People occasionally ask us why we chose to live in Assen, capital of the rural province of Drenthe in the North of the Netherlands, when we could have made our home in one of the better known Dutch cities in the South.
|An extensive grid of quality cycling infrastructure. Not only|
within the city of Assen, also through the countryside.
One of our most important criteria was that our new home had to be in a place which was exceptional for cycling because quite apart from that being pleasant for ourselves, we were already planning to run study tours and organise cycling holidays a long time before we moved here. It would have made no sense to do either of those things from an inferior location.
The Netherlands leads the world in cycling, but cycling infrastructure across the country is not the same everywhere. Both Assen and the countryside around the city are exceptional for cycling even when compared with much of the rest of the Netherlands. That's why we came here.
UCI Bike Region
A couple of weeks ago our local TV news included this clip, "Drenthe is the first area in the world named as a UCI Bike Region":
|Not only does the grid cover obvious commuting routes|
but also very pleasant routes through heath and forest.
How is Drenthe now ?
particularly sparely populated mostly rural province, people cycle further than in most of the rest of the country and despite those longer distances the cycling modal share is higher. The province claims quite a lot. e.g.:
- 29% of all journeys in Drenthe are by bike vs. figure of 27% nationally.
- 15-25 year olds in Drenthe cycle on average 6.12 km per day while nationally the figure is just 4.01 km per day.
- 44% of trips up to 2.5 km in length are by bicycle in Drenthe vs. 38% nationally.
Why is cycling so popular in Drenthe ? It's surely no coincidence that a place with excellent infrastructure should find itself also to have high rate of cycling. With over 2100 km in total, this province has more fully separated cycle-paths than any other.
|Together towards zero|
Drenthe has also been awarded the status of a "five star cycling province" (five stars is the maximum) and there is currently a "quality impulse" available in the form of a financial boost. €20M is to be spent by the province in conjunction with other matched funding, working out as an additional €34 per person. It's enough to make real improvements.
Even before this funding became available, some evidence of a recent emphasis had already made itself know. For instance, a new type of retro-reflective paint used on the centre lines of rural cycle-paths makes them significantly easier to see at night.
The network of excellent cycling infrastructure continues to grow, with "the grid" covering not only towns and cities but also making the entire countryside easily accessible by bike. It is a stated aim to increase the already very high proportion of children who cycle to school and to promote more long distance commuting by bike.
The better funding will contribute towards useful interventions such as the upcoming Assen-Groningen Fietssnelweg. Existing routes between the two cities are already excellent, but for many of those in a hurry this will provide an even better alternative:
|One of the submitted designs for a new Assen-Groningen fietssnelweg, to have a design speed of 35 km/h and absolutely no stops at all. I see myself fitting in very well on that cycle-path, designed to make cycling a genuinely efficient and attractive alternative to driving over a distance of 30 km.|
|13 parcels full of quality bicycle components from our webshop|
beginning their journey to destinations across the world
Of course, in winter we expect the cycling to continue.
Maintenance continues to be excellent and Assen has no potholes in roads and cycle-paths which the ice can make worse.
Remaining in Drenthe
We've now lived in Assen for nearly ten years. This is still the right place from which to promote cycling, to write about our experiences and from which to supply cycling products. We're doing all we can to stay right here and continue to do the same.