Tuesday 15 November 2016

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands - Part Seven: Breda to Eindhoven via Tilburg

Following a couple of hours of cycling aimlessly around Breda on a Monday morning, just heading in random directions to see what it was like, I began my journey east out of the city on one of the main roads, which had bi-directional cycle tracks along both sides of it. As I approached the river which circles the city I turned left onto a filtered road, which was busy with lots of people cycling and allowed me to avoid the main road on the other side of the water, which just had painted cycle lanes on it. As this route reached a main road the crossing over it was also filtered and this crossing was being used by plenty of young people heading to school / college. 

I travelled east along this main road through a residential area along nice smooth cycle tracks, which continued past side roads, set back from the carriageway. This is very ordinary in the Netherlands but I thought I would stop at a random side road and post it on twitter

Designing streets is this way allows anyone to cycle, even if they have both their dog and child with them. The residential properties suddenly gave way as the road turned into the N282, passing under the A27 motorway with my own set of traffic lights as I reached the slip road leading to and from the motorway. I was now on a bi-directional cycle track (with another on the other side of the road) which passed through an industrial area 

Followed by  countryside as I exited Breda, a very nice city that I hope to revisit one day. Entering the small town of Dorst using a combination of service roads for local residents and tiled cycle tracks it became clear the road alongside was freshly resurfaced, with landscaping work also taking place and I wondered if the cycle track was due to be replaced by red asphalt next. There was no traffic congestion at all and so I was surprised to find the road closed and a diversion in place, even for bikes. I was able to bypass the closure by using minor roads through farmland alongside to quickly return to the closed main road, so eerily silent was it that I briefly filmed itAs I cycled along this main road it was bizarre to not see another human being; no cars or cyclists at all, just me and the sound of birds singing. I even passed a few businesses; a car showroom and some retail places selling caravans and travel equipment, all open but completely devoid of customers. I began to think how this situation probably wouldn't be tolerated in the UK, cars unable to access "outraged" local businesses would make local news. Maybe it does here too. A large fence and defence pillboxes to my right made it clear I was passing a large military base and, as the traffic returned I could see a runway, a lot of military vehicles and even army personnel carrying out training exercises in the large field alongside. I continued along a cycle track that would occasionally become a filtered service road, turning back to a cycle track at the traffic lights where a lorry definitely did not go through a red light as we all know only cyclists do that. I had to cross over a huge crossroads where two main roads, the N282 and N260, met but thankfully I had my own cycle crossing which took me onto a cycle track through a residential area, with a large green wall muffling the sounds of the heavy traffic on the main road on the other side for both myself and the local residents living here

I travelled through the car park between the apartments and the railway line before descending under the railway line through a walking and cycling only underpass. For anyone driving to this housing area they can only get in and out via one entrance onto the main road I'd just left but this underpass meant it was a through route for people walking and cycling. People on bikes get the shorter and more direct route into Tilburg, cars have to go the long way round. After the underpass I cycled along a road that was an access road for cars to local properties but was filtered in several places so could only be used as a through route by bike or on foot. Even when sharing with cars there were still dedicated cycle lanes, along with speed reduction measures for cars. This route was being used by dozens of school children, all of whom were wearing sports equipment, mostly the familiar orange shirts of the Dutch National football team. 

From looking at a map it seems they were all cycling to football pitches nearby from school for football practice. Not all children had a bike and so some were having a backie on the back of their mates bike (you'll hopefully appreciate it did not seem appropriate to take pictures of teenage children in their PE kit at this moment). I thought of the UK and the amount of times I see children on school visits decked out in high viz, even when walking. I don't think a school in the UK would let children cycle independently to their PE lesson, and certainly not sat on the back of someone else's bike, an activity which is very normal in the Netherlands; it is perfectly safe to do this when the roads are designed in this way. I continued on through Reehofspark where they really needed to empty the cycling bin and then onto a nice service road between houses and woods. 

As it was filtered in places it was being heavily used by people cycling but I did not come across one single car using it. I also noticed that it had streetlights all along it so a route that can be used at any time all year round. Despite the lack of motor vehicles a cycle track did then reappear alongside the road, which continued as I carried on into the woods, a very nice route to cycle along indeed.

The cycle track split away from the road at this point, separated from a walkway by a hedge (and still with streetlights!) before emerging next to Tilburg Universiteit railway station above the main road below, giving me an opportunity to photograph the cycle track and bus stop bypass from above. 

The cycle track continued through the railway station car park and alongside access roads, even though they were filtered. I soon turned right under the railway bridge and then onto the main road alongside the main railway stationI could have completely bypassed Tilburg altogether but as it was roughly half way between Breda and Eindhoven I thought I may as well cycle through it to check it out and see if I could find a spot for lunch. I cycled into the centre of the city and came across the entrance to an underground bicycle parking garage. Unsure what the deal was I wheeled my bicycle down before asking the attendant if I had to pay. "Yes, it'll be ten euros, sir" she said before laughing and assuring me that no, I could park for free. The parking lot was half empty but as it is in the main shopping area I assume it is much busier on a Saturday afternoon than lunchtime on a Monday! 

Roughly a quarter of the underground cycle parking facility under the main shopping area of Tilburg

Following lunch I headed out of the city on a cycle track which reminded me of CS2 with its high kerbs, although I wish CS2 had the separation from roadway and side road treatment this one had. I then wished for high kerbs again as I briefly had to use painted cycle lanes before the kerbs returned, along with heavy rain and so I took shelter in a bike parking shelter at the side of the road. I noticed most people simply carried on cycling and was intrigued to see that elderly people cycling appeared to have come prepared and began to unpack their waterproofs whereas younger people just cycled through the rain and got wet. As the rain eased I continued out of the city and alongside the Wilhelmina canal on a tiled cycle track with a road for service vehicles alongside, although it was only being used by joggers. The tiles soon thankfully became asphalt and a much more pleasant ride as I enjoyed watching the geese swim alongside in perfect formation and a local rowing club practising whilst their coach cycled alongside shouting encouragement from his bike through a megaphone.

I crossed over the canal and cycled along the other side, the route was nice, good enough for roadies to use, but it was continually raining along this section of the journey. Not particularly heavy rain but enough to get me wet and I made a promise that as soon as I returned to the UK I would take a leaf from the elderly dutch population and invest in some rain wear. The cycle track suddenly became very smooth as I came across workmen installing new posts alongside the track. It was clear that this section had been freshly resurfaced and further on a tractor was dumping loads of soil alongside the track, presumably for landscaping works alongside. This was a lovely section to cycle along I just wish it had been a sunny day to do so!

The route along the canal came to an end as I reached the town of Oirschot and it was time to turn South towards Eindhoven alongside a road called Eindhovensedijk for a couple of miles

a pleasant enough but unremarkable journey (for the Dutch) before I was back onto another beautifully smooth cycle track alongside the Beatrix canal. I could have stayed on the canal all along as these two canals do meet and it really is remarkable to see how the Dutch not only spend money on ensuring their "leisure" routes alongside canals are well maintained to a very high standard but also provide safe route alongside busy roads nearby so people don't have to go out of the way to find a decent route to ride on. You really can ride almost anywhere from A to B no matter what your age in safe and comfortable conditions.

I very much enjoyed cycling along this lovely track hearing the planes overhead as they landed and took off from Eindhoven airport alongside. I was tempted to carry on but eventually turned off and cycled over the canal and through a residential area as there was a certain local landmark in the suburbs I wanted to see. To get from the area  to the Hovenring I cycled along what seemed like a main road until I noticed that the main road alongside was for buses only and the minor roads on the other side of the cycle track were access roads for local residents. 

The route on a map - a direct route for buses from Eindhoven Airport into the city and for people cycling but despite the width cars cannot use this route. Local residents driving to properties alongside have to go the long way round. However the streets they live on have low volumes of traffic as through traffic is sent elsewhere. Safe, quiet streets for children to cycle and play on

Following ten minutes of just cycling around one of the most remarkable examples of cycling infrastructure I have ever seen it was a short ride into the centre of Eindhoven, firstly along some nice residential roads before a series of really awful roads where painted cycle lanes didn't help much when the traffic volume seemed so high. A reminder that whilst Hovenring is spectacular not everywhere in the Netherlands is perfect for cycling.

Distance: Approx 60km / 37 miles
Time: Approx 6 hours
Photos taken: 680
Map of the route
Gallery:  66 photos here

An an analysis of this trip by Jitensha Oni:

Previous posts:

Part One - Hook of Holland to Rotterdam / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Two - Rotterdam to Gouda via Delft / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Three - Gouda to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Four - Utrecht to Amsterdam / Photo Gallery of this journey
Part Five - Amsterdam to Hook of Holland via The Hague / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Six - Hook of Holland to Breda / Photo gallery of this journey


  1. I think those orange costumes are not of the Dutch football team, but of the local hockey club (which undoubtedly is where they were heading)

  2. Nice article, feeling a lot more like being in that place, whould like to spend few years of my life there.