Tuesday 28 May 2024

Go Dutch 2024 - Part 4: Intercity

When I visit the Netherlands, one of the things I enjoy doing is cycling between towns and cities because it is a great way to experience just how the cycle network operates separately to the motoring network.

I don't actually mean cycling and motoring take place in complete isolation and separation from each other, I mean that getting from A to B by each mode will often take different routes designed for those modes, even where they run next to each other. 

On one of our days for our last trip, we cycled 35km between Breda and Dordrecht which was a perfect example of how this all works. Here's a map of the route we took for those wanting to delve in a little more closely. The video at the end of this post covers the route, but I want to have a look at some of the locations along the route to point out how the Dutch system works. 

First, we actually stayed on the outskirts of Breda because it was cheaper, safe in the knowledge that it would be easy to cycle into the city during our stay and as you can see below, we were well catered for on the arterial roads such as Tilburgseweg.

A red two-way cycle track with a road to the right separated by a verge with a hedgerow.

In terms of the cycling and motoring networks, this is an example of a main cycling route and a main motoring route (the N282) which both link Breda and Tilburg and which share the same corridor. There is also the A58 motorway to the south but that's purely a motoring corridor.

A red two-way cycle track with a road to the right separated by a verge with a hedgerow; it crosses a road running left to right via a set of traffic signals.

Of course, there comes a point where the cycling and motoring networks cross each other and in a situation like this, there will be some kind of traffic management such as traffic signals (above) where the cycle track crosses one of the A27 motorway slip roads, but it is still separated provision which shares a corridor.

A road with a parking to the far left and then to its right, then a verge with a hedgerow to the right of that followed by a red cycle track and a footway with a car lot to the right. There is a person using a mobility scooter on the cycle track.

Further in towards Breda, we lose the multi-lane highway in favour of a pretty common layout of a road with a pair of one-way cycle tracks and separate footways and in the example above, a nice example of a buffer. 

A floating but stop. There is a red cycle track with the passenger island to the left and the shelter on the footway to the right.

The carriageway here is 6 metres in width which helps control driver speed and it is also a bus route. The buffer has car parking, the hedgerow provides greenery in the street, and every so often, the buffer contains a bus stop (above) or a pedestrian crossing point. For this section, the cycling and motoring networks are integrated in their design. 

You'll see the centre of Breda in the video where the city centre is car-light and available for selected access because there is car parking on the edge of the centre, but there is also rail, bus and of course cycle access giving lots of options, but I'm skipping the low traffic centre to get us on the way to Dordrecht.

A red two way cycle track divers under a concrete and glass building. There is a road to the right, but at a much lower level.

The photo above is where Terheijdenstraat goes below the railway to the east of the station and is where again the cycling and motoring networks coincide and are integrated in their design.

A red two way cycle track with grass and trees both sides and road to the left of the left row of trees.

A bit further north (above) and we're starting to return to the model where cycling and motoring are on the same corridor, but the only design integration is where they occasionally cross. The cycle track above has a buffer to the road, but equally, it could be 100 metres away for all the user cares. This section of Terheijdenstraat is interesting as there is a central tidal bus lane in operation along the N285.

A street with a road with a thick pinkish line down its centre. The road is flanked by red cycle tracks and then buildings and a petrol station is on the right.

The main cycle route peels away from the N285 south of the village of Terheijden and so is unravelled from the main motoring network. In fact the N285 is solely for motoring and it soon meets the A59 motorway. The road into Terheijden carries local motor traffic, but it still has cycle separation on Bredaseweg (above) as the speed limit is 50kph (30 mph). In reality, the one-way cycle tracks here are shared-use paths, but few people are walking in the low density outskirts of the village.

A street with a road made from block paving laid in a red strip, a central grey strip and another red strip. A group of road cyclists come towards us on the left. There are buildings both sides.

As we get closer to the village core the cycle tracks become cycle lanes with footways appearing and some traffic calming. In the central section, the cycle lanes give way to more of a cycle street treatment on Hoofdstraat (above) with a speed limit of 30 kph (20mph). It's a space compromise because some drivers didn't leave enough space when passing, but it never felt too busy to mix with traffic. 

A rural road with red cycle lanes on both sides with fields and trees beyond.

On leaving Terheijden, the cycle lanes reappeared with a familiar Dutch treatment that has no centre line, and despite a bit of traffic calming on the outskirts, the 60kph (40mph) speed limit felt uncomfortable on Moerdijkseweg (above), even though traffic was fairly light. This is not the main motoring network as the N285 provides that with a higher speed limit, but it still felt like somewhere that needed a two-way cycle track.

A light grey block paved rural track with fields to the left and a farm to the right.

We turned off and skirted the village of Wagenberg to access a completely different bit of the road network which was still 60 kph (40mph), but it was narrow and pretty much just served farms (above).

A narrow rural road approaching a single line level crossing.

We hardly saw anyone else for ages and of the few people we did see, most were cycling rather than driving. Luckily for us, the wind was light because sometimes this open land can be very hard work if the wind is against you. We did find some interest on Honderdroedeweg where we crossed a single track railway which serves a logistics complex to the east.

A narrow road with a field to the right and a motorway to the left separated by a wide verge.

As we carried on north, we rejoined a cycle track along another road which provided access to the A16 motorway, but we soon turned off it onto Ketelpolder Oost (above) which provides very local access to farms, farmland and wind turbines running parallel to the motorway. The only car we saw was someone picking up a friend who had suffered a mechanical problem on his racing bike!

The view from a two-way cycle track on a bridge over a river with a motorway to the right separated by crash barrier.

Ketelpolder Oost (and it's twin on the other side of the motorway, Ketelpolder West) has a slip road with a height limit that becomes a cycle track. There are also little access tracks right from the motorway which means there is the potential for emergency access via the local access roads here. But in reality, the cycling network which has been using local access roads arrives next to the motorway (and the main motoring network) in order to make use of Moerdijk bridges crossing of the Hollands Diep river. It doesn't interact with the motoring network, it just shares the corridor once more.

A two way cycle track o a bridge with concrete parapets both sides and a road on a close and parallel bridge to the right.

Once across and into South Holland (having left North Brabant), we again found ourselves on a road that is part of what is essentially an elongated motorway junction for the A16 as we crossed the motorway itself at Beerpolderweg (above) and a route which took us north towards Dordrecht.

A wide traffic island as a road meets a roundabout. There is a red cycle track each side on just on the island.

2km north, and we cycled by the edge of an industrial park extension which is the other end of the motorway junction for the A16 and where cycle traffic gives way to motor traffic (above). The cycle route here accesses Rijksstraatweg (below) which has become a long cul-de-sac as new industrial roads have been built in parallel.

A road flanked by trees and a water filled drainage ditch to the left with fields beyond.

This is another lesson in the Dutch continually adjusting its network as in this area, the industrial area is given its own motorway access which keeps that traffic away from the residential areas on the edge of Dordrecht. From a cycling point of view, there is of course access to the industrial area and for longer distance cycle travellers, we got a direct route to the city.

A two way red cycle track with a footway peels left with a parallel road peeling right.

The next section of the journey remained very simple from a cycling perspective as we cycled on the road through a strip of residential development that was separated from the commercial area behind it (but accessible on foot, cycle and local traffic) and then there was more cycle tracks to use to the north of that (above). 

The next kilometre was complex as there was ongoing works with everything pushing through a narrow corridor. Cycling ended up on painted lanes once more and this felt old fashioned compared with the edge of Breda, as cycling was bolted onto motoring space here. 

A narrow street with old brick buildings fronting narrow footways. The road is paved with blocks which are lighter in the centre.

We crossed the canal and ended our journey on Wijnstraat in the older part of Dordrecht (above) and while there is motor access, it was quiet enough that cycling felt safe and comfortable (apart from the surface perhaps!). This is not the cycling network though, just a street that's fine to cycle along.

A shopping street with a two way red cycle track to the right and a narrow grey road to the left with a parking lane to the left of that. There are footways both sides.

As with Breda, we actually had to get out of the centre again for our hotel and we found some more interest. Spuiweg (above) is a shopping street to the south of Dordrecht which provides direct cycle access to and from a large residential area to the south of the city. At first look, a two-way cycle track on a shopping street with one-way for general traffic might look odd, but the main motoring network runs elsewhere and this being a key cycle route to the centre means the layout makes perfect sense.

So, as I said above, here's a video of the route - speeded up for time, but mainly because I set my camera to time-lapse by mistake! If you flick through it, you'll see some of the locations I have covered in this post, but you should also be able to see where the cycling and motoring networks are integrated, are in the same corridors and are separate.

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