|My mother helping me to demonstrate|
the Assen-Rolde Fietsroute+
However, both of these are in Drenthe, not in Groningen and this post is about the First Fietsroute+ in the province of Groningen.
Two years ago, Wilfred took some photos of the construction of a new Fietsroute+ to make the 13 km distance between his home in Zuidhorn and Groningen more attractive to cyclists. This cycle-path was finally completed and officially opened in May as the first Fietsroute+ in Groningen. The local government produced a publicity film for it in which the entertainer Arno Van Der Heyden introduces the new fietsroute+, demonstrates how to cycle along the route, and interviews the burgemeester of Zuidhorn, a passer by, and the cycling project leader about the new cycle-path:
Like the other Fietsroute+ routes, as well as other major routes without that designation, it's designed to be safe, wide to avoid conflict, and smooth and direct to cope with higher speeds than an average cycle-path. The combined population of Zuidhorn and surrounding smaller villages is only around 18000, yet 1500 people per day cycle along this route. Their numbers are boosted by people for whom this section is part of a longer route. It is hoped that the quality of the new cycle-path will attract yet more people out of cars.
However, this wasn't the only publicity. There was another event, an opening "race":
The winner of this "race" was professional cycle racer Bauke Mollema. Bauke Mollema grew up in Zuidhorn and rode to Groningen each day to go to school. He tells an amusing anecdote about how when he made his school journeys along the old path, they would ride with two students next to each other and it too cramped for three, while with the new improved path five abreast will be possible. I've seen how school children and students cycle, and I've no doubt that this will happen.
Bauke is a local hero. This year he took part in the Tour de France, though sadly he had to stop after the 11th stage due to problems from injuries suffered on the sixth stage. Better luck next time !
Progress continues to be made so that cycling becomes steadily safer, faster and more attractive. Seven routes are currently shown as either completed or in progress on the Groningen-Assen website, and another fietsroute+ is also planned to be built along the line of the railway to Winsum, some 15 km North of Groningen:
It is only by continual improvement that cycling can be expected to grow. Standards are so high as they are in the Nnetherlands because they need to be higher here than elsewhere merely to preserve the modal share which already exists, let alone to make it grow. While it is relatively easy to convince the first few percent of the population to cycle because they are the least demanding, if the modal share is to become higher, it becomes steadily more difficult because the target is no longer "low lying fruit". Rather, to maintain and build on a high modal share for cycling, the target audience is necessarily those people who are not easy to convince to ride a bike. They may have longer journeys, be more easily scared off from cycling, come from from demographic groups who are less likely to cycle, or perhaps they simply more likely to prefer an alternative such as driving a car.
This is why development of ever better cycling facilities is not a luxury but a necessity not only in the Netherlands but also elsewhere. Campaigners can make no progress by asking only for what is good enough for themselves. Such campaigners are themselves the low-lying fruit and they are already riding. For progress, the standards have to improve and this isn't achieved by aiming low. The benefit of good quality cycling facilities is for everyone, even professional cycle-racers.
In related news, Bauke became a father last week. Gefeliciteerd Bauke en Jane !