Monday 31 August 2009

Vuelta a Espana second stage

We went to see the second stage of the Vuelta in Assen yesterday. The 202 km stage started in the city and passed through twice more on the way to the finish in Emmen.

There are many other videos on youtube, including a nice bit on the pave further south, some aerial shots including racing through Assen and the last few km and finish (just as we saw it on the local TV, but we had Dutch commentary).

Sunday 30 August 2009

Vuelta first stage / prologue

Yesterday was the first stage of the Vuelta, a time trial on the TT track in Assen. 40000 people turned up to watch, and 10000 took part in the "tour version" of the race on Saturday morning.

There are also other videos of the tour version of the race, and some of the events at the TT circuit immediately beforehand, including police motorcyclists doing stunts, and an interview with Erik Dekker a few days beforehand.

An interview with the Swiss winner, Fabian Cancellara can be seen at 2:45 in this video.

Friday 28 August 2009

La Vuelta is nearly here

This Saturday, the 64th edition of La Vuelta a España, one of the big three Grand Tours, starts here in Assen. The city is ready and waiting, there are Spanish and cycling themed things everywhere.

The scan is of one of the few pages every week that the local government prints in the local paper about what is going on in the city. This week, it's largely about La Vuelta.

There is more information on the city's website, the province's website, and of course the the official Vuelta website.

I hope to produce a better post about the racing when I've had a chance to see a little more. Unfortunately, I've been a bit busy lately and had no chance to get any photos but the ones of the additional street signs. There is a huge programme of activities which starts tonight with a team presentation at 17:00, but I know I'll miss that as it's the time when I'll be thinking about riding back from Groningen after work.

I will try to make the music tonight, and of course the racing itself. Thanks to a friend passing on tickets which he can't use, we've VIP tickets to the prologue on the TT track. We'll also be watching the riders racing in Assen on Sunday. They pass through the city three times, coming within 50 m of our home twice.

Anyway, I need to eat breakfast now and get myself to work...

Update a bit later in the day... This the team presentation which I missed today at 5pm. Apparently 10000 people turned up:

Wednesday 26 August 2009

More Railway Tunnels

Railway lines often form a barrier to cyclists. That's just as true here in the Netherlands as in other countries.

As reported recently by the Fietsersbond, Minister Eurlings has made 117 million euros available to build tunnels under railway lines. These can reduce the distance that cyclists need to travel, and increase the popularity of cycling.

Tunnels for cyclists cost between one and 5 million euros to build and this new funding will cover a quarter of the cost for any individual tunnel. The new the funding is therefore enough to support building of around 150-200 average tunnels over the next couple of years, and these will be spread between the 26 towns targeted by the funding.

There are already quite a large number of crossings of railway lines for cyclists. One of those in Assen itself is shown in the video below:

And here's another, 30 km North, which provides a short cut on my commute to Groningen. Note how pedestrians and cyclists are separate in both cases, with a four metre wide cycle path and a two metre wide sidewalk:

Read more about bicycle tunnels in the Netherlands, including details of standards for width, slopes etc.

Remember that the Netherlands has a population of just 16 million people. This new funding works out as around 7 Euros per person, just for extra railway tunnels. There is plenty of funding elsewhere for other things to do with cycling (e.g. Assen spends about 27 euros per person per year on new cycling infrastructure). Quoting just absolute figures can be misleading. It's the spending per capita which is really important.

Monday 24 August 2009

Bikes for fathers

Judy asked these two if they would mind posing for a photo a few days ago in the centre of the city.

The bike is what is known as a "vaderfiets" - "Dad's Bike". The concept is quite simple - it's a practical bike, with an extra seat fitted for riding with your children and pegs for their feet to rest on. How wonderful is that ?

The cover on the front wheel is of hard plastic and intended to stop small feet getting into trouble with the spokes. These are not after-market adaptions, but come as standard with a vaderfiets. As the advertising slogan has it, with one of these bikes "every day is father's day"

And what's so special about this ? Well, it says a lot about what cycling is about over here. It's not only an activity for young sporty people on their own, but also something you do in the centre of the city with your children.

Cycling has to be extremely attractive in order that people will want to ride like this with their children. A very high degree of subjective safety is required to make it normal.

Thursday 20 August 2009

London railway station cycle parking.

Tom Vanderbilt recently wrote an article in Slate which has been generating a few hits to my blog. He pointed to an article in the London newspaper, the Evening Standard which had covered cycle parking at London railway stations.

To summarise, London has 2800 cycle parking spaces shared between 50 railway stations. It also has a population of around eight million people.

On the other hand, Assen where we live in the Netherlands is a small city with just 65000 inhabitants and one railway station. But even at that railway station there are spaces for more than 2500 bikes (update 2013: Assen's railway station is being rebuilt with 3500 bicycle parking spaces).

That's one cycle parking place at the station per 26 Assen residents vs. one space per 2800 Londoners. That's a full two orders of magnitude difference (i.e. 100x).

Here in the Netherlands the railway company says that 4 in 10 railway passengers arrive at the station by bike. London has provided for just 1 in 700 railway passengers to be able to park a bike at the station.

London frequently claims to be doing all kinds of great things for cyclists. The Mayor, Boris Johnson, has used such hyperbole as to suggest that London is a beacon to the world for cycling. However, the truth is that the city remains decades behind. Of course, London is far from the only place to be exaggerating it's achievements, and it can be confusing to work out what is worth looking at, but actually it's simple.

The Netherlands still leads the rest of the world by a large margin. There are many pretenders, accept no substitute...

For comparisons of railway station parking at other cities in the UK with a village here in the Netherlands, take a look here. For an article about how the Netherlands still doesn't have nearly enough, and what's being done about it, look here. Or take a look at the wonderful cycle park at the main station in Groningen which has 10000 spaces for 180000 people.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

The evolution of one Dutch road over 200 years

Mark Wagenbuur has made a great new video showing how a street in Utrecht, the Amsterdamsestraatweg, has evolved over 200 years.

Mark says "Good cycling infrastructure is also possible in old streets. This street in Utrecht (Netherlands) was designed by Napoleon when the Netherlands were part of the French Empire in 1812. It was part of the "Route Impériale no. 2" which connected Paris via paved direct roads with Amsterdam. The street design was changed several times in 200 years. It got the separate cycle paths that exist today around the year 2000."

While the video focusses on just one road so that the story can be told, it's important to point out that similar things have been done right across the nation in hundreds if not thousands of different locations across the Netherlands.

This is also a video showing a bit more of the same street. It carries on from where the other video left off, and includes some of the older infrastructure including on road cycle lane and junctions with no real priority for cyclists.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

More music

Amsterdamize picked up on this song by the band pEp here in the Netherlands. It's got a chorus about how they can "Pedal towards freedom, in the wind and the rain, it feels heavenly good". Nice.

I thought about posting this on here this morning, but was reminded as the last music I put on the blog was on played in the supermarket a few minutes ago evening.

The more important news that Amsterdamize reports on is that there has been a recount of the number of km of cycle path. I've suspected for some time that the official figure of 17000 km was an under-estimate. The new official figure is 29000 km. It's still just an estimate. I've noted before that while Assen claims to have just over 100 km of cycle path, the people who keep them clear of snow and ice in the winter manage to cover over 200 km.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Racing in Rütenbrock

Yesterday we went racing in Germany again. This time it was in Rutenbrock, which is 50 km from Assen. I rode the Mango there with Harry and rode back with Peter. I'd done 157 km at the end of the day, including racing. Harry started from 30 km further away and continued to his girlfriend's house 140 km further on so he'll have ridden over 250 km in total.

Alain Hinzen won both the single lap time trial with 46 km/h and the hour long criterium at over 43 km/h. Peter took sixth place in the time trial with 43 km/h, but due to a crash ended up just behind me in the hour race. Harry came in 18th in the hour long race at 37.3 km/h and I was 23rd at 36.5 km/h. I've ridden my commute faster than that ! These speeds are all a lot slower than last week's races.

Of course, there is a reason for the relative slowness. Different courses suit different people, and this one was especially tricky for velomobiles, there being many tight corners around the residential area where it was difficult to exceed 30 km/h, and where you could be slowed down a lot if there were many other people at the corner at the same time. It takes time to get the speed back up again.

There was also a 12 lap (3/4 hour) race for uprights on the same course, and while the fastest results were from recumbent riders, the uprights did very well too. I think the course suited bunched racing on lighter bikes quite well. Full results here.

Update 19th August. Harry made a video while racing:

Another video, showing Pjotr on a practice lap taking the corners faster than I dared, can be seen here, and another from Harry of his time trial lap is here.

Read my review of the Sinner Mango Velomobile.

Saturday 15 August 2009

Leer European Championships

Last weekend a group of us from Sinner went to Leer in Germany for the European recumbent having championships.

Full results can be found here and more photos and videos are here.

The photo comes from Joachim's gallery and shows me in the Mango going over the line in the 100 km race. Someone is ringing the bell to indicate there is just one more lap. In this race I came 22nd out of 65 averaging just over 40 km/h. In the one hour race I managed 42.3 km/h, which was good enough for 30th place out of 56.

Children inspecting a variety of different coloured Mangos, two of them having just finished racing.

Read my review of the Sinner Mango Velomobile.

Monday 10 August 2009

Is York now "anti-car" ?

A fairly old story from earlier this year, but new to me. Verging on "you couldn't make it up"...

York in England has a higher rate of cycling than most parts of that country. Joe Watt, the "cycling champion" of the city recently quit his job over a new piece of infrastructure.

When asked if it was because the city was becoming anti car, replied that he thought that was the case. More here in the local news article.

View Larger Map

This is the scene of the trouble. The junction of Clifton Green and Water End. This road has perhaps been made ever so slightly more friendly for cyclists than it used to be, but it still falls drastically short of Dutch standards.

The rate of cycling in York remains lower than that anywhere in the Netherlands. You can see why. Cycle facilities need to be much more subjectively safe and give cyclists an advantage in directness if they are to attract the majority of the population to cycling.

Freewheeler's blog points out that Joe Watt's first action on taking the post was to denounce cyclists for taking part in a naked bike ride. Personally, I'm not that fussed about naked bike rides. However, I see such protests as an indication that all is not well with cycling. If conditions were good enough, there would not be much interest in such a protest.

April 2012 Update
More news about this junction. The minor improvement made for cyclists three years ago is now to be removed. One step forwards... one step back again... This is not progress.

Monday 3 August 2009

Discover public transport

We recently had this leaflet through our door. It offers the opportunity to "discover public transport", by giving each member of the family a one day pass to the local bus network.

The leaflet also points out that folding bikes are allowed on the buses for free as hand luggage.

Being able to take a bike on the bus is a very useful option. I prefer to cycle, but I've done this three times already this year to get to Groningen for work when it's raining too much for the 60 km round trip by bike.

Saturday 1 August 2009

Jeugdtour - junior tour

This week has seen the 45th Jeugdtour Assen. It's the largest youth cycling event in the world. This year it is being named "Junior la Vuelta" to tie in with the Vuelta a Espana, which is starting here in Assen later this month - the first time ever that it has started outside Spain.

Judy took the photo of cyclists in the criterium through the forest this morning. They're racing on one of the roughest surfaces in the area, which I'm beginning to think is maintained like this specifically to add a bit of "A Sunday in Hell" to racing events. I saw a little of the prologue on Monday, but unfortunately missed the rest. Our local TV station has a report from the prologue:

Well done to all the competitors. Results are appearing on the website.

In addition, I've learnt that the cycle racing track in Assen is to be improved. We've already got what I thought was a pretty good tarmac track for a town of 65000 (you can see some pictures in this video), but the existing 780 metre oval is to be extended and improved, and we'll gain a cyclo cross course, a national cyclo cross centre, a sportshall and a 200 metre wooden track. Excellent !

At 1:55 in the video there is an interview with a young cyclist from the UK (Cleveland Wheelers). I wonder if he realises he's been on TV over here ?