THE BRILLIANT DUTCH CYCLE NETWORK – Amsterdam to Laren

With signage like this, who could get lost?

Mevrouw Tulloch loves Art Nouveau furniture. I like bike riding. After a short but spirited discussion, we agree to spend a Sunday riding the bikes from Amsterdam to the village of Laren, where more Art Nouveau chairs than you can shake a stick at are on display in the Singer Museum.

It’s a few hours ride away, so we have to find a good bike route to get there. I don’t have a GPS or even a computer on the bike. I’m past caring about my maximum heart rate.

Finding a Dutch cycle route is easy. I get on the net and go to a Dutch ‘bike route planner’ website. [NOTE: There are a few of these - google 'fietsrouteplanner'.] I’m able to type in our location (Sloterkade Amsterdam) at one end, and ‘Singer Museum, Laren’ at the other. Up pops a map with the suggested door to door cycle route, distance (a modest 37.9km), estimated time (a comfortable 2 hours 6 minutes), calories needed (724 – how many are in a bowl of muesli and a slice of toast?) and noting our interest in art, it even suggests a couple of other museums we may find worth seeing along the way.

There are detailed instructions (in Dutch, I’m afraid) about turning left, diagonally right and going straight ahead, but for those who find Dutch a challenging language there’s a list of numbers in friendly green circles – 52, 55, 59, 15, 78, 79, 80… These I note down on a scrap of paper. Then we get on the bikes and set off – on the cycle paths of course – in Holland riding between those slow cumbersome motor vehicles is considered unnecessarily annoying and something to be avoided at all costs.

Number 52 is the point in Amsterdam, pictured above. It’s a ‘knooppunt’ (knot point), one of which we’ll be passing every few kilometres. Notice above my bike there’s a map with a ‘you are here’ and directions to knooppunt 55, the next one we need to find on our way to our destination, knooppunt 80 by Laren.

As if we needed any more directions, those signs above list towns we could visit. ‘Muiden’ happens to be our next one.

The cycle path looks like this...


Following the fietsnetwerk (bike network) route from knooppunt to knooppunt is easy and we roll along from 55, 59…to 80 where those Art Nouveau chairs are waiting. The Singer Museum won’t let us sit on them, but they do offer comfortable alternatives.

I won’t pretend that we did the route in less than the estimated two hours and six minutes, because we stopped to admire the villages of Muiden (lock and castle) and Naarden (old fortified town with moat), and we road tested the local chocolademelk and appeltaart.

Needless to say, the bike network chooses routes through the more attractive parts of the country. Canals, powerlines and motorways are nearly always in sight, but so too are cows, sheep and swans most of the time. If there’s a choice to be made between the fast route and the scenic one, green cycling signs indicate the latter, red ones the former.

Signs at every intersection indicate the direction of the next knooppunt.


Bike path into Hilversum Station


Finally when we’ve had enough of riding and Art Nouveau (I enjoyed that too, by the way), we head for the train line. At Hilversum Station, a few kilometres from Laren, you can hire a bike, buy a bike, park a bike, or leave a bike to get repaired while you go to work. We put ours on the train (it costs 6 euros a day for a bike pass which you can then use on any train in the country). This saves us having to ride into the stiff breeze which is now blowing rather too directly from Amsterdam.

A lot of money has been invested in this cycling system. But surely it’s paid off. Recreational cycling is enormous here, no doubt with considerable public health benefits. About half the Dutch population regularly uses bikes to get to school or work, thus avoiding ripping up the roads and polluting the air with their cars. That’s what I call a civilized society!

12 Comments

Filed under Art, Cycle touring, Cycling, Holland, Travel- Europe

12 responses to “THE BRILLIANT DUTCH CYCLE NETWORK – Amsterdam to Laren

  1. And where’s my photo of a beautiful art nouveau chair hmm? Best wishes, Therese

  2. As a keen cyclist myself this sounds amazing, I will have to take myself there. With all the pressures on air travel at the moment (ash, strikes etc) this is just the sort of green travel that I would expect to take off. The fact that Holland is easily reached from the UK by train and boat doesn’t hurt either… Could be one to watch this summer.

    • Hope you can make it some time, Tom – you’re sure to enjoy it. Let me know if you do. I don’t know another country better organised for cycling, though Belgium and Denmark are pretty good too.

  3. Ann Maher

    What a great blog!
    I wondered if you had any views on the accuracy (or otherwise) of the distance calculation of the routeplanners? I’ve been trying to work out a (relatively gentle) route round Waterland and fiestsplanner is giving much higher distances than the guide book/tourist office routes!

    • Thanks for the flattery, Ann, which is always gratefully accepted!

      I’ve found the fietsrouteplanners generally pretty accurate. The signs along the way are a little less so – but you must remember that in Holland a sign saying ‘Amsterdam 3′ means the absolute outer limits of the city are three km away. You’ll need to ride several kilometres further before you get to the Anne Frank House, Centraal Station, the Dam Square or whatever else you may regard as the city centre. And of course there is usually a choice of routes, which can drastically affect the distance travelled.

      But in Waterland everything is beautiful, so it doesn’t matter too much where you go. Whenever you decide you’ve had enough, it will take you less than an hour to get back to the ferry to Centraal Station.

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  5. Louise Randall

    Great tips. Am leaving for Amsterdam in 2 weeks. Will be heading south along the coast, hoping to get to Bordeeax this trip. They subsequent trips will take me along the European coastline with hopes of ending up in Turkey. I will check out your Belgium notes next!

    • Bordeaux to Turkey? That’s a serious ride, Louise! Holland and Belgium are the places I know best, and I’d suggest riding through the inland rather than along the coast in those countries. Apart from the headwinds, there are not- very-attractive seaside towns with high rise apartments along rather dull beaches (This from an Australian who knows a real beach when he sees one!). But inland the countryside is beautiful and the towns much more interesting. Sound like a great trip you’re planning.

  6. Andy Shaw

    I read this post prior to a ride from Hoek Van Holland to Eindhoven (and the return journey). The knooppunt system is excellent. Not necessarily the most direct route but wonderful for a cyclist from England, many brilliant traffic free sections along rivers and canals. Fairly easy to follow, although there were a few issues when moving from one district to the next.

    • Thanks, Andrew. Hoek van Holland to Eindhoven is a very respectable ride! So that the knooppunt numbers can all be two digits and don’t build up into the thousands, numbers are re-used in different districts, which could cause confusion. Thanks for pointing that out, but good you made the return journey too and survived to tell the tale.

  7. Pingback: NAARDEN, NETHERLANDS – a star fort in a star location « Richard Tulloch's LIFE ON THE ROAD

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