Wednesday 16 November 2016

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands - Part Eight: Eindhoven to 's-Hertogenbosch

I spent the first two hours of Tuesday morning cycling around Eindhoven and it was impressive at just how pleasurable it was to cycle around such a busy city (with a population of around a quarter of a million people) during the morning rush hour. I described in the previous post how buses were prioritised (along with bicycles) leading from the airport into the city and the situation was similar in the city centre too. Eindhoven has two roads surrounding the (mostly pedestrianised) streets in the very centre of the city, both are one way for motor vehicles (with bus lanes) but with cycle tracks in both directions; positive both for bus passengers who are not delayed behind bicycles as well as for children, enabling them to cycle on these roads. All main roads had cycle tracks of course, along with other cycle only routes, such as the Dommel "silly walks" tunnel. This tunnel is an unusual and interesting place to visit but more importantly it is a well used cycling and walking only route under the railway lines which links the University on one side, with its own network of cycle tracks, with the city centre on the other side, forming a grid of safe cycle routes. Half a kilometre west of this tunnel is another cycling and walking only underpass under the railway lines and the Inner ring Road. Inbetween is a road underpass, with bi-directional cycle tracks along both sides of it, and so the list of why so many choose to cycle here goes on. It was great to see so many people cycling along such busy roads and emphasised what tosh it is when people claim cycle tracks wouldn't work in a busy city in the UK with high bus use. As I stood at one junction that morning taking pictures I saw a mum stop at a set of traffic lights and kiss her child on one of these main roads and felt a bit jealous. I do this to my daughter when I cycle with her in Hackney but do so on the canal or in Victoria Park, why can't we create safe cycling conditions like this on a street in Hackney with buses too? 

I wasn't originally planning on visiting 's-Hertogenbosch and this journey was going to be Eindhoven to Nijmegen but my friend and fellow blogger Mark Wagenbuur invited me to visit the city where he lives, and so I cut my planned visit to Utrecht down to 24 hours and fitted a visit to 's-Hertogenbosch into my trip instead.

Following the morning rush I looked at pictures of Boris Johnson and protests in London under the headline "regrexit?" over breakfast , surprised at just how many pages of this Dutch newspaper were devoted to the Brexit story. I then began my journey north out of the city on a wide road that was closed to motor vehicles due to roadworks. This road was very wide and the main road into the city from the north and so I was amazed that all motor traffic had been removed whilst renovation took place. A bi-directional tiled cycle track was still open along the eastern side of the road but this track was clearly very old with an odd "dual carriageway" arrangement

I did wonder if this track will also be rebuilt at some point as part of these works. Removing that rather pointless central reservation would make for a much wider track, hopefully with some nice smooth red asphalt, although it is already wide enough for people to cycle side by side in either direction as it is. The familiar sight of red asphalt returned as I cycled through a couple of junctions before coming to more roadworks where this time the cycle track was closed along with most of the roadway. The lady in front of me simply cycled up onto the pavement and so I thought I would copy her and continued on the pavement up to the centre of the large junction. Again, this junction was absolutely enormous and clearly where two major roads meet but almost all of it was closed to motor traffic. A new looking bi-directional cycle track had been built on the southern side of the junction and so I hopped round the construction barriers to take some photos of it. 

Just as I was doing this one of the construction workers spotted me and started walking in my direction. The last time this had happened back in London a construction worker had gotten very angry and shouted at me to get out and so, expecting similar treatment, I mentally prepared my "dumb British tourist" routine. He said something to me in Dutch and when I told him I was from the UK he pointed down to the cycle track:
"Do you like it?" he asked.
"Oh.. yes it is lovely, looks very smooth" I replied.
He shook his head and looked down at the track in disappointment "No, it is not good" he replied, "It is not smooth enough and look at the red stuff on there." I noticed an inch or so of red asphalt had made its way onto the pavement at the edge of the cycle track. He knelt down and pointed out the other edge of the track "Those edges, they are really bad. It isn't meant to look like that". He stood up, shook his head one more time and said "it is shit."
I must say it looked great to me and I would absolutely love a cycle track of this quality to be built in London but I wasn't going to argue with a Dutch engineer who builds cycle tracks for a living.
"Have a nice day!" he said, leaving me in the middle of the worksite. I walked over to the northern side of the road and took a picture of the bi-directional cycle track there too, wondering if this was also shit. 

I continued north and the road was initially wide but then narrowed as the area became residential, I passed a park where a mother and her young child were feeding bread to the ducks and geese from the bike. The road ended at a T junction but I was able to continue straight ahead on a bicycle road which led me onto a cycle track through a residential area, I crossed over several quiet residential roads, some of which even had cycle lanes on them but it was clear that driving and cycling routes had been built separately from each other on this housing development. The cycle track continued into fields and led me under the A50 motorway and into an out of town retail development where I kept to cycle tracks past IKEA and various other retailers, safe from the lorries servicing them and industrial businesses in the area. I passed over the Wilhemina canal and cycled alongside the A50 motorway with trees and a drainage ditch between us muting the sound a little. 

The track bent round and ran alongside a road for a short while before I crossed over the roads onto a path through woodland. This was a really fun route, twisting and turning through the trees before it turned into a nice cycle track. 

The trees gave way and the track continued on through farmland. 

This was a lovely route and this cycle track is just a mud track on google maps streetview, dated July 2015 and so can only be a year or so old at most. I turned off onto a country road with painted cycle lanes on it, the lanes soon stopped and the road became a very quiet country lane. It was much like a country lane in the UK except it was not dominated by people cycling in lycra but everyone I saw cycling here were dressed in normal everyday clothes and seemed to be cycling just to get somewhere. 

A family of four out on bikes; the woman has a young child up front on a seat attached to the handlebars

I soon turned off onto a path which led me thorough parkland, where I admired a castle in the distance, into the town of Sint-Oedenrode. It was back to sharing with motor traffic in the town although motor traffic levels seemed very low with most people getting about by bike. I stopped at a cafe for coffee and cake and sat outside watching people going about their business. Motor traffic using the road moved through at a slow pace, due to the design of the road, rather than just painting ugly "20" signs in six foot high markings on a tarmac carriageway and not restricting motor traffic, as would happen in the UK. 

After coffee I cycled through "Markt" the main square in the town, which was pretty but a shame most of it is used as a car park. I turned off into a road that became a dead end for cars but paths continued with small bridges over the river before the path lead me onto a main road. The cycle tracks here varied between tiles and a worn down path, some smooth red asphalt would have been lovely but overall it was fine to cycle along. I turned off this road and continued for the next 7km along country lanes under a very hot sun, again these roads looked very similar to a small country roads in Britain, except these had a 60kph speed limit as opposed to the 100kph that they would have had back home. There were also had raised cobbled areas at every junction, presumably to slow motor traffic down at the places where collisions are more likely to occur. 

Once I reached the N617 I cycled along the service road alongside, which was heavily filtered, before crossing over at a roundabout and using another filtered service road on the other side of the road. Passing along the edge of Sint-Michielsgestel there was an impressive amount of cycle parking, for such a rural location, at a bus stop alongside another roundabout. This roundabout was very odd, it contained a "bear pit" but inside was a roundabout for bikes, within the roundabout for cars. It seemed a bit unnecessary and I almost crashed into it as I filmed it; I've since discovered that a certain local blogger has, of course, written about it before. This bicycle roundabout brought me out onto a residential access road which quickly became a cycle track running alongside the road before turning onto a minor country lane which soon became a service road alongside the N617 as both passed over a wide motorway and led me into 's-Hertogenbosch

Distance: Approx 36km / 22 miles
Time: Approx three hours
Photos taken: 431
Map of the route
Gallery: 60 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

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