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.

Billet en français

The south entrance to the city. A brand new bi-directional cycleway alongside Maastrichterweg. This is a cycle way that is part of both routes.
Since both routes run partly parallel, both cross the same river. This is the new bridge in the east bypass.
This is the bridge over the river Roer in the city centre route. Very old fashioned infrastructure. No space between cycle path and roadway and a surface of red concrete tiles.

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”.

Both routes also cross some east-west roads. This is the east bypass that has an underpass to cross the Koninginnelaan (Queen Boulevard).
In the city centre route a level crossing has to be used to get to the other side of the west-end of Koninginnelaan.

In the east-bypass this roundabout leads you to the other side of Oranjelaan (Orange Boulevard).
In the city centre route the intersection with Oranjelaan is a T-junction.

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 newly built cycleway near Vivaldilaan. Some of it is 3 metres wide and some of it is 3.5 metres wide. You would expect to notice such a difference, but I didn’t while I rode there. Picture municipality of Roermond.
A brand new cycle way past a new residential area (right) at the location of the former east circular road. That road became redundant after the A73 motorway was opened. The motorway runs almost parallel to this cycle way that was constructed in April and May 2021.
The former east circular road around Roermond has been reconstructed and downgraded as a neighbourhood access road at this location. This part was only finished very recently. It is almost hard to believe, but the motorway runs directly under this street in a tunnel.

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.

This part of the new cycle way was designated as a sing-out-loud-cycle-way. The musical notes are there to convince people that it is socially acceptable to sing out loud while you cycle here. (Not everything has to be serious, not even in traffic.)
There is one part with new cycling infrastructure in the centre route. This is a new cycle way parallel to the railway, just north of the station. It ticks all the boxes of the guidelines for modern cycling infrastructure. Wide, smooth red asphalt, separate foot way, forgiving kerbs, continued design at side streets, it is very clear who has priority, there is good separation from the road way, etc.

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.

Some of the infrastructure in the city centre is a bit unorthodox. The many car lanes look like they were planned in the 1970s and there is no real separation between the cycleway and the foot way. Only a few cat’s eyes in the surface guide people through this area.
The street leading up to the station. A clear distinction between footway, cycle way and roadway. And tectile paving to guide people to the other side of the street at this crossing. Note how there is space for one person to wait out of the way of other people cycling. But there were three people here, so the other two wait on the right hand side. There was enough space for me to pass.

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.

At this location (south of the city) the routes split. To the right the east-bypass starts, straight-on is the (much shorter) city centre route.
That city centre route will not be updated soon. You do encounter some more old-fashioned types of infrastructure there, such as this one-way cycle path that is a bit on the narrow side. The channel to get to the roadway is for moped riders. They need to join motor traffic here since the cycle way is for cycling only as indicated by the red moped and the arrow.

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.

North of the city there also are some east-west roads that both routes pass; here in the east-bypass as a T-junction to the left.
That same road in the city centre route is a T-junciton to the right.

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.

The east bypass has this one level railway crossing south of the city of the railway from Maastricht to Roermond and further north. The city centre route has two level crossings, because those are in the north and the railway line splits into two directions from the station to the north.
This is the Roerdal (Roer valley). To preserve this nature, the motorway was burried underground on the right hand side. The motorway also passes under the river Roer.
The east-bypass route is mostly like this: a separate cycle way in two directions next to a busy road. That road used to be the ring road, but it is partly still used by a lot of people to get from one area of the city to another. All through traffic will use the motorway.
I found this a strange intersection. On your bicycle you first have to cross the roadway to enter the cycle way on the left hand side of the roadway (in the foreground), no priority for cycling doing that. But then (in the background) the cycle way crosses the very same road that makes a left turn and then cycling does have priority. Why so complicated? You could have cycled on, on the right side of the roadway, to reach the cycle way in the far distance, without crossing the roadway at all.
In the north part of the city centre route there are some country roads that you have to use. Mostly 30km/h and partly 60km/h depending on whether that particular road is in or outside of the built-up area. It was here that I had the closest encounter with a moving vehicle (left) because there was a vehicle parked on the right hand side and the road is very narrow.
At this point the 30km/h zone ends and the 50km/h zone starts (standard speeds in the built-up area). That means that the street changes from a shared space into a roadway with a separate cycle path. Just in time for the roundabout in the distance.
This is the point, north of the city, where both routes converge again. This is the view from the east-bypass. From here the long distance cycle route will continue straight-on to Swalmen and then further all the way to Venlo.
That same point as viewed from the city centre route. In this case you have to take a left turn to ride further north.
End of the built-up area of Roermond (called Remunj in the local dialect, hence that name below Roermond). The border is always marked in the Netherlands because some traffic rules change at that location, most notably blanket speed limits. I stopped at this point in the city centre route video. In the east-bypass video I cycled on a bit further north until after the overpass of the motorway A73.
The ride via the bypass route east of the city (green line on the map below).
Ride via the city centre route (orange line on the map below).

Map with the routes.

3 thoughts on “Two fast north-south cycling routes to pass Roermond

  1. I love the musical note stencils! Sometimes I like to sing while cycling, but am always first looking around to make sure no one is around. Never been to Roermond yet, but would love to visit at some point 🙂

  2. I am still amazed by your videos. Can I ask if you are still using the setup from this video or do you have a different bike mount for your gopro by now?

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