Why this bicycle path isn't good enough for the Dutch

old netherlands bike path
© David Hembrow

Many of us would be thrilled if our neighborhood had the off-road, protected, two-way bicycle path in David Hembrow's picture above. But the path as a whole is now sub-standard in the Netherlands and doesn't satisfy local citizens, planners, or engineers, so a new path is planned.

Granted, the picture above apparently shows one of the better sections of the path, but even from that you can see some of the issues that make the path unsatisfactory, and perhaps you can guess the others as well. Still, for someone who isn't Dutch or Danish, I think it's hard to catch the "problems" with which this path is plagued. Take some time to see if you can figure out any of the issues with the path, then read on.

Before getting into the problems with the path, here's a useful note from David that puts things into perspective:

In 2003 this cycle-path impressed me enough to take photos specifically so that I could show them to campaigners in the UK as the sort of thing we should have been campaigning for, rather than the compromises which we were campaigning for. Overall, I’d still be as happy to ride there now as I was in 2003. It’s not “bad” as such. However, this path is also not ideal in 2014 in the Netherlands. Expectations have increased and in order that people will want to cycle for a larger proportion of their journeys than they currently do, the quality of the experience has to be better than is offered by this cycle-path.


The Netherlands is not standing still. The rate of change and improvement to cycling infrastructure here is still beyond that of other countries which sometimes talk of “catching up”. You can never catch up by starting from behind and doing less. Catching up will only happen as a result of out-spending and out-planning the Netherlands. Low aspirations and politicians delaying tactics and broken promises will never result in adequate progress. Make sure that “Going Dutch” isn’t just a slogan.

I love that "You can never catch up by starting from behind and doing less." Indeed.

On to the problems with the bike path pictured at the top:

  • It's not wide enough.
  • It's next to a busy road, so riders have to suffer from a bit of noise pollution and air pollution.
  • There are several intersections along the way that slow down travel times and force bicyclists to stop and go, stop and go, stop and go.... (see below)
  • In some sections, rather than being a single, two-way bike path, it splits into one-direction bike paths on either side of the road. Of course, that means that some bicyclists have to actually cross the road.
Ah, the tough life of the Dutch.

In all seriousness, when this bike path is considered sub-standard, you know you live in a society with high standards and transportation common sense.

If you're curious about the solution to this problematic path above, the route will not be torn up but the image below shows where a new route will offer a higher-quality alternative. The red line is a new path and the orange line is an existing path with which it will connect. (The blue line is the old path discussed above.)

Sanity restored.

For some more fun regarding bicycle leadership in the Netherlands, see:

Via Streetsblog

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