I went after lunch and returned just after the schools had shut, so there were a lot of school children making their way home both in the same and the opposite direction to me. A few of them are in the video and photos below.
Most of the first half of the route between here and Hoogeveen is on roads, not cycle paths. However, these are not roads as you probably know them. Yes, in theory they are "shared" with cars, but in practice you only very rarely see a car using them. Some years ago, a parallel road with a higher speed limit was built to take the through traffic. The only cars which use the minor road are those which are accessing properties along it. Today I saw no cars using the minor road in either direction, but I did see a lot of cyclists. On the parallel road with the 80 km/h speed limit there were quite a few cars, but no cyclists. It is illegal to cycle on that road, but we lose nothing due to that.
The Netherlands has 35000 km of cycle path, vs about 130000 km of roads. However, this doesn't imply that when you cycle on the roads that you have to "share" with large numbers of cars. Rather, you are segregated by mode, even when on the roads. What I'm highlighting here is road, not cycle path, so is not part of the 35000 km cycle path total. There are a lot of roads like this in the Netherlands, both in rural and urban settings.
Sometimes it seems that cyclists from the UK in particular get particularly vexed over the issue of being "banned from roads". However, in this case it really makes no difference at all to cyclists. We get the better half of the deal, in fact, with a direct route which is only very rarely invaded by a motor vehicle. What cyclists need to fight for is better conditions for cycling, which result in more cycling. Spending time in defending a position of being allowed to use roads which the majority of the population find unpleasant may slow the decline of cycling, but it will never grow it. The best defence is a good offence. In the case of cycling, growth comes by fighting for cycling conditions with a level of subjective safety such that everyone will want to cycle, and direct routes which make cycling efficient. The Dutch have done this for a while now, with great success relative to other countries.
Most of the still photos which follow were taken heading South, so that's why the main road is on the left in some of these photos, while it's on the right in the video:
|A lone cyclist on the service road, while the parallel road for cars has several cars. Note that the street light is on the quiet road.|
|Several more cyclists on the quiet road. The main road is now on the left of some housing, so it's temporarily out of sight.|
|An adult cyclist blithely passes by a sign saying that he's banned from using the main road. Somehow he seems not to be concerned about this.|
|Another adult cyclist, passing another sign, who doesn't seem to mind one bit about being banned from the road on the left.|
|Two girls riding together with no concerns about motorists.|
|One of the points where the service road becomes a cycle path. This makes it discontinuous for drivers, and is another reason why the road we're using only has cars on it which are being driven to access properties along it.|
|Now on the cycle path. This boy doesn't seem to feel sufficiently threatened by the traffic that he thinks he needs to hold his handlebars properly.|
|An elderly couple out for an afternoon ride. They're heading towards a roundabout, which if you're on the cycle path you completely avoid.|
|I'm also quite glad I'm not on the road. It wouldn't improve my feeling of safety either. Subjective safety is the big question. If there's not enough of it, people don't cycle. It's not just "for beginners". Experienced cyclists also also benefit from conditions which make cycling more pleasant.|
|On the way home now. We're on the cycle path on this side of the trees, the cars are on the right. Here two bikes are being used by four teenagers. Coming in the opposite direction are another elderly couple out for a ride.|
|Two more girls heading home on the cycle path.|
|Back on the road, with more children heading home from school and using the full width. The cars are on the other road to the right of those trees.|
|Another group of children riding home together. They were more spread out before they saw me coming in the opposite direction and made room.|
The route highlighted by this post is shown on the map below. If the only route here by bike was the main road then there is simply no way that there would be this level of cycling, especially by school children. Few parents would see that option as safe. That is why even "on the road" it is important to have segregation of modes.
A 17 km one way distance to school
Conditions like this are what makes the difference between 1% of journeys being by bike in the UK, USA, Australia etc. and 26% of journeys being by bike in the Netherlands. It's the reason why 16 million Dutch people make more cycle journeys between them than 300 million Americans, 65 million British and 20 million Australians all added together. It's also the reason why Dutch cyclists are the safest in the world.
Hoogeveen and back is quite a regular journey for me now, and I've videoed it twice before. Article originally referred to 29000 km of cycle-path. This was incorrect - the Netherlands now recognises 35000 km.