Two fast north-south cycling routes to pass Roermond
Roermond, a city in the south of the Netherlands, had to find a route to traverse the city as part of an over 50 kilometre long fast cycling route that is under development in the province of Limburg. In February 2019, the city council established two routes, one through the centre of the city and one bypassing the city to the east. With only a few missing links, both routes were relatively easy to improve. The centre route is shorter, but the bypass route should be faster and was supposed to be more attractive for people on electric bicycles and for racing cyclists. The council of Roermond has worked on the missing links in 2021. Although not all plans have been executed (yet), I tested both routes for this post.
The developing long distance cycle route in the province of Limburg is over 50 kilometres long. The most southern province of the Netherlands has an elongated shape between Belgium and Germany and is less than 10 kilometres wide at some points. This shape causes main routes to almost always be from north to south in this province. Roermond is a city in the cycle route that indeed needs to be traversed from south to north. In 2019, the city decided about two routes, which would only require relatively easy quick wins to improve them considerably. The east bypass follows the former east-circular road around Roermond, that had lost its importance after the opening of the parallel motorway A73 in 2008/2009. That motorway is partly in a tunnel so that the road does not affect the nature reserve around the river Roer. The river gives its name to the city located at the point where the Roer ends and flows in the river Maas (Meuse). Hence Roermond, which means “Mouth of the river Roer”.
South of the city both routes follow the same road for a while, alongside Maastrichterweg. There, a wide two-way cycle path with a smooth red asphalt surface was opened earlier this year. A missing link in the east-bypass route was where the former ring-road had been removed to create space for a new housing area. A straight new cycle way was constructed at the exact location of the former ring road. At some points it is 3 metres wide, but in turns and at some other locations it is 3.5 metres wide. That is quite a difference, but I must admit that I had not noticed it when I cycled. I only found out about it when I studied the plans.
The city announced that no changes would be made in the city centre. Which is a pity because some of that route has a really unorthodox type of infrastructure. Parts of it have almost no distinction between the areas for walking and cycling. But those streets look very old-fashioned for car traffic too. I may be that the city expects to update the cycling infrastructure here as part of an update of the entire roads, at no additional cost.
One part of the city centre route, north of the railway station, did get completely new cycling infrastructure. Directly parallel to the railway tracks the new cycle path gives a much quicker connection to the north than via the existing roads.
A dotted line shows a possible short-cut north of the city, in the presentation of the plans in 2020. That link has not been built yet and seems to be for the more distant future. That link would bypass a country road that you have to use now. It is not too bad, although I did have my closest encounter of both routes at that location. Creating that shortcut would involve the crossing of two railway lines, so it will be challenging and costly to create. On my map below it is a blue line next to (and just north of) the N280.
I don’t really understand the reasoning behind the longer route around the city. I would expect people to want to cycle the shortest route. Isn’t going around a city what you would offer car drivers? On the other hand I also know that cyclists do indeed not always choose the shortest route and I must admit that even I rode faster on the bypass. I rode the 5.5 kilometers of the alternative city centre route in 15 minutes, which is 21.6km/h, while I rode the entire east bypass route, (9.9km long) in 25 minutes or at an average speed of 23.8km/h. I rode much faster than usual, on both routes, but that was because I had a rather strong wind in the back, which clearly does make a difference. I wonder which route you will prefer when you compare both videos.
Roermond is now constructing a next part of the long distance cycle route. Just north of the city in the town of Swalmen, which also belongs to the municipality of Roermond. I do not know when the entire route from Sittard to Venlo is planned to be finished. The province doesn’t mention the route on the list of projects that need to be finished before 2023.