Sunday, 2 February 2020

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands part 23: Amersfoort to Amsterdam via Hilversum

I'd enjoyed my time in Amersfoort, it has a lovely almost car free city centre, filled with narrow streets leading to large squares. Beyond the city centre it is dominated by 1970s housing which may not always be the prettiest but it does have a huge network of cycle tracks, roundabouts and bicycle streets, making it safe and easy for people of all ages to cycle anywhere. I hope to come back one day.

I crossed over the road outside my hotel onto a bidirectional cycle track running along the other side of the road, and then crossed a road to turn right onto another bidirectional cycle track. Almost immediately I came to a large supermarket so stopped to pick up some supplies for the day, and briefly causing mild panic for myself by leaving my bike keys at the checkout. After attempting to thank some fellow customers in Dutch for helping to  retrieve my keys I cycled away from the supermarket on a cycle track alongside the road and then continued directly on as the road ended, cycling up and over a bridge that went over a road underneath, and then down the other side again. At the end I turned left at a roundabout onto a cycle lane on a road and then soon turned off onto a cycling bridge over a waterway. At the end of the residential street this lead me onto, I turned left at a roundabout via a bidirectional cycle track which then lead me under the N199 road, and then right onto a cycle track running alongside the road

I cycled under the A1 motorway and then almost immediately turned left into a narrow lane signposted as a through route for bicycles only. This went through fields, where the smell of manure was very strong, and then past where a barrier should have been to keep out motor traffic, but had been removed.

I soon came to the end of this lane and then turned left onto a road where I met the A1 motorway again, although I turned right just before it to run on a very wide cycle track alongside the motorway, over the river Eem.

As I cycled over here I couldn't help but think how well engineered this cycle only bridge was, just as good as the motorway alongside. Of course this is nothing exceptional to the Dutch who do build cycle routes to the same quality as the roads alongside, but I guess I'm used to the UK where cycle routes are often bolted on at the end of a project, perhaps with a couple of shared footway signs, if you're lucky. The cycle track bent round and the swung down to a crossing of the exit and entry slip roads to and from the motorway. I then cycled along a road which quickly bent to the right away from the motorway as painted cycle lanes appeared. After a short while I turned left onto another country lane, signposted as a route for bicycles or tractors only, and cycled along here through fields for the next couple of kilometres

At the end of this lane there was a cycle crossing over a main road to a service road running alongside, which took me under the motorway again and then became a cycle track round the corner, which lead to a couple of parallel "horse and bike" crossings

I was briefly on a service road alongside the main road leading from Baarn to Hilversum, but this then quickly became a cycle track. I cycled along here for the next couple of miles, a pleasant route mostly setback a fair distance from the road, and mainly through woodland. I briefly rested and ate alongside a lake before I entered Hilversum. The bidirectional cycle track became unidirectional, and so I was directed onto a tiled cycle track on the opposite side of the road. This continued on through the suburbs, until I turned off onto a block paved residential street which lead directly to a cycle track passing underneath Hilversum station

From the station I cycled around the ring road which circled the centre of the city - one way for motor traffic but with cycle tracks in both directions. Originally I had planned to spend a little time in the city and explore it on foot but, perhaps unfairly, I decided there was little for me to see in Hilversum and carried on, heading west out of the city via a cycle track alongside a main road. This continued on to the edge of the city where I crossed over and cycled south alongside another road, turned right to bypass a roundabout and then continued on to cross over the road shortly after another roundabout.

I was now cycling on a bidirectional cycle track alongside the N201 road heading west away from Hilversum and just happened to be cycling behind three young women, cycling three abreast at a relaxed pace as they all chatted to each other. Occasionally they would have to break that formation, such as when overtaking this man on his mobility scooter, but on the whole they cycled three abreast in a relaxed manner in front of me for the next 15 minutes, way out of Hilversum deep into the countryside whilst motor traffic zoomed past at a high speed on the road alongside
This isn't a particularly unusual sight for the Netherlands, often when I'm cycling in rural areas miles from a town or city I see groups of people cycling in their normal, everyday clothes and I often wonder where are these people going? My question was answered after a long cycle as the three girls all stopped to lean their bikes up against a tree, alongside many other parked bicycles alongside the cycle track

This was a local beach, if you can all a long section of grass by a lake that, and there were a lot of people swimming in the water, or sunbathing alongside and most had clearly cycled from miles away to get here. I sat on the grass myself for around 30 minutes for some food and rest, and as I did so a group of four teenage boys all stopped on their bikes alongside me. I was expecting to hear them speak Dutch but they all started to speak English to each other in British accents. I then noticed one of them had a "International school Hilversum" jersey on; these were all British children living and going to school in the Netherlands. Almost certainly they would have just cycled the six miles from their school along the same road I had just used, probably cycling four abreast most of the way. Would they have done this if they were still living back in the UK, on a typical British A road mixing with vehicles travelling at 60mph or more? I doubt it. 

I continued on along the same cycle track alongside the N201, bypassing a turbo roundabout altogether, and then crossing the Vecht river. At a set of traffic lights I turned right and briefly cycled along the road into the village of Vreeland and then very quickly turned left into a narrow lane signposted for cycles only, meaning I was only in Vreeland for about ten seconds. I cycled along here for about the next mile through the polders

with the road filtered halfway along. I then came to the Amsterdam-Rhine canal and turned right to cycle alongside itI had last cycled alongside the canal back in 2015, cycling from Utrecht to Amsterdam, however back then I was on the other side, using a bicycle priority road. Along this side of the canal I just had a narrow bidirectional cycle track. After cycling along here for a few miles I came to the reason I had purposefully diverted this way - the Nigtevecht cycle bridge

This had opened the previous summer and I had followed its construction with interest, and also read about it on Mark Wagenbuur's blog. It certainly was very impressive up close as it towered high above me. I cycled over it to the other side of the canal 
and then cycled back again, behind two kids cycling home from school who seemed amused I was taking pictures - for them this was just a bridge to get home and nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever 

The view from the top of the Nigtevecht Bridge 
Once back over the otter side again I continued along the canal for another couple of miles until I reached the village of Driemond where the path came to an end and I was directed onto the road through the village. As I did so a whole class of schoolchildren passed me in the opposite direction and I was surprised to see they were all wearing helmets and high viz for some silly reason; probably none of them had done so on the cycle into school that day! I then met the N236 road and cycled alongside it on a bidirectional cycle track until I reached Gaasperpark a short distance on. I then cycled through the woodland on some narrow twisting paths and then through parkland on some very wide straight paths.

I cycled under the A9 motorway and then up and over a gigantic tunnel under construction. This is a huge project where the motorway is being buried underground to make the surrounding environment more pleasant for residents living alongside by eliminating the noise of the traffic. The space above the tunnel, as well as the former motorway alongside, will eventually become a public park

The A9 motorway running along the left and the roof of the new tunnel it will run in alongside 
I cycled back down the temporary cycle track above the tunnel and then cycled through Bijlmer for the next few miles on direct and wide cycle tracks, all separated from the road network.

I then cycled alongside the canal on a very wide path which came to an end at the base of skyscrapers and became a cycle track leading me directly through the business district and into the Centre of Amsterdam 

Distance: Approx 55km / 35 miles
Time: approx six-and-a-half hours
Map of the route
Photos taken: 635
Gallery: 80 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 a 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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