That riding between towns and cities in the Netherlands can be just as safe and convenient as riding in the built-up areas becomes apparent from this week’s video. Last year I showed you how
the station area of Bilthoven was updated to be much more convenient for walking and cycling. I now cycle from that location all the way to Utrecht. The ride is 9.1 kilometres long, which I was able to cycle in 33 minutes.
Billet en français
A comment that visitors to the Netherlands often make is how well-connected the cycling infrastructure is in this country. This is something the Dutch have worked on for decades: reducing the number of missing links in the cycling network. There are still locations where things can be improved, but in general you can cycle safely to any given location in the country. I rode from Bilthoven to Utrecht after I had filmed for an upcoming post in the area. I have to go back on a later date to finish the recordings, but I can publish this ride today. Not only is the starting point the topic of one of my posts, in this ride I pass the locations of at least 12 posts! (I will put links to several of those from the captions.) This has become a photo post. To tell you more about the route there is some more information in the captions. Enjoy the ride!
Start of the ride at the station of Bilthoven with the underpass that was opened in 2015.
In Bilthoven, I mostly cycled on the left hand side of the road. That means I had to take a left turn at this roundabout which allows cycling in both directions. I wrote about roundabouts a lot on this blog.
At this location the bi-directional cycle way on the left hand side of the road is the only cycling infrastructure available. The traffic signals for cycling and motor traffic have separate green cycles to separate motor vehicles and cycling in time.
No turning car traffic while the light for cycling is green at this location. This is different at every intersection. But when you are cycling straight-on you always have priority over turning cars, even when the lights are green at the same time.
The bi-directional cycle way is wide enough for these two children to cycle side by side and there is then also still room available for others to overtake them. Thanks to the parking lane and some extra space the girls cycle far away from moving traffic.
At this location (outside the built-up area) there is again cycling infrastructure on both sides of the road way, People can choose on which side of the road they want to cycle. It depends on the trip they are taking at that moment which side is more convenient.
Another roundabout, but in this case the cycle way bypasses it. There are only three arms at the roundabout so it could also have been a T-junction. People can make a right turn here (to cycle to the side street), that crossing is then part of the roundabout and cycling has priority.
Yet another roundabout. This time with a bi-directional cycle way all around the roundabout, but since there are also only three arms at the roundabout you can almost by-pass it left of the space for motor vehicles. I think you understand why I chose to cycle on this side of the road. This side has fewer crossings with side streets.
At this location the cycle way runs much further from the road way through a forest. These subtle differences make the route more attractive.
I could have continued on the left hand side of the road, but at this location I chose to switch to the “normal” side of the road. This is a convenient location to do that, which will become clear from the next pictures.
This crossings is not traffic light controlled which gives you the feeling you have control over the situation. There is a good middle refuge space so you only have to wait for a gap in traffic from one direction. The car travel lanes are narrow, so the crossing is short. Note that the crossing and especially the central refuge area is level for pedestrians too. That is more convenient for people in wheel chairs or people pushing a baby carriage.
The cycle way on this side of the road is narrower and you are closer to moving traffic. That is also why I stayed on the wider path on the left hand side for as long as I thought it was convenient.
Had I not crossed where I did, I would have had to cross the road way here, at this signalised intersection. When I can avoid a traffic light so easily as in this case I will certainly do it. I take a right turn here, right before the lights.
For a very short stretch of the route I enter the village centre of De Bilt where the speed limit drops to 30km/h. The street name is exceptional, it means: “Village street formerly known as paved street”. This was the start of an earlier ride to Utrecht, but I take a different route now.
This tunnel was opened in 2019. I showed it in a blog post at the time.
In my previous ride I rode on the right hand side of this main road. Now I cycle on the left hand side. For no other reason than that I wanted to show a different route. The number of traffic lights for side streets such as this one is about the same on either side of the road.
These boys came from the right, but the sharks’ teeth on the road tell us that they should have given me the right of way. I saw that they rather cycled on and I only had to stop pedalling for a brief moment to loose just enough speed to make that safely possible. That is then the polite thing to do.
The cycle way runs wide around this service station. There is no interaction with car drivers entering or leaving the station. There is an identical situation on the other side of the road.
On this busy road you can see all sorts of people cycling on all sorts of bicycles. These two people both ride on a folding bicycle.
After the service station earlier, the cycle way also runs behind the bus stop. There are some bicycle parking racks next to the shelter. People can transfer here from their bicycle to the bus.
Children who are taken everywhere on the back seat in a car have a very limited knowledge of the road network. This young girl is clearly very aware of her surroundings. She points something out to her mother. The knowledge of the road network will give the child an independence at an early age.
At this location we enter Utrecht The cycle way leads under a huge roundabout for motor traffic via a number underpasses dating from 1944. The so-called Utrecht Berekuil was an example for other cities, such as Arnhem, Eindhoven and Goes.
In Utrecht the cycle way is again sometimes only at one side of the street. This time that has to do with the separate bus road that requires most of the available space here. I cycled here in the earlier route too. In that post I explain more about the Biltstraat, one of the oldest paved roads of modern history in the Netherlands.
I continue on the Biltstraat (street to De Bilt), an appropriate name as we have just come from there. The design of this street has separated cycle ways except where there are bus stops. At those locations the car lane becomes the space for a platform and a bus stop shelter and motor traffic and cycling have to share the rest space. A type of design that feels old-fashioned now.
Without the bus stop there is enough space for a separate bus lane, a lane for motor traffic and a separate cycle way. It is a bit confusing that Utrecht chose to make the bus only roads also red.
A bit closer to the city centre the bus route no longer uses the street. There is now enough space for a road way and two one-way cycle paths on either side. This design could be used in any British high street. The style of housing, the functions and the width of the street are all very similar. There is enough room to spare for bicycle parking where that is needed most, such as near this supermarket.
The Voorstraat in the city centre has recently been reconstructed. It is now a cycle street where cars are guest. In the distance we can just about see one of Utrecht’s squares where I once filmed. At that square I will turn right into Potterstraat, a street which I also used as an example in one of my earlier posts.
At Vredenburg it is again more convenient for me to be on the left hand side of the bus road in this case (private motor traffic is not allowed in this street). There is also cycling infrastructure on the other side of the street, but this side is more convenient when you want to cycle to the station. I switched to the other side of the street on the diagonal crossing that you can see from above in one of my earlier posts. Last year the street was closed for a gas leak.
Smakkelaarsveld, or Smakkelaarskade as it is called nowadays, has changed considerably since I filmed this just two months ago. This reconstructed street will be the topic of an upcoming post.
The route ends for me at the biggest bicycle parking garage in the world, the one that can hold 12,500 bicycles, at Utrecht Centraal Station. This is the Smakkelaarshoek entrance. I park my bicycle in this garage to go home by train.
The cycle route from Bilthoven Station to Utrecht Centraal Station. 9.11km in 33 minutes. An average speed of 16.6 km/h or 10.3 mph. Filmed on Wednesday 31 March 2021, from 14:55 to 15:28.
Mark Treasure from AsEasyAsRiding cycled from Bilthoven to Utrecht in September 2019. His take on a slightly different route was published in this blog post.