Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands - Part Ten: Nijmegen to Utrecht

I began my journey out of Nijmegen by riding through Waalfront, an old industrial area alongside the river Waal that is in the process of being regenerated with a mixture of derelict land, new houses being built and former industrial buildings, now all being used by new industries. I'd actually been there the previous evening for dinner and a few beers on the recommendation of my Airbnb host. The Honigcomplex is a huge old food producing factory, the back of which now houses burger joints, coffee roasters and breweries. It reminded me a lot of Queens Yard in Hackney Wick, except I didn't have to cycle with construction lorries to get there; as part of the regeneration of the area new cycling infrastructure has, of course, been built. 

I was here again to visit the Dutch Bicycle Centre, an area of the former factory that now houses over a dozen companies in the cycling industry. I met Jos Sluijsmans who gave me a tour and showed me some great bikes and we talking of cycling in the Netherlands. Jos offered to go with a ride with me around the city but as I knew I had to cycle nearly 50 miles that day to get to Utrecht and would have less than 24 hours in the city by the time I got there I had to regretfully decline. Next time Jos! 

To leave the city I had to cross the River Waal and had a choice of three bridges to do so, and all three had cycle tracks on them of course. The Dutch Bicycle Centre was located almost precisely between two of them and so I chose the newest bridge, which coincidentally turns three years old this week. To get there I had to cycle on quite a large 360 loop in order to access the bridge ascent. It does seem odd that lifts were not added but at least I had a nice cycle track to get me to it. The grass alongside the cycle track was being cut - it is very important that cycle tracks are well maintained like this and that is something the Dutch do well. The cycle track then led me through a busy industrial area before climbing up onto the bridge. From here I could look down onto the redevelopment of Waalfront with the half built cycle track clearly visible. I pondered as to why this couldn't be done in somewhere like the Olympic Park or many other places in London being regenerated with a blank slate. 

Crossing over the bridge itself was quite pleasant with the noise barrier alongside reducing both the noise and wind. It made me think that the proposed elevated cycle superhighway alongside the A40 in West London could work well if designed like this. A shame this scheme has been cancelled then, meaning a lot of work for Sadiq Khan to triple the current superhighway provision, with a focus on segregated lanes, as promised. The bridge was exclusively being used by young students and a dog walker, a couple of whom were happy to smile for the camera and say "cheese" as I took a photo. After a long, fast and fun descent from the bridge I turned off this track and onto a narrow path down to the river. This led me onto a road (which I think was restricted to through motor traffic) and I had a great view of the bridge I had just used before crossing under it on a cycle track. I rejoined the road here, which again I think was restricted to through motor traffic, either way painted cycle lanes soon appeared as did the odd motor vehicle. This continued for around the next five miles, a pleasant enough route with a nice view of the river but nothing particularly interesting to mention. 

I passed under the A50 motorway and then continued on with either water or grass being the main view. The fields around me were mostly flooded following a few weeks of heavy rain, a sign that the well known Dutch flood control measures were working whilst also giving children a chance to play on a boat in the fields.

This road continued for the next 8 or so miles, with nothing interesting to report, until I reached the town of Ochten where I turned away from the river. I was quite glad to do so as nearly 15 miles on the same road had begun to get a little boring. In Ochten I was back to sharing with motor traffic on paved roads again but the only person I saw cycling here was a child on the pavement. I headed out of the town on a cycle track - it was nice to be back on one after so long on that road. The route from Nijmegen to here was fine and I felt safe using it but it was nicer to hear the sound of a motor car behind you and not have to worry about whether you would receive a close pass. Suddenly it started raining heavily and so I took shelter in a cycle parking shelter of a small bus stop before continuing along a cycle track that had clearly been retro fitted into a narrow rural road. I wondered, not for the first time, why this could not happen on many rural A roads in the UK rather than having large grass verges. At several points the road was so narrow between the houses that there was no room for the cycle track and so instead it simply diverted around the back of the buildings alongside the fields instead (the residents of which had their own entrance to the track). The cycle track continued along this road, quite a nice route, until it approached and then ran alongside a railway line and the A15 motorway. I knew these were there from the map on my phone but could not hear them as a large green wall muted the sound. Occasionally there would be a gap in the trees and the sound of motor traffic would seep through along with large advertising boards promoting "Mattie and Wietze in the morning" on Q Music being the only other clue that a major motorway lay on the other side.

I passed under the motorway and railway line before turning north on a cycle track sandwiched between a road and the Amsterdam-Rhine canal. At this point a very British sight appeared - several dozen schoolchildren all decked out in High-Viz, despite being on a cycle track in the middle of the day. I hope this is not a taste of things to come in the Netherlands, but at least they were not wearing helmets. I continued along this road, passing a gigantic DHL warehouse, before the cycle track turned 90 degrees to the left of the road and lead me through some very nice parkland and alongside a lake.

 The track then led me onto a country lane and past a golf club which has a sign outside saying "Welkom Fietsers" with a picture of a cup of coffee underneath it. My Dutch isn't great but even I knew what this sign meant and, as tempted as I was to stop for a coffee, I decided to carry on and get to Utrecht as soon as I could. This road continued for the next few miles, passing under the N835 and the N320 along the way. It was probably the most unpleasant part of the journey as I kept being passed at speed and sometimes quite close by expensive looking cars, almost all of them occupied by a single middle aged man in the drivers seat, quite clearly heading away from a round of golf. What was most frustrating is that I could see from my map, that the wide Amsterdam-Rhine canal was situated just to my left so such a shame a cycle track does not exist running alongside it. Let's hope one day it does!

Reaching the outskirts of Rijswijk I turned left onto the N229 and was glad to be back on a cycle track path again. I was overtaken by three men with far more luggage than me before reaching a jetty for a ferry to take me over the Nederrijn. As the ferry docked five teenage girls exited on bikes, I then boarded the ferry along with two teenage boys for the short ride across the river sat alongside cars. The miserable looking ticket collector came over and after a short conversation with the two teenagers, which presumably was them telling him they had no money, he approached me and I paid my 80 cents. Once we alighted from the ferry I cycled onto a cycle path to the right of the ferry approach

and then on a nice country lane alongside some water and into one of the main shopping streets of the city of Wijk Bij Duurstede. Continuing from here along the main road north on tiled cycle tracks I passed between bus stops and bus stop cycle parking before crossing over to the other side of the road onto a bi-directional cycle track, still coincidentally following the two teenagers from the ferry, nearly two miles after we had alighted. One of them gave a friendly wave goodbye and peeled off as we continued along the cycle track just as the road turned into the very busy N229; fantastic that people of any age can get about by bike here, even right alongside very busy roads

My attention was briefly distracted at this point by a man stood in a hut high in the air ringing bells positioned at the end of long pieces of string in a field alongside the road. My route continued along this busy road for many miles, mostly on a cycle track but occasionally becoming a service road for short periods. It was also clearly a heavily used bus route with buses passing at high speed and every bus stop having large amounts of cycle parking. I passed under the road on the outskirts of Werkhoven, continuing on a service road alongside the other side of the carriageway battling on through the rain until I became so wet and cold that I took shelter under a large cycle shelter at a bus stop on the outskirts of Odijk. A large group of older cyclists passed by, all of them equipped with waterproof overalls once again reminding me what I needed to purchase once I was back home. Continuing along this service road

I reached the A12 motorway where I crossed over the intersection and then travelled along a service road alongside the motorway before crossing under the A12 to use another service road alongside the N411. This route was being used by a lot of people cycling but we had to share the space with several tractors and other farming vehicles who were also it and presumably the prime reason it existed. As I passed a cluster of houses alongside I noticed they all had posters on their windows with a picture of a tractor covered by a big red cross; clearly all the large agricultural vehicles using this service road is an issue here. As we reached the outskirts of Utrecht the service road turned into a cycle track with tractors sent back to the main carriageway, a layout I assume the local residents would  like to see extended. I was now into Utrecht and the cycle track gave way and was replaced by painted cycle lanes, not a particularly pleasant place to cycle and a shame there isn't more dedicated space for cycling, considering the width of the road. As the rain began again I crossed over the old city moat and cycled along the Oudegracht canal in the very centre of the historic city where, it being late on a Friday afternoon, there were plenty of families cycling.

Distance: Approx 70km /  45 miles
Time: Approx  five hours
Photos taken: 570
Map of the route
Gallery:  65 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
Part Seven - Breda to Eindhoven via Tilburg / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Eight: Eindhoven to 's-Hertogenbosch / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Nine: 's-Hertogenbosch to NijmegenPhoto gallery of this journey

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