In the end, just four intrepid adventurers joined our Jaunt to the Netherlands (think of it as a recce for next time) – but we were rewarded by a weekend of great cycling, sunshine and (finally) cake…
The ferry landed us in Ijmuiden, and on the 20-odd mile ride into Amsterdam we rode on a variety of cycling provision – from cycle tracks separated from cars, to beautifully wide and well-surfaced cycle tracks along main roads (where we almost got taken out by a speeding motor scooter … not everything in the Netherlands is perfect), to single track country lanes that would not have looked out of place around Dumfries. Apart from scooters, though, we rarely had to ride alongside motorised traffic.
Once we got into the outskirts of Amsterdam, we slightly lost our way, having gone off either the ‘red’ (direct fast) or ‘green’ (more scenic) routes we were following. It was notable that even when we weren’t on a signed cycle route, there were still cycle tracks, paths, or just painted lanes – and generally bikes got their own traffic signals so there was no need to mix with traffic
Amsterdam proper is a densely packed city with canals, trams, buses, bikes, pedestrians and cars all needing space – which can be a bit daunting when you’re not used to it. For the bikes, that doesn’t mean there are always cycle tracks or lanes – sometimes you just get streets which are one-way to cars and two ways for bikes, or only a through road for bikes and pedestrians.
Of course, like in any big city, parking can be a nightmare…
On the Sunday, we met Marc of Amsterdamize who kindly showed us some of the finer points of Amsterdam’s latest cycling developments (and also guided us almost half way back to our ferry! Which was much appreciated by all concerned). Although cycle tracks alongside main roads are the classic way of providing direct convenient routes, these days the Dutch do more to ‘unravel’ modes. At a couple of new developments, while there is access by car, it’s just a dead end, whereas the bike routes are direct and go straight through
There was a lot to take in during a very short visit – but what struck us most was how normal cycling was. Apart from people out training on racing bikes, everyone was in their everyday clothes, and there were cyclists of all shapes and sizes and ages – including quite small children cycling independently.
And it was quite a shock to the system to return to the UK … although the cycle route from the ferry to the centre of Newcastle isn’t bad at all, by UK standards, it really didn’t measure up to the best of what the Dutch are doing
It was nice to stop off for some cake though…
Now we just have to work out how to persuade the council to do even a tenth of what the Dutch would consider standard provision for cyclists.