Sunday 4 September 2011

A Saturday ride through quiet countryside

I went for a ride through the countryside yesterday. It took just an hour and a half to make a ride from home, through one of the heaths nearby, and back again. In Drenthe, it's very easy to find somewhere quiet to go for a few minutes:

There are many stiltegebieden or "silent areas" within easy cycling distance of Assen. Even though they are just a short distance from the city, they are about as quiet as it is possible for anywhere to be. The cycle paths don't stop at the city boundary, but continue in all directions through the countryside, so every location can be reached without having to ride on busy roads.

On the way out of Assen I came across a bridge which was opening for a boat. There was soon a queue.

Heading into the heath. This is the start of the stiltegebied. When you stop, you have only the sounds of nature to listen to.

If passing cyclists make the cycle path not quite quiet enough, there are places to walk to and seats to sit on where it is even quieter.

It's like being in the middle of no-where

It was a very nice day, so lots of people were cycling.

Cycling is something the entire population does. On average, Dutch people use bicycles just short of 6 times a week.

Even though this is only a 15 km ride from Assen, it feels remote, as if it is much further away.

The building in the background is in the city.

Some of the cycle paths in nature areas are made of crushed shells. When you read of the 29000 km of cycle paths in the Netherlands, note that recreational paths like this are not included in the total.

Some have been upgraded to concrete.

All sorts of people ride. Here a group of women on racing bikes have stopped at a cafe.

My bike on the other side of a field full of poppies
We came to live in this part of the Netherlands because we found it to be both beautiful and wonderful to cycle through. Our routes go through all the most scenic parts of the area. Book a holiday and you can experience it for yourself.


WestfieldWanderer said...

Very nice.

Most civilised.

Hercule said...

Crushed shells? I hope they are obtained by cruelty free means! I always avoid snails when I'm out riding: there' s a good chance their relatives could catch up with me and exact their revenge!

I like the vast numbers of cyclists: I was thinking I'd seen a lot of cyclists when I passed half a dozen or so last weekend...

David Hembrow said...

Hercule: It matters to me too. I'm vegan. I think they come from a shell beach. I've no idea how sustainable that is, but the coastline in the Netherlands is very well protected.

Cyclists are basically continuous here, at all times, everywhere.

Paul Martin said...


The mobility afforded to the disabled by decent cycling infrastructure is so very important. Here they would be lucky to get out of their front doors in a wheel chair.

I remember how stress free & relaxed we felt when we cycled on those paths in May. It can only be good for your physical & mental health.

Thanks David.

Rob said...

These shells are most likely extracted from the bottom of the Waddenzee. Only empty shells are collected and extraction is only allowed at certain places where it causes the least amount of damage (like near shipping routes). There is some information on the Ecomare website, but it looks a bit outdated (the laws regarding shell extraction were changed in 2005).

Anonymous said...

That bridge shows something which I consider a crucial part of Dutch cycling culture, something I like to call level crossing chicken. At a level crossing, a movable bridge or a big junction cyclists will line up across the full width of a bidirectional path in great numbers, so that when the barriers are raised and/or the lights turn green, both sides have to scramble to get everyone back in their own lane by the time the two streams of traffic meet halfway. It takes a little experience to pull that off safely.

Severin said...

David, you're vegan? In the Netherlands?! In any event, that's pretty cool!

And posts like this amaze me, the quiet zones are rather fascinating.

Frits B said...

@severin: The quiet zones exist because part of this province is covered with "ears" of a gigantic radio telescope - which in turn was located here because of the sparse population. Electromagnetic intrusion from "earthly" sources is prevented as much as possible. I always wonder what the effect of the ever growing electric assist bikes will be: too little to be noticed?
(the word verification code under this item says "accusnon" - the answer to my question?)

David Hembrow said...

Actually, Frits, this area isn't connected with any of the radiotelescopes in Drenthe (not even the big one). There is no restriction on using a mobile 'phone here, for instance. This is a stiltegebied purely for the pleasantness of it. There are now 650000 hectares of stiltegebied spread all across the Netherlands.

amoeba said...

Sounds wonderful. How lovely to escape the roar of the traffic. With only the sound of the wind in one's ears, the clicking of a free-wheel and the occasional rattle of mudguards.