We often hear that we are ‘forty years behind’ the Netherlands – for instance, Andrew Gilligan stated last year that
It took 40 years to turn even Amsterdam into Amsterdam, with the kind of cycle facilities it has now
This statistic tends to gloss over just how quickly the Netherlands changed the roads and streets that matter. It certainly didn’t take ’40 years’, and the danger is that such a long timescale provides a justification for inaction.
More importantly, rather than closing that gap, we are falling further behind, as David Hembrow has set out – not just because there has been little or no substantive action in London and elsewhere, but also because the Netherlands is pulling further and further ahead, with constant upgrades and improvements to its network. I came across just one of these examples this week.
I’m planning a bicycle tour of some Dutch cities I haven’t visited before, using the Fietserbond (the Dutch Cycling Union) planner to work out my routes. This is part of the route it suggests, between Delft and Gouda – the straight blue line on the map.
The wood on the right here is the dark green rectangle in the middle of the map above. The blue line of the route cuts straight where the sheep are. This was slightly concerning – I didn’t want to find myself taking a lengthy detour, or struggling across a field.
I don’t doubt the Fietsersbond planner, so did a bit of looking around. It seems that a huge new bicycle route has been built since the Streetview vehicle passed through. Here’s the junction in 2009 – the bicycle path just ends as it meets the road.
A year later, and construction has started on an underpass. For bikes.
You can just about see the bicycle path extending off across the field in the distance (if you want to take a look for yourself, the location is here).
This doesn’t even appear to be a particularly major road, which could have been crossed at surface level – but an underpass is less dangerous, and involves less delay. Just better, even if it costs a huge amount more. The cycle route now forms a nice straight uninterrupted line between the cities of Delft and Zoetermeer.
Here’s a local news item from October 2011, announcing the opening of this new ‘fast cycle route’, with tunnels under this road (the Noordweg) and a railway line. There’s also a pdf showing the new and improved routes.
I will enjoy riding along it!