Sunday 24 July 2011

Holiday - and a car free island.

We took a few days holiday last week. This time we went just a few km North from here and stayed on a campsite in the countryside. I'm not going to show you all our family holiday photos, but a few photos of what we saw are perhaps interesting.

Swinging bridge in small fishing village. Note that there is just one lane for cars. Drivers have to negotiate passage over the bridge, while leaving the cycle part of the bridge for cyclists.

This formed part of the cycle path which led from our campsite to the village.
Home-made sign outside another village telling the drivers the names of all the children who play on the streets which they are about to drive through.

We took a ferry to Schiermonnikoog, a small island (half the size of Guernsey) just North of the mainland. It's really a holiday island, accessible only by boat. It's almost completely car free - tourists are not allowed to take cars to the island. The main means of transport is the bicycle. This is a queue for the cycle hire at the ferry terminal on the island. The ferry takes a maximum of a thousand people at a time, and almost all of them join this queue for hire bikes.

The only obvious "cycle path" on Schiermonnikoog leads from the ferry terminal to the island itself. To the left of this path is a road used by service vehicles (for deliveries etc.) which do drive around the island, as well as the bus service between the ferry and the hotels in the village.

This cycle path is needed because there are a small number of commercial vehicles which come off the ferry and a couple of buses which take passengers to the village and directly to hotels. In our day on the island we saw just one private car in use. Therefore, apart from here, riding even on the "main road" is usually a car free experience. In other places other techniques are used to empty rural roads of cars.

Many small children ride their own bikes around the island.

More tourists enjoying cycling on the island.

Cycle parking near one of the coastal cafes on the island

A video giving some of our impressions of Schiermonnikoog. We had a great time. It's really a wonderful place for a relaxing holiday, especially with young children. But perhaps not really the place for a "cycling holiday". With a size of just 17 km by 4 km, it doesn't take long until you're back where you started !

Back on the mainland... One day, the boyfriend of my eldest daughter came to visit. He brought his bike by train and we met him from the nearest railway station, in a village 12 km away. Like all Dutch train stations, this one has a lot of cycle parking even though it serves a village of just 2800 people. There are enough spaces for one in every eleven residents to park a bike at the station (I also made a video). We've covered railway station parking many times before.

The journey between the railway station and our campsite was made entirely on rural cyclepaths like this one, which connect the entire country together, and maintain a level of subjective safety which makes cycling accessible to all.


Frits B said...

On the 6th photo from the top a sign "fietspad" is visible, in a situation where it seems totally superfluous. Symptomatic of an urge in authority to signpost everything?

WestfieldWanderer said...

Not a place to go if you don't like bicycles, then.

Or disabled?

Anonymous said...

WestfieldWanderer: I actually went to Schiermonnikoog with a disabled relative for a wedding, it has multiple taxi companies and buses connecting the main village to every sailing of the ferry. The car ban also doesn't apply to mobility scooters.

Otherwise, it's just as accessible as, say, a public park, or a pedestrianised shopping area. Besides, don't understimate how deep cycling culture goes. My disabled relatives and friends cycle just as much as most able-bodied people, using modified or electrically-assisted bicycles.

David Hembrow said...

Frits: To be fair, there are also examples of the comparatively rare "Voetpad" signs on the island so I guess this is needed to make a distinction between the two.

Westfield: Do some people not like bicycles ?

Those with disabilities are very welcome indeed. Disability scooters, wheelchairs and handcycles are all considered to be the same in law as bicycles.

WestfieldWanderer said...

Good to hear that disabled folk are not forgotten. (The comment was mostly tongue in cheek with a serious hint.)

Do some people not like bicycles, you ask?

I live in UK.

What do you think?

Mark W. said...

Yes, I'm enjoying my holidays but I'm not really 'away' ;-)
What a great video. I've never been to that island myself. Looks very inviting indeed! Seems you had a great time.

Frits B said...

David: What I meant was that cycle paths are generally also used as footpaths (as seen on the photo) - and vice versa, I might add -, and that nobody in his right mind would consider the cycle path pictured as suitable for cars. So unless the footpath on the right crosses the cycle path - which doesn't seem to be the case - it does look like an instinctive action from some official to install a sign; people might wonder what to do next.

In addition to Anonymous' comment: one of my neighbours had her mother over this week. Woman is in her eighties and needs help to walk. But once out of the door she climbed on her bike and rode away. Daughter explained apologetically that it was an electric-assist bike. It's all in the genes.

Neil said...

Is the type of bicycle for hire generally so varied across NL? In particular are bikes with a childseat normally available in towns and how common are bakfiets/cabby style bike for hire (I saw at least one in the video).

David Hembrow said...

No, they're not normally so varied. The cycle hire is quite exceptional in this location.

Anonymous said...

@Neil: Like David says the range is not normaly so varied, but in touristic areas the range of bikes for hire is quite wide as can be seen on this ( bookingpage.

Neil said...

OK, so how easy is it to hire a child (1yo) carrying bike generally. And easier in towns or tourist areas (holiday park)? (sorry for the blatant tourist information request).

David Hembrow said...

Neil, normally it's not that easy to hire a bike for children. We managed in the past, but we got lucky then.

We have a child trailer to hire which could be suitable.