring. But then I changed my mind again and I decided to film the entire ride back for as long as the battery would hold up. I only stopped filming for few hundred meters and they looked quite the same as what I did film, so in the end you missed nothing spectacular. Surprisingly the battery made it almost all the way to ʼs-Hertogenbosch. I could film the entire back journey but for the last 3 kilometres. If you want to know what that last part looks like, that route (in reverse) is featured in another post.

The main flow of traffic now turns to the right here, but the old road clearly went straight-on. These roads weren’t always paved in the past and the path straight-on indeed isn’t. I took it anyway as it was the shortest route and a familiar one for me.
I had ridden here before, but in the summer. Obviously, that is a different experience, but the path wasn’t too muddy or wet. I did ride on the left hand side mostly. That is allowed because the “fietspad” sign does after all imply that using the “cycle path” is not mandatory here. The top two signs indicate that it is a dead-end for most traffic, except for cycling.

What this video documents, is a simple ride through the countryside. Not one of the more touristic routes on the more beautiful paths, no, this is simply the shortest way home. You will see that it is mostly away from through motor traffic. Motor traffic from Uden to ʼs-Hertogenbosch will use the A50 and the N279, a route of about 27km long. I used minor roads in a more direct route of about 22km long. Sometimes I should perhaps have stayed on the asphalt of the longer detours and not have taken the more direct dirt paths in the woods. But I knew this particular route from the time I filmed the before images in the summer and even in winter these mud paths were still sort-of usable. I did have to clean my bicycle afterwards.

This is the reason for this road being a dead-end for most traffic. This is a modal filter in the middle of the countryside.
From this intersection the old route is also used as the modern route again. That means the road was paved with smooth asphalt again, but also shared with other traffic.

I did encounter some car drivers on the rural roads and the behaviour of not all of them was friendly. You can read more about my findings in the captions. In the end you certainly will get a good idea of what it is like to cycle from town to town in the Netherlands. It is generally pleasant, even when there is no real dedicated cycling infrastructure. Mostly thanks to the nationwide traffic calming policies. The route I filmed is 16.8km long (or 10.4 miles) and there is a real-time version and a sped-up version. This was filmed on Tuesday 15 December 2020.

At this location the modern route takes a detour again (left around the field), but as a cyclist you are able to open the wooden gate and simply continue straight-on to the place in the distance where a white van is parked. That is where the modern route joins the old one again. Taking this short-cut shaved 600 meters off my journey.
Not a vehicle you’d expect to see in the middle of the countryside! I heard it coming behind me and when I looked back I knew I had to make way for this large vehicle. It could not have passed me safely had I been on the asphalt. The driver was not very grateful, I believe. They steered back to the right too early from my perspective. They should have passed me fully before doing that. These large wheels are way too close for comfort.
And it is not only drivers of big vehicles that endanger people cycling. This driver should have moved much more to the left before overtaking me. However, there are wooden bollards on the left hand side as well as on the right hand side, meant to get the speeds down. The driver should have waited behind me to safely pass me after we both passed those bollards. But that would have taken a few seconds and that was clearly too much to ask.
The rumble strip on either side of the smooth asphalt is designed to optically narrow the road to get the speeds down. The strip can be used by all traffic (also cycling) to get out of the way of oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, not all drivers did that. Fortunately, when two people on bicycles have to pass each other they can both stay on the smooth asphalt without any problem.
Not all drivers were unfriendly. This driver understands what that strip is for: to get out of the way of oncoming traffic, also when that other traffic is someone on a bicycle! More drivers should act like this.
Nearly at the end of the video I pass this cycling bridge over the Zuid-Willemsvaart. I wrote a blog post about this bridge after it was opened in December 2016 and when it was better connected to Den Dungen. I did not use that better connection now, I went straight to ‘s-Hertogenbosch from here, which is about 15 minutes further west.
Just 3 kilometres short of ‘s-Hertogenbosch the battery did die after all. This main cycle route alongside a canal takes people straight into the city.


Video of the ride in real-time


Sped-up version


Map of the 16.8km long ride.

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