Vincent Goes Dutch… and glimpses Paradise

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On 8 August my family including two 9 year olds boarded the Hull train with our bikes at Manchester Piccadilly to catch the overnight ferry to Rotterdam. We woke up the following morning in cycling heaven – aka the Netherlands. T he moment our tyres touched Dutch soil a (usually) segregated cycle lane carried us from Den Haag to Amsterdam, Arnhem and Dordrecht sleeping at Stayokay (YHA) hostels, all very cycle friendly with storage and sometimes a resident mechanic.

Cycling is normal and natural involving all ages both self-propelled or being carried in a range of contraptions and extensions. Helmets and lycra are rare – and usually a means of identifying Brit tourists. Motorists defer to cyclists at most junctions. The Dutch have invested in infrastructure over decades (current annual level £24 per head) but two measures make a real difference – on all one way streets there are contra-flow cycle lanes and 30kph (18.5mph) is the default speed limit in residential areas.

Bikes are very visible – static and mobile. All public buildings, offices, stations, shopping and housing developments are provided with generous parking , generally of the wheel grabbing type but Sheffield stands are increasing.

Our ten day circuit was aided by Dutch Railways which are cheap – flat rate child fare of €2.50. Rolling stock varies in accessibility, for some there are steep steps from platform to carriage level.  Cycle carriage is allowed outside weekday peak commuter times on daily payment of a €6 Dagkaart fiets binnenland . Places cannot be reserved but trains are so frequent that it does not matter.

Is there anything amiss in paradise…… ? Yes, just get used to sharing your cycle path with mopeds. A small price to pay for living in Cycletopia.

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