Monday, 8 January 2018

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands - Part Eleven: Hook of Holland to Gouda via Delft and Zoetermeer

For the third summer in a row I arrived into Hook of Holland, via an overnight ferry from Harwich, to spend a week cycling around the Netherlands. My previous two visits to the country had started by cycling into the small town to buy some breakfast from a local bakery, however this time I gave into the constant PA announcements and ate a buffet breakfast on the ferry itself. It wasn't a particularly satisfying meal and was considerably more expensive, therefore I expect to return to buying my breakfast from one of the local bakeries on my next trip to the country. However, choosing to eat on the ferry meant that as well as skipping a visit into the town I could use a cycle track for the first time; one which runs directly from the ferry terminal to the N223, alongside the railway line. To get to it I crossed what used to be the railway line but had been completely ripped up to be transformed into a metro line. The cycle track here is not particularly wide or even that well maintained, with some obvious temporary carriageway repairs, but as it is just a short route to and from the ferry port it isprobably only going to be used by tourists like me a couple of times a day. Still, it is nice to be able to use a cycle track almost as soon as you pass through passport control!
At the end of this cycle track I reached the N223 where instead of continuing along the water towards Maassluis as I had the last two times, I turned left to head north out of Hook of Holland via a bidirectional cycle track alongside the road. I crossed over the road, passing a couple of people on road bikes, enjoying an early Sunday morning ride on the same smooth cycle track as I was using on my heavy, luggage loaded Dutch bike. I soon turned right onto a track through fields 



and couldn't help notice that the barriers had been removed as I reached a road, something I would soon get used to on this trip as this seems to be recent common policy in the Netherlands. The cycle track continued alongside what seemed like a very quiet country lane before I turned left onto a narrow path along the waterway



I turned right into a newly created underpass, built out of what used to be a road when the junction was upgraded. Whilst some may criticise the Dutch for building new roads and junctions to increase capacity for motor traffic outside of their cities they do at least always upgrade their cycling infrastructure at the same time to improve journeys by bicycle also. This allowed a smooth, pleasant and safe journey through this junction, without interacting with motor traffic for me and others. Crossing over the road I used an old tiled cycle track, these are never as pleasant as the newer smooth asphalt cycle tracks but do still allow safe cycle journeys for those young and old


I passed alongside, but not under, another new looking bicycle underpass (this time with the barrier removed) and then turned right onto a cycle track between greenhouses, running parallel to the road on the other side of the greenhouse. I climbed up and over the "De Snelbinder" cycling viaduct, which you can read about on the Bicycle Dutch blog here, a very thorough explanation of why I had passed under and over recently reconstructed roads in this area. I briefly stopped to admire another cycle track from above before a hooped descent back down to ground level and then rejoining a narrow road alongside the water. There were a few houses and businesses located along here but no cars to be seen, only other cyclists and geese. The road bent away from the water as I continued my journey past numerous greenhouses and associated farmhouses, before a left turn led me onto a cycle track through fields


this was being used by people rollerblading, cycling and walking. I cycled underneath the N223 and then alongside it for the next mile and a half, safely separated from lorries alongside, before crossing over the A4 motorway into Delft.

I had visited Delft before, when I cycled from Rotterdam to Gouda back in 2015. I enjoyed my time there and vowed to come back one day and so spent the next hour exploring new developments on the edge of the city
I then cycled into the historic centre of the city to eat some lunch, passing by a supermarket which Mark Treasure writes about here, admiring the upgraded cycle infrastructure as I approached the centre; it really is remarkable and very impressive at how the Dutch continually improve their streets

Following lunch I continued on towards Gouda. I had made the same trip by bike between these two cities two years earlier and so took the opportunity to travel via a different route and to visit the city of Zoetermeer along the way. I began my journey out of the city alongside the new railway station, behind a family cycling. I turned right and cycled along a canal, over a filtered bridge and then down a residential road, also filtered to motor traffic at the end. This then became a pleasant path alongside the water



through woods and then past a large lake, which many people had come to enjoy via bike. The path continued with woods to my right and housing on the other side of the water to my left and was good enough to be used by all kinds of people on bikes . I crossed over a small bridge and then turned right (with another wide, pleasant cycle track continuing straight on to head south)



To my right, in the far distance, I could see other people cycling in small groups of ones or twos along another cycle track through the open countryside, running parallel and just under a kilometre away from the track I had just used. It really is exceptional to see how the Dutch have this wonderful dense network of cycle tracks criss-crossing through their rural areas, far more extensive than their motorway or railway network is. I turned left onto yet another cycle track


and then through a cycling crossroads and under the road the other cycle track I'd just given way to ran alongside. I passed through another similar looking underpass, this time under a railway, crossed over a road and then continued on through countryside and woods, with the cycle track being used by all kinds of people. A very pleasant part of the journey. As I reached the outskirts of Zoetermeer I could see on my map that a cycle & walking bridge existed over the A12 very close by and so took a short detour to go and have a look. Whilst pedestrians had a direct flight of stairs to the bridge those of us on two wheels had to take a long uphill route, turning three times to get there, and so soon started to regret my detour. The bridge wasn't particularly noteworthy but offered a view down to the cycle track which ran alongside the motorway underneath


Turning back the way I came I didn't have to go all the way back down to where I had started as another cycle track joined up halfway down, which led me through a not particularity pretty residential area. However it did provide safe conditions to cycle both alongside the roads and through housing developments and the greenery which surrounded them. As I came to yet another cycling and walking only bridge I remember thinking how amazing it was that people cycling have such a wide variety of direct, safe and obstruction free routes before remembering that this is really exactly how it should be. I then went through a business park, a very odd route for the fietsersbond route planner to choose but at least I was getting plenty of variety. I continued for a short section along a bidirectional cycle track beside a road and then turned left at a crossroads, although it was only a crossroads for people cycling, who had priority here



This was a quiet residential road with painted cycle lanes, which then became a cycle track under the railway line and A12 motorway. I turned right to travel along a cycle track beside the motorway, but with sound barriers present to reduce the noise of traffic. I also passed over other cycle tracks which were also running beneath the motorway and railway line



From this point the quickest and shortest way to get to Gouda would have been to continue along this cycle track alongside the motorway, which would have taken me directly into Gouda. However to my north lay Oosterheem, a new residential area of Zoetermeer and having been impressed by the cycling provisions of the new residential developments in Delft earlier in the day I felt it would only be sensible to detour at this point to go and take a look. I turned north and headed through a residential area and onto a bicycle road, the closure of the route to motor traffic under the road bridge making this safe for parents to cycle with their children, rather than the cycle marking "quietway" nonsense you get in London. I briefly stopped off at McDonalds, something I never do at home but the free wifi and decent toilets make this an attractive stop for coffee when I'm on long cycle journeys in the Netherlands. The cycle parking was well used and as many people seemed to be coming and going by bike as they were by car. 

Oosterheem was as great to cycle around as I was expecting it to be. A network of cycle routes separated from the road network crossing each other, with several cycling and walking only bridges, far more than existed for people in cars. These all linked up with each other, leading directly to residential properties and local amenities such as shops and the railway station, with ample bicycle parking. The main school and nursery alongside had a wide continuous cycle track right past it, whereas the road was access only for motor vehicles and could not be used as a through route. Meanwhile back in the UK and Sadiq Khan plans to tear down cycling and walking only routes in the Olympic Park to create new roads for motor traffic right past schools and homes! It began to lightly rain as I headed out of Zoetermeer towards the A12 motorway and then alongside it.



This was all very familiar as it was the route I had taken two years earlier, although as I approached Gouda the roadworks that were there had been completed and a fresh cycle track had been relaid

The same spot in 2015 and 2017

Turns out that these roadworks I had seen back in 2015 were the beginnings of a brand new road, now completed, which lead me through unfamiliar territory before seamlessly joining up with a more familiar route which took me into the centre of Gouda.

Distance: Approx 60km /  37 miles
Time: Approx  seven hours (several of those were spent cycling around Delft and Zoetermeer in circles)
Photos taken: 880
Map of the route
Gallery:  78 photos here

Ann 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 Nijmegen / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Ten: Nijmegen to UtrechtPhoto gallery of this journey

1 comment:

Colin Brace said...

Regarding the long detour for accessing the bridge, sometimes (frequently?) there are guides alongside the stairs for pushing your bike up or down as you climb or descend. Not for the faint of heart in general, nor with a heavily loaded bike, baggage-wise.