Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands part 17: Alkmaar to Lelystad via the Houtribdijk

Whilst I had wanted to visit the city of Alkmaar and cycle through the North Holland countryside my main influence in deciding to visit this area was because I wanted to cycle on the Houtribdijk, a 27km long route which connects the cities of Enkhuizen and Lelystad. Although called a dike, it is actually a dam, built between 1963 and 1975 as part of the Zuiderzee works

The Houtribdijk, which also carries the N307 and separate cycleway from Enkhuizen to Lelystad
I spent the morning (after the school run) being a tourist in the very pretty city of Alkmaar on a very warm morning, visiting the cheese museum, among other things. Therefore it was almost midday by the time I left but I was still expecting to get to Lelystad by mid to late afternoon. My journey began on the same route it had ended the previous day, via Nieuwe Schermerweg heading east out of the city. Shortly before the main ring road I turned left onto a distributor road with cycle lanes, although these did briefly have cycle tracks at floating bus stops. I cycled past a school, the quietness broken by children playing in the playground outside and then turned right onto a cycle path. As I came to the canal and a narrow bridge a sign indicated I was leaving Alkmaar and I had a very nice view from the top of the bridge.

After this bridge I turned left to follow the canal and then kept to the left to go onto a cycleway to climb up to the main road to cross over the canal, with a view of an underpass to my right for those who wanted to carry on under the main road instead.

Once alongside the main road I cycled over the bridge and then turned left to loop round and cycle back under the main road. The cycleway continued straight ahead but I turned right here onto another cycleway alongside the canal, which soon turned into an access only road. Almost immediately after this, as I approached a roundabout, a cycleway appeared on my left so I went onto it and crossed the road just north of the roundabout. I then continued along this cycleway to the north of the canal and road alongside until I reached the village of Oterleek, where the cycleway ended and I was then cycling on cycle lanes on the road.

I entered the village of Rustenburg and after crossing the canal over a narrow bridge I turned left, onto another road with painted cycle lanes. I briefly had to stop here to apply some sun cream as the scorching early afternoon sun was beating down on me. The route continued like this for the next few kilometres as I cycled past fields with gigantic sheds full of cows being milked, something I had been watching on film in the cheese museum just a few hours earlier. I passed through the town of De Goorn and, as I exited it and came to a crossroads at the junction with the N194 road I saw some construction work to my left and the unmistakable sight of a bicycle underpass under construction.

The turbo roundabout being constructed next to it was near completion but I was directed south of it, to a temporary crossing, until the underpass is completed. I then made my way back up to the road I was on, via a temporary cycleway, where I had a clearer view of the under-construction bicycle underpass from the other side of the new roundabout. As I stood taking photos a group of teenagers cycled past and all used the temporary crossing with ease, but did have to wait to give way to a lorry. They wouldn't have to for much longer

The Google satellite imagery shows this junction with the turbo roundabout and cycle underpass under constriction. If you look at the area on satellite view and scroll either north or south you'll see this is a series of junctions being redesigned like this along this road, each of them with bicycle underpasses. 
I continued along a road with housing either side for the next 5 kilometres into Hoorn. It was lunchtime and so as I cycled along here groups of teenagers were also cycling, presumably going home for lunch or they may have had a break in their studies. Sometimes the road had painted cycle lanes on it and other times it didn't, but had other traffic calming measures. As I turned the corner a cycleway appeared as I entered Hoorn, I turned left at a roundabout and continued on a cycleway tiled with concrete pavers, which must have been bidirectional, even though it had no centre lines to indicate this. It briefly became a service road with cycle lanes before turning back into a cycleway and looping round the centre of Hoorn, alongside a wide main road. As the road turned to the left I was sandwiched between it and a dike to my right, with the Markermeer beyond that and my planned route would continue on the cycleway alongside the main road. However I could see a bridge above the main road so diverted to my right in order to be able to cycle up onto the bridge and look down at the road below.

I was quite hungry now and it was very hot so I decided I needed to find some shade and a place to eat. In retrospect I wish I had diverted into the centre of Hoorn before I reached this point, rather than cycling around the main ring road around it. I looked on google for somewhere nearby to eat and the "outdoor orange restaurant" was the closest recommendation and so I cycled along the dike to this cafe at the beach where I enjoyed some lunch with a beer. I must admit that with my sun lounger, shade and table service I perhaps relaxed a little too much and two more beers were ordered after food

An hour and a half later I decided it was time to muster up the energy to get back on the bike and as I unlocked my bike it was clear that it was school finishing time as dozens of teenagers all turned up on their bikes at the beach. I cycled back the way I had come, along the filtered to motor traffic dike, under the bridge I'd earlier been on and then out of Hoorn on a cycleway alongside the N506. A couple of teenage boys overtook me here and then one proceeded to share his chewing gum with the other, safely passing it over as they cycled side-by-side with motor traffic speeding past on the road alongside. I thought, not for the first time, why on earth every country does not have this type of infrastructure alongside rural roads.

I continued along this pleasant cycleway for another few kilometres before it became a service road alongside the N506 for another few kilometres and then crossed to another service road on the other side of the road. It was here that I approached roadworks and crossed an unopened road, south of an unopened roundabout, onto a smooth cycleway alongside and then under an unopened new road. This will be, or by now is, the N307 road and from the google maps satellite images of this area it is clear to see what a huge project this is, with a new road carved through the countryside and enormous junctions under construction. This link gives more details and explains that this is the construction (or upgrade) of both the N307 and N194 roads and is the same reason I saw that new bicycle underpass several hours earlier. The same kind of projects occur in the UK as well of course, but the cycling infrastructure, both temporary and permanent, is nowhere near as good as this. After cycling underneath the under construction road I turned right onto a smooth new cycleway alongside another new road which had not opened yet and then passed what perhaps was an old bicycle dug up during construction works.

The cycleway then bent away from the new road, surrounded by brownness as landscaping works were still not complete, and I then cycled on a series of cycleways on the edge of a residential area. This brought me back to the N307 road and more roadworks where a cycling bridge was being constructed in order to bypass a roundabout. I crossed the road on a temporary crossing and then cycled round the corner and up the hill where I had a much clearer view of the construction of the bridge and the deck of it. I was now cycling on an access road to a Europarcs resort but was soon able to join a very smooth cycleway alongside the N307 road again. I continued along this lovely recently resurfaced cycleway for the next couple of kilometres until I came to a set of traffic lights where I crossed the road and then turned right to begin my 26km journey along the Houtribdijk out of Holland and into Flevoland.

I cycled over a lifting bridge and then joined a service road with cycle lanes for a short while, as I passed five wind turbines to my right. A cycleway then reappeared which took me under the Naviduct where I could see a large boat was passing through above me. It was spectacular to see this structure in person and here is some drone footage of it in action, which is also spectacular. I cycled up out from under the naviduct and then my view for the next ten kilometres was basically this:

along with at least a dozen dead birds on the cycleway, who had clearly been struck by vehicles on the road alongside. After 30 minutes of this the cycleway crossed up and over to the other side of the dam to run along the water and away from the road as I got to the halfway point and a sight I was not expecting to see

The cycleway was very much closed, with some substantial looking fencing beyond the sign to ensure no cyclists could ignore the signage and carry on. I was a bit stuck as to what to do at this point so cycled down to the Checkpoint Charlie cafe, which was closed. I then spotted a bus shelter in the car park which thankfully had instructions in English to explain that the cycleway had been closed for the past six months to reinforce the dam but would reopen in three days time. In the meantime a free shuttle bus operated with a number listed to book it. I called the number and spoke to a friendly gentleman who told me my bus would be with me shortly and that is was "no problem" that I had a large bike with me. I waited for around 20 minutes before a small minibus arrived from the mainland and, after we put the rear seats down to fit my bike in the back, we drove on to the other side of the Houtribdijk. Whilst this cycleway replacement service was very impressive it was a shame I was not able to cycle the full length of the Houtribdijk. As I was sat in the taxi it occurred to me that this was the first time, in over a dozen visits, that I had ever been inside a motor vehicle whilst in the Netherlands. In all of my previous visits my journeys were all by bike, on foot or by train and it would have been nice to have kept it that way.

I unloaded my bike from the back of the taxi in Flevoland and thanked the driver. I then cycled on a bridge then over the locks and into Lelystad

By now it was gone 7 o' clock in the evening and this was several hours after I had planned to be here. I had booked a hotel nearly ten kilometres south of Lelystad, in order to be based halfway between Lalystad and Almere, a decision I was now regretting. The original route I had planned also took me into Lelystad to explore the city but that was the last thing I wanted to do as I was tired, hot and hungry. Instead I plotted a route to my hotel via google maps forgetting that google maps is terrible at cycle routes, even in the Netherlands. I made my way there as quickly as I could; a 14 km ride on rough gravel paths where I was so exhausted I didn't even take a single photograph.

Distance: Approx 87km (13km of it by taxi) /  54 miles
Time: Approx seven and a half hours
Photos taken: 466
Map of the route
Gallery:  78 photos here

An analysis of this trip by Jitensha Oni:

Next Post:

Part 18: Lelystad to Zwolle

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 Leiden / Photo gallery of this journey

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