Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands part 16: Amsterdam to Alkmaar

Amsterdam and Alkmaar are linked by the long distance cycle route LF7, a popular route to cycle through the North Holland countryside. However, I was only staying in Alkmaar for one night and so chose the most direct route, closely following the road network, to maximize the amount of time I would spend there.

I cycled west out of Amsterdam along Jan Eversenstraat from Rembrandt Park, alongside the tram lines. I crossed over the tram line to continue straight ahead at a roundabout and then continued down this road until I came to a bidirectional cycle track around a roundabout, where I turned right.

This road had an old cycleway, tiled with concrete pavers, making it look very similar to the footway alongside and reverting to paint without continuous footways at side roads . You see this very old style of cycle track a lot in Amsterdam, particularly in outer Amsterdam but these are slowly being replaced as streets are upgraded, usually with smooth red asphalt

As the road reached a canal it turned to the left and the cycleway stopped, leaving me to share with cars on a very British looking road. This didn't last long however, as I turned right to cross the canal and cycle tracks appeared again. These continued for the next half a kilometre or so until I came to a residential road which was filtered with a cycleway at the end. As I turned right the cycleway ahead of me was closed for what looked like resurfacing and so the workman directed me to the other side of the road, which was fine as that was where I was planning to go anyway.

As I sat at the traffic lights waiting to cross I pondered on just how many roads or cycle tracks I had seen that were closed for roadworks during my last three days in Amsterdam. It seemed like almost every other road I went down was closed and Amsterdam appears to be under a major project to update their road system, giving priority to people on foot and bike.I crossed over the road and then the waterway alongside over a cycling bridge, turned right and then left onto a very wide bidirectional cycleway which stretched out in a straight line a long way into the distance (with another on the other side of the road).

I slowly climbed uphill, under railway lines and then over them, with Amsterdam Sloterdijk station to my right, surrounded by tall office blocks. I continued on and then crossed over a main road that had an exceptionally wide central reservation so had two separate crossings but I completed it in one go, as I had a green light for both of them. I then passed under the A5 motorway and had my own mini level crossing just for the cycle track

After crossing under the motorway I was in Westpoort, the main industrial area of Amsterdam.  I was on a wide bidirectional cycleway that ran alongside the main road (with priority at each side road) which was being used by a lot of lorries. At the end of this road the cycleway curved to the left and continued past the smelly OBA Bulk Terminal with mountains of coal to my left, behind the trees, with wind turbines and railway sidings to my right.

Despite it being a wide and comfortable cycle track I hadn't seen anyone else cycling on here for quite some time, and thought what some of the black cab drivers back in London would have to say about it

Eventually I crossed over the road, alongside the railway sidings and then alongside another main road. I crossed over into the entrance to a ferry terminal, which had a very wide and new looking cycle track at its entrance and it was clear that this route had recently been upgraded

Above: the entrance to the ferry terminal on google streetview, eight months apart. Motor traffic lanes reduced from five lanes to one in each direction 
After a five minute wait our boat arrived and myself, some people on road bikes, a few locals and some tourists on Macbikes entered the ferry for the five minute crossing of the North Sea Canal. After alighting from the ferry I cycled alongside the main road leading away from the ferry terminal on a bidirectional cycleway and then straight on at a roundabout, cycling behind a woman who had a dog in her back basket. To get through the next junction I cycled through an underpass

which you can see under construction in 2008 on google streetview here (and use the slider tool to see the current layout). I continued along this road, passing a large retail park filled with furniture stores, garden centres and car dealerships. At the next road junction I turned left towards the railway line. This area was dominated by large roads and out of town retail parks but just look at all the cycle infrastructure that is also here, allowing anyone to safely get about by bike.

I then cycled alongside the railway line and as I approached Zaandam railway station I passed a collection of cartoony looking buildings to my right

I was now cycling directly alongside the railway line and station platforms and continued alongside the railway line as a road appeared to my right. I cycled over a level crossing, which even had its own barriers just for the cycleway and then past abundant cycle parking between a bus stop and Koog ann de Zaan railway station.

I continued between the railway line and road with large hedges separating me from them on either side. The road then bent away from the railway as I entered the town of Wormerveer.

The cycle track became a fierstraat as it entered the town up until shortly after a floating bus stop, where I had to cross over the road to use a unidirectional cycleway on the opposite side of the road. This then became a bidirectional cycleway at the next junction along where I noticed that the cycleway on the opposite side had once again became bidirectional and so decided to swap back over again.

As I saw the N8 road cross over ahead of us an underpass appeared to my right. I cycled underneath it under the road and out the other side, then round the corner onto a residential street. Coming from the residential street up ahead onto the cycleway (and ultimately underpass) that I had just used were a class of schoolchildren, all on an outing or field trip together on their bikes with their teachers cycling with them. Every single child said hello to me as they passed

I thought back a couple of months earlier where I had assisted my daughters school class with an outing to Dalston in Hackney. We got the bus and every child walked either side of the bus journey. They all had hi-viz tops on and the main job of each parent was to stop at each side road to ensure cars did not enter or exit as the children crossed. Here in the Netherlands the infrastructure is safe enough for them all to cycle on their bikes, not a helmet or high-viz in sight. Different world! Rather than continue straight onto the residential street ahead of me I turned to my left 180 degrees to use another underpass to cross under the road.

Thanks to the Google street view feature you can roll the imagery back a decade to 2008 and see these roads where neither of the two cycle underpasses I had used existed. You could still make the exact same journey I had made by bike via safe cycle tracks, completely separated from motor traffic, it just would have been longer with wait times at several traffic lights. I was now cycling north on a bidirectional cycleway alongside the N246. The surface of this cycleway deteriorated slightly but was still perfectly usable by the two elderly ladies on ebikes who had overtaken me, as well as people on road bikes. We soon came to roadworks and a temporary cycleway, which narrowed considerately at one point. I overtook the two elderly ladies and briefly cycled behind two children who were able to chat away to each other as cars and lorries drove past at high speed

Shortly after passing the village of Markenbinnen alongside the Markervaart canal I saw a small wooden jetty alongside on so rested on here to eat some lunch, whilst watching various boats sail by. I continued to cycle north along here before coming to a swing bridge and a signalled T junction, where I crossed over to the other side and turned left, to cycle alongside the N244 road on a service road

After a kilometre the service road turned right to service some rural properties but a cycleway continued alongside the main road for the next couple of kilometres before turning back into a service road again for about another six kilometres, although no motor vehicles were using it at all. I was now on the outskirts of Alkmaar and turned left to go under the road through an underpass, round the corner to another underpass and then looped round to join a cycleway alongside a main road, which crossed over the canal and then took me directly into the centre of Alkmaar. I looped round from this road to cross over the canal and into the historic centre of the city.

If I were to make this journey again I think I would instead use the LF7 long distance route, rather than cycle along the main roads. Not because it was difficult or hazardous (far from it) but simply because it was a bit dull following the road for so long and the constant sound of motor vehicles was annoying.

Distance: Approx 37km /  22 miles
Time: Approx 3 hours
Photos taken: 347
Map of the route
Gallery:  75 photos here

An analysis of this trip by Jitensha Oni:

Next Post:

Part 17: Alkmaar to Lelystad via the Houtribdijk

Previous Posts in this series:

Part 1 - Hook of Holland to Rotterdam / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 2 - Rotterdam to Gouda via Delft / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 3 - Gouda to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 4 - Utrecht to Amsterdam / Photo Gallery of this journey
Part 5 - Amsterdam to Hook of Holland via The Hague / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 6 - Hook of Holland to Breda / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 7 - Breda to Eindhoven via Tilburg / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 8: Eindhoven to 's-Hertogenbosch / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 9: 's-Hertogenbosch to Nijmegen / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 10: Nijmegen to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 11: Hook of Holland to Gouda via Delft and Zoetermeer / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 12: Gouda to Utrecht, via a different route Photo gallery of this journey
Part 13: Utrecht to Nijmegen via Veenendaal, Ede and Arnhem / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 14: Hook of Holland to LeidenPhoto gallery of this journey


  1. Wow! You really put a lot of effort in your journals, respect! Don't forget to enjoy your trips.