Tuesday 14 April 2009

Keep away from the fellow who owns an automobile

Judy and I went for a another great ride through the countryside yesterday afternoon and having heard this wonderful Irving Berlin song sung by Ada Jones (recorded back in 1909), I made a bit of video to go along with it. As I have mentioned many times before, it's always a pleasure to cycle here precisely because you get to "keep away from the fellow who owns an automobile" virtually all the time, as you do on all of our holiday routes.

We were actually on the way to see the men's Ronde van Drenthe pass through Westerbork, which I also made a video of, though you see much more in the local TV station's coverage. Most of the area is quite flat, but the race route includes a 23% hill.

The winner was the Italian Maurizio Biondo who averaged 43.23 km/h over the 205 km course. Second place was taken by the local competitor Kenny Van Hummel. His team's car is often to be seen parked just a few hundred metres from our home.

Our speeds were a little slower. Speed really wasn't the point.

There are more holiday style posts and more touring and recreation posts. If you want to see these routes for yourself, book a cycling holiday.


jayjay said...

A fascinating view of life in a different world than mine. Thanks for the great movie and very funny song.

Kevin Love said...

Nice ride, lovely music. You may want to edit the caption at 3:15.

I'm surprised at the water overflowing the road at 2:50. In Toronto, cyclists go nuts and newspapers write articles when that happens. For an example, see:


Note the tone of breathless reporting - a cyclist got WET! Something must be done at once! Fortunately, the government is going to fix it right away.

From the article:

"We watched a cyclist come scooting along the path then hit the brakes as he eased through it. Water showered up, soaking his back."

I'll bet he didn't have proper mudguards.

Is having water on the path something that is seen as OK where you are?

Peter said...

that was totally awesome! good job!

i looked for the lyrics, but most online samples only seem to have the first two verses.

Eduardo G. S. said...

A very nice video, thanks for share, and regards from Mexico city. Keep cycling!!!

David Hembrow said...

Kevin: I've never seen a road flooded here, nor a non recreational cycle path.

There are thousands of kilometres of cycle path in this area, including this recreational section in a beautiful area with a high water table. In the winter that section of path was closed and a (short) detour provided.

It's not so much considered to be OK, as inevitable in places like this. If you really don't like such things, there are several alternative routes going in the same direction. This sort of thing is provided in addition to the routes that commuters tend to use.

The same goes for bumpy paths which are used by mountain bikers. You could complain about the non smooth surface of these, but they simply offer a choice (one I don't often take).

crispy said...

It is striking how FLAT your country is! It occurs to me that geography alone encourages people to cycle - there are no onerous hills to overcome. While climbing on an unloaded bicycle is not an issue, climbing with 60+ pounds of groceries and cargo quickly becomes a problem without power assist. Either that, or you equip the bike with frankly ridiculous reduction ratios!

It is always interesting for me to read your blog - I live in the US and belong to the "vehicular driving" school of thought for interacting with traffic on a bicycle, so your blog provides an interesting contrast to my worldview. From what I have seen, the cycling infrastructure is very well thought out. I remain unconvinced that such a system would work, or could even be implemented in the States.

David Hembrow said...

Crispy, I was also a "vehicular cyclist" for many years when I was in the UK. It's a fine way of coping with the existing, terrible, conditions in the US and UK, but that's all it is. It does nothing at all to encourage mass cycling, as can be seen from the statistics surrounding cycling rates in the different countries.

Decent infrastructure makes all the difference in the world. Not only are more people encouraged to cycle, but those of us who like to cycle further have a much better time too.

The Dutch realised many years ago that it was cheaper to put in such infrastructure and to have the resulting level of cycling in the population than it is to deal with the consequences of not doing so.

The US and UK wouldn't built anywhere without the essential services of roads, sidewalks, drains, telephone lines and electricity supply. The Dutch have an extra essential service: the cycle path.

I do take your point about geography, but it's really not that big a deal. Switzerland is one of the most mountainous countries in the world, but they have a cycling rate much higher than even flat parts of the US and UK. The difference is how pleasant it is to cycle.

Unknown said...

Here in the Niagara Region of Ontario, we have a Welland Canal trail. Goes from St. Catharines to Port Colborne (which is quite far, goes through two fair sized cities), and for the most part you don't come into contact with vehicles.

I think only a handful of times you have to cross busy roads. Unfortunately you have to wait until the road is clear, in order to cross.
The major cons of this trail is that you share it with pedestrians & rollerbladers and in the winter it's pretty well closed.

Here is a link to an old blog post I did (back in 2006) from the first time I took the trail. Wasn't 100% complete.

crispy said...

David, another point hit me after I hit the "post" button concerning geography: the distances between major cities in the Netherlands is an order of magnitude smaller than comparative cities in the States. For instance, the line-of-sight distance between Amsterdam and Utrecht (which according to a quick survey with google earth appears to be the nearest reasonably sized city) is a hair over 20 miles.

In the States, the line-of-sight distance between Raleigh, NC and Greensboro, NC is nearly 70 miles. Most people in reasonable shape could ride what I would guess is roughly 30-35 miles between Amsterdam and Utrecht (depending on how direct the route is) in a day. However, the number of people fit enough to ride the nearly 80 miles between Raleigh and Greensboro is significantly smaller!

I am not criticizing what the Netherlands have done at all - I wish we had similar levels of cycling over here on our side of the pond.

Your point about hills is taken - to the uninitiated (i.e. those that drive everywhere) hills are a bigger deal than to those of us who ride every day and know that every hill can be surmounted eventually.

I wouldn't call cycling conditions over here "horrible" (although this may be simply because I have not been exposed to anything better). I have ridden nearly 10,000 miles so far in my short lifetime, and have never been struck by a car (knock on wood). While riding on cycling specific paths is arguably safer and encourages more people to ride, I would be loathe to give up the freedom to ride on any road, to any place I wanted.

David Hembrow said...


The distances between cities are mostly irrelevant. Even 20 miles is further than most people will cycle. It's also considerably further than the average journey distances both here and in the US. Remember that 40% of all journeys in the US are under 2 miles. Those are the ones to target first. Also, of course, it is possible to combine modes.

Some people do cycle commute between Amsterdam and Utrecht. In fact, long distance cycle commuting is more popular here than anywhere else I'm aware of. There is plenty of company on my 40 mile round trip.

The thing about not having hills is that you get headwinds. Awesome headwinds. While you can ride to the top of a hill and coast down the other side, you don't get that luxury with a headwind.

My commute to work yesterday morning meant riding into a constant 20 mph headwind for the entire 20 mph distance. It increased my time to five minutes over an hour, and meant I got to work barely on time. When I rode home, the wind had turned right around. I would very willingly swap the wind for hills.

No cyclist has given up anything here. Where there are cycle facilities they are invariably better than the roads. Either more direct if it's a utilitarian route, or more scenic if it's a recreational route. No-one wants to be on the road instead if there is a cycle path which offers an improvement in conditions. You can get to more places, more conveniently and through more beautiful countryside by bike than you can by car. Cyclists have significantly gained freedom due to the infrastructure and policies here, not lost it.

You may not think that conditions are horrible where you are, but you also write on your blog of problems with "a whole bunch of dumb shi!ts who had forgotten how to drive". I understand what you mean. The same people sometimes featured on my cycle rides when I lived in the UK. However, it doesn't happen here. Not ever. Perhaps this sort of thing doesn't seem "horrible" to you and I and other people who like cycling enough to put up with it, but it's enough to ensure that most people never cycle. And that's exactly what you see in the US: Most people don't ever cycle. Here it is very rare to find a non-cyclist.

I now ride about 8000 miles a year. I'm riding more here than I did when I lived in the UK because it is simply more pleasant, more practical and above all more fun. Some people here ride an awful lot more than that, though. We had a bike in for service a couple of days ago that had done 70000 km in just three years or so.

The results of all this cycling are reflected in the Dutch success in racing vs. countries where there is less cycling, such as England or the US. Remember that the population of this country is comparatively tiny - just 16 M people vs. 300 M in your own.

Les said...

David - What a wonderful reminder of the day you spent riding around with Helen & I.

Such a carefree lifestyle - which quickly disappeared when Helen & I got back to Canada.

You were an excellent tour guide and continue to be one of the most knowledgeable people I know in terms of cycling and everything associated.