If slow tv is your thing this post is for you! In this week’s video I ride almost one and a half hours in the countryside just south of my hometown ʼs-Hertogenbosch. Contrary to popular belief the recreational cycling network in the Netherlands is not all on separated cycling infrastructure. In fact, in this particular ride it was only a bit more that a third of the time that I rode on protected cycling infrastructure. What does that mean for safety? How pleasant is it to ride then? Let’s look at the reality in this post.
This was a ride I filmed in between rain showers on a cold day in March 2021. Even though we are much nearer to summer now, the weather has not changed that much since then. In fact this week is one of again rain and more rain and temperatures of around 13 degrees Celsius. (55F) That is almost the same as on this ride. The tour was 27.2km (16.9miles) and started at the south end of ʼs-Hertogenbosch. From there I cycled via Sint-Michielsgestel to the village of Gemonde and a forest south of it. From the bridge over the river Dommel I cycled north again, back to Sint-Michielsgestel. After seeing that town for the second time I passed through Vught, which finally brought me back to ʼs-Hertogenbosch. Since the entire ride took 1 hour and 27 minutes I could calculate that I rode at a leisurely pace, on average 18.8km/h (11.5mph).
Although I had never cycled on parts of this route I did not have to check a map once. I simply followed the signs of the numbered junction network. I had plotted the route in advance at home and I had just scribbled the numbers I was going to follow on a piece of paper. I used to follow a route like this online on my smart phone, but since you are no longer allowed to hold an electronic device while you cycle, but you can still hold a piece of paper to glance at every now and then, I do that now.
Part of my route was on the now defunct long distance cycle route LF7. That route has very recently been replaced by the LF Maasroute. This particular part of the route is no longer part of the long distance network. It does remain part of the numbered junction network. When I filmed this the signs had not yet been removed.
Well over a third of this route (38%) was on separated cycling infrastructure (especially next to busier roads) or on minor roads completely closed to motor traffic. On the rest of the route (62%) I had to share the space with motor traffic. In that part of the route I had a lot of interactions with cars. A lot of cars (74) were either passing me or coming towards me.
I wanted to explain these encounters a bit better, so I decided to break the route down a bit in the style of Jitensha Oni. He made charts for a lot of my routes, but I thought I could do it myself for a change. It turned out to be a lot of work! I’m now even more in awe about all of his work!
When you do break the route down it becomes clear that most the interactions were in the built-up area while most of the distance was in the countryside. In fact, only 7 interactions with motor vehicles were on a rural road with a speed limit of 60km/h, while that was a little over a third (or 34%) of the route. Only 22% of the ride was in shared streets in the built-up areas (16% on 30km/h streets and 6% on 50km/h streets), but I saw 67 of the total 74 cars there! One encounter was on a cycleway. A driver wanted to cross that cycleway. She almost failed to see me, but stopped just in time to give me my rightful priority and she made an apologetic gesture.
I am not so happy with all the distance I had to cover on 50km/h roads inside the built-up area that was without protected cycling infrastructure. Some parts did have on-street cycle lanes and some had advisory lanes, but that is not considered up-to-date cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands. I’ve written about this before. Why such streets are not okay becomes clear when you see that 33 (45%) of the encounters with motor traffic were there! No wonder the Dutch Cyclists’ Union advocates for those streets to be updated to the design recommendations!
I was happy with the just 7 cars I encountered on the rural roads. That means that these 60km/h roads are really only used by local traffic and not as short cuts for through traffic. All in all the ride was pleasant and safe. However, if someone would ask me if I think the streets in the municipality of Sint-Michielsgestel meet modern design standards, I would have answered “no”. The chart of this ride seems to agree with me on that gut feeling. Improvements are always possible, also in the Netherlands.
The map of the route in Google maps, which would allow you to study it if you so wish.