Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands part 21: Hoogeveen to Zwolle via Meppel

As I sat eating breakfast on the terrace of my hotel at 7am, wearing shorts and T-shirt, it came as no surprise to check the weather forecast to see it was going to be a hot day, although even I was a little stunned to see it predicting a temperature of 36c. As is my usual routine when stopping over in towns on these trips I spent the morning between breakfast and check out time exploring the town as people made their way to work or school. In the very north of the town I watched a wave of adults cycling to the train station to lock their bike and get the train to their workplace elsewhere. In the east of the town several large schools were all located in the same area, so children cycled into the town from neighbouring villages in all directions continuously, the empty parking spots in the school grounds quickly filling up with thousands of bicycles. Hoogeveen is not a typical tourist destination, however I often prefer observing the everyday, unremarkable routines of the residents in these kind of places.

After I checked out of my hotel I made my way out of the town on the main road heading west, on a cycle track that is shared with the small number of pedestrians who may need to use this road, with the same treatment on the opposite side of the road. As the main road swung to the left I was forced to cross the road to use a bidirectional cycle track on the opposite side of the road, then quickly turned right across the road to use a road alongside the canal. I crossed over a road which ran over the canal to continue along the road alongside the canal where barriers soon appeared to transform the road into a cycle path, which continued on for the next few kilometres.

At the next main road I briefly joined the road to cross over the canal and then turned left onto a road alongside the other side of the canal, which soon bent to the right, allowing me to continue on via a cycle path. This cycle path went underneath another road and then the two merged together.

I cycled along this road for the next few kilometres until another canal appeared to my right, so I crossed over a bridge to the other side of the water and then along the edge of some fields. I was now on the outskirts of Meppel and the route planner had given me a course to bypass the city altogether, but I chose this opportunity to head into the centre of the city in need if some shade and exploration. I headed into the city on a service road alongside N851 road, which turned into a cycle track before the next interchange. I crossed over to the other side of the canal again to use a cycle track through the a wooded area, an industrial estate and then through an underpass below a railway line and road.

I soon found myself in a bustling square, so I sat outside a bar under a huge umbrella, enjoying a cold beer as I watched people navigate the square on foot and on bike, mixing harmoniously together. After my beer I spent a short while exploring the centre of the city on some charming little streets, with many of these streets filtered to through traffic with the use of a simple barrier or two. As I crossed over a canal just south of the city centre a whole school class passed by on their bikes, not one child decked out in high viz or helmets

It made me briefly think of the school outings I sometimes take part in back in Hackney, with my daughter and her classmates all decked out in high viz often to walk a very short distance from the school, as us parents stop at each side road to block cars. I stopped in a park to eat some lunch and then began to make my way out of the city. As I passed a school and playground I couldn't help notice the huge amount of children there were out and about either on bikes or playing. 'Do they not have lessons?' I wondered to myself, and also on twitter - 'tropenrooster' came the reply; in many schools in the Netherlands classes will finish early if the temperature climbs above a certain point.

I then cycled down the entrance road to the local swimming pool, which was filtered at the end to become a nice cycle route through a park. As I came to a main road I crossed over to cycle on a road that lead me out of Meppel and over a wide canal on a lifting bridge. Several teenage boys were enjoying tropenrooster and performing somersaults off the top of the bridge into the water below, whilst teenage girls lay sunbathing at the edge of the water, surrounded by parked bicycles. I turned away from the canal to cycle on a series of quiet roads leading through farmland for about the next five miles

the surface of which kept changing between asphalt and concrete, but was beautifully smooth all the way. I turned off onto what was just an access road to a single house but then continued on as a cycle path, alongside the edge of fields.

I turned right onto a road which then swung to the left as it approached the N331 road to run as a service road alongside, which took me directly into the centre of Hasselt. I had been really struggling with the heat for the past few miles and was very thankful to be able to escape into a Jumbo supermarket in the town. It was only really when I came back out of the air conditioned supermarket into what felt like an oven that I realised just how hot it was. After taking shelter from the heat alongside a canal at the back of the supermarket I set off towards the main road again, admiring the huge amount of cycle parking at a bus stop on the way. I crossed over the Zwarte Water via a bridge and as I cycled down the other side I passed an industrial building which had a digital thermometer display attached to it, showing the temperature was 34c.

I continued away from the bridge on a cycle path running alongside the main road until I met the N331 road again, at which point I was on a cycle track alongside the N331 road, which lead me out of Hasselt and continued on for the next couple of miles.

There were plenty of other people cycling along this service road but I didn't come across a single motor vehicle - they were all driving at speed on the main road alongside. I turned south away from the N331 on a cycle path alongside a road and then came to a beautiful access only road alongside the IJssel river.

This road can only be used by a small number of residential properties as an access road and so once again I saw no motor vehicles at all for the next couple of miles, just people cycling or sunbathing by the river. Zwolle soon appeared in the skyline in the distance as I entered Stadshagen, a residential development just outside of the city which I have written about before. I crossed over the river on a cycle and bus only bridge, which had physical lifting barriers at either end to ensure only buses could use it

From the other side of the bridge it was a short cycle via access only roads, cycle paths and an underpass into the centre of Zwolle

Distance: Approx 50km /  30 miles
Time: Approx five and a half hours
Map of the route
Photos taken: 548
Gallery: 46 photos here

An analysis of this trip by Jitensha Oni:

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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