Lessons from Cycling in The Netherlands


Earlier this year, I ordered a velomobile in Holland; I have had to explain to family and friends that this is a recumbent trike “with fairings”. My wife says it looks like a motorbike’s sidecar. I’ll tell you more about what it is and why I chose it another time. Some months later, it was ready for collection from the factory in the North East of Holland, so I set off to ride it home – which is why it’s been a bit quiet here on the cycling pages for a while. Here are some lessons I learned from my solo ride. 

I had planned my itinerary beforehand and downloaded several days’ worth of routes to my Garmin. I don’t understand why, but there were several occasions when the device told me to take a turning, only to turn me round and bring me back to where I was. For example, on the wonderful bike path from Amersfoort to Utrecht, I had to operate some pedestrian & cyclist controlled lights to bring traffic to a halt on a dual carriageway, to cross into the grounds of a health facility, only to stop the traffic a few minutes later to cross back, and carry on down the route I had been following. As this was at least the 3rd time this kind of detour had happened, I wondered whether this detour was into a home for people with mental problems – might have been appropriate. 

The next Garmin related issue was after a coffee stop in Utrecht, where I had spied a café just into a one way street. I switched the device back on and understood it to be asking if I wanted to be navigated back to that day’s route. Only as I got to the suburbs did I discover that the Garmin had asked if I wanted to be taken to the START of that day’s route and was merrily heading back to where I had started almost two hours up the road.

In Gouda, one of the all important bridges was closed for repair, affecting motorized and bike traffic alike. Diversions to various suburbs and villages were signed, which would be great if you had an inkling as to where they are in relation to your route. I was looking for the route to Rotterdam, but that strangely was not one of the suburbs of Gouda on the list! Asking a number of the Dutch cyclists, which way to head for Rotterdam also didn’t get anywhere; they are a great cycling nation, but the cyclists I spoke to were headed home and not long distance, even seeming surprised that somebody would want to cycle that far. I guess it would be like asking a (non CTC member) cyclist in Ipswich for the cycle route to Norwich: they would perhaps have heard of the place, but why would you want to cycle there? Asking for the way to an equivalent of Bramford or Westerfield etc would probably have got a positive response. 

This is all really to disguise the fact that this self-confessed geek had just taken the Garmin and “didn’t need maps”. Whoops. 

And if I had taken maps, it would have been good to have had a Dutch cycling map, with the list of numbered junctions – marked as a “knooppunt” – as well as cycle route numbers. Like the LF3B takes you into the centre of Utrecht when approaching from the NE. I should have asked the same cyclist, who gave me that tip, for the route number going out to the West. But I did enjoy cycling around Utrecht centre. Several times. 

The photo shows that I’m close to the centre of the Hook of Holland with the Harwich ferry only 4km away in the direction of knooppunt 22. I had just come from Delft and passed knooppunt 18. There are occasions, for example at a bike path T-junction, signing a knooppunt to the left and another to the right, but without saying where you are heading to. Lesson: Know your Knooppunts! 

One thing I had got right was that I had used websites like the German “Bett und Bike”, which listed accommodation suitable for cyclists. This ranged from a hotel in Amersfoort with underground bike park with security gates and CCTV, to a superb B&B with undercover bike storage behind it, in Capelle aan den Ijssel (a suburb of Rotterdam). 


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