A ride from Mark to Zaltbommel

When I rode home to ʼs-Hertogenbosch from work in Utrecht unexpectedly – quite some time ago – I found that a provincial road in the province of Gelderland had been upgraded with a separate bi-directional cycleway. I did not film it at the time, because it was very dark, but I wanted to show this new cycleway on my blog ever since. I now finally managed to film it. I started my ride in a hamlet called “Mark” and cycled from there to Zaltbommel.

billet en français

This week’s video: a ride from Mark to Zaltbommel.

Mark is a tiny place of just one street by the same name. For some obscure reason part of the hamlet belonged to Meteren and another part to Neerijnen. That is why the same house numbers were used twice: in the same street, but in the two different municipalities. Unfortunately, Meteren and Neerijnen both became part of the same new municipality called West Betuwe. (This name was criticised, because most of its territory isn’t actually in the region called Betuwe and because Dutch spelling rules were not applied correctly by omitting the hyphen). To be able to tell the duplicate house numbers apart in the new single municipality a specification had to be added to the street name. There is now a Metersemark and a Neerijnense Mark. (One with and one without a space for no apparent reason but to make it even more complicated.) This messy situation shows that the Dutch aren’t always good in organising things either! For obvious reasons I liked plain “Mark” much better.

A very short video of the hamlet of Mark (Province of Gelderland), the starting point of this rural ride.
With the house numbers used twice in the two separate municipalities Mark belonged to (that have now merged into one) an extra specification of the different Marks became necessary. The one street now has multiple names.

The provincial road N830 had on-street cycle lanes (or better: advisory lanes) until 2017. I did not know the road had been upgraded when I cycled from work in Utrecht to my home in ʼs-Hertogenbosch in January 2018, when the trains had stopped running due to an earlier storm. I dreaded to ride that part of the route in the dark. In my post I wrote:

I knew the infrastructure would be good with just a few exceptions, but it surprised me to see that one of those bad stretches had been completely upgraded. The road from Geldermalsen to Waardenburg used to only have cycle lanes. On-street cycle lanes on an 80 km/h road is totally unacceptable under the sustainable safety policies and this has now been taken care of. The brand new bi-directional cycleway next to the new narrowed roadway had only been opened last September [2017], by local school children.

The bi-directional cycleway is wide enough to cycle three abreast. I am pretty sure that is still against the law, but no real harm is done here.
A well-designed crossing of the side street with a clear priority for cycling.

A ditch besides the road had been filled-in. That meant the space could be used to build a bi-directional cycleway. A new ditch was dug besides the new cycleway. In this wet country they are needed to control the water levels, so it could not just be removed. The cost for the reconstruction of this part of the road was 2.5 million euros according to the road building company. Though I doubt that sum includes the cost for the land that had to be acquired. The reconstruction took place from January 2017 and the official opening was in September 2017. An exceptional archaeological find was the discovery of the remains of approximately 24 humans near the roundabout at Waardenburg. The skeletons proved to date back to the time of Charlemagne. Which means they had been in the ground for roughly 1,200 years.

The redesign of the N830 at Neerijnen from Google Streetview. This is the pre-2017 situation. On-street advisory lanes on an 80km/h road. Completely unacceptable.
The exact same location (see the house to the left) after the reconstruction. There is now a safe and separated bi-directional cycle way. Note the double lines in the centre of the roadway. It is no longer allowed to overtake other vehicles.
This heavy goods vehicle is indicating that the driver wants to turn right into the commercial driveway. Fortunately, I had been in plain sight for the driver when they passed me. That is why they waited patiently for me to pass first.
The edge lines are exceptional but very welcome here since the cycleway is not lit at night. The lines on the edge help people to stay on the cycleway in the dark. Lighting would be better of course. The lights on the main carriage way do not illuminate the cycle way enough.

The one thing I noticed though, that night I cycled here first, was how dark it was. The locals had noticed that too of course. After the cycleway opened, with which they were very happy, they tried to persuade the province to provide that lighting. A petition was signed 600 times, which seems like a lot in such a rural area, but to no avail. A spokesperson for the province told the press that by building that protected cycleway, away from moving traffic, enough was done to improve the safety for cycling and lighting would not be necessary. There still is no lighting, so the political party in the municipality which supported the petition didn’t get its way with the province either.

The route continues through the village of Waardenburg as a 50km/h main street with one-way cycle paths on either side on a slightly raised level. This is not how the manual advises cycleways, there should be some distance between the cycleway and the road way, but at least this is not an on-street cycle lane.
The bridge over the river Waal dates from 1996. There is a separate road for local traffic next to the A2 motorway. That road is only used for cycling and agricultural vehicles. This bridge was the topic of an earlier post.
It is a good thing this road is wider than a usual cycle street. Agricultural vehicles are a lot wider than a standard motor vehicle.

In Waardenburg the cycleway reverts to a mono-directional cycleway on either side of the 50km/h street. Not very wide, but it does the job. From Waardenburg to Zaltbommel the route is parallel to the motorway A2. The part on the bridge over the river Waal is shared with agricultural vehicles. It is a good thing that the road is wide enough, because those vehicles are particularly wide. From the bottom of the bridge you can take a turn and that route simply enters the historic streets of Zaltbommel, which are all in a 30km/h zone. In such zones separated cycling infrastructure is not necessary. The streets have been properly designed as a 30k/h zone, with raised tables on intersections and a brick surface. I ended the ride at the ‘big church’ in Zaltbommel, a 15th century gothic church dedicated to Saint Martin.

The centre streets in Zaltbommel are designed as 30km/h zones. In these streets the Open Dutch Penny-farthing Championships took place in 2019.
The 15th century “big church” of Zaltbommel is dedicated to Saint Martin.

The ride looks a bit dreary. With a drizzle for most of the day, I thought it would be good to show you that people also ride when the weather is not at its best. As it turned out, the atmosphere was more than appropriate for how I felt during this ride. I was called with some rather bad news just before I started to film. My annual health check had revealed that a congenital heart defect has deteriorated considerably. I will most likely need open heart surgery soon to replace a leaking valve. The prospects are fine, and I don’t really want to burden anyone with my personal health status, but this will inevitably have an impact on this blog. The operation and the following rehabilitation are tentatively planned for this fall. This will mean that my blogging and video making will be interrupted for a while. I have already stopped all other activities such as guided tours and presentations, but I have more than enough footage filmed to be able to continue blogging for some time. I will inform you when I know when the forced hiatus will start.

To end this post on a lighter note, I would like to publish here too that my YouTube channel hit 50,000 subscribers last Monday! Thank you all for subscribing and I do hope to make a lot more videos in the future.

My 50,000 subscribers special video!

22 thoughts on “A ride from Mark to Zaltbommel

  1. So sorry to read about your heart Mark – best wishes for a speedy recovery. My friend and work colleague had the same operation, and now he feels fitter than ever – I am sure you will feel the same!

  2. Great post, Mark. I remember reading the blogpost of your long ride home in January 2018 with increasing worry on my part, even though I knew you’d made it home safely! You must be a good story-teller!

    The hamlet of Mark with its house-numbering and split names made me think of the Dr Seuss story about the stubborn pair of Zax from the Prairie of Pax, who ended up having a freeway built around them because they refused to move out of each other’s way. Theodor Seuss Geisel was a good story-teller too.

    Like everybody else, I too wish you all the best for the future.

    Kind regards,

  3. Yesterday after I had watched your videos I read some of the comments. I was very curious as to what was the concern was. Now that I have finally gotten to read this blog… Both my wife ( Paméla ) and I wish you a speedy recovery.

    Take care,

  4. I think I came across this bridge myself when I was cycle touring in NL – and had a major “holy ****!!” moment when a large tractor came the other way. At least a separated track means you only have the farm equipment to deal with, without more traffic zooming past!

    Sorry to hear about your news, that’s rotten. Wishing you all the best for a successful treatment and a speedy recovery.

  5. Good luck Mark. Here in UK we hope you will recover swiftly.
    We also hope we will soon be allowed to enjoy your country’s superb bicycle infrastructure. While we wait for Covid restrictions to be eased, your videos give us great pleasure and inspiration.

  6. Mark, doe inderdaad maar een tijd goed kalm aan. Op een voorspoedig verloop en herstel van de operatie. Alle goeds!

  7. Sending lots of support and love. Your articles and videos are wonderful. Veel succes en een spoedig herstel!

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