The Town of Velsen, North Holland

Ferry on the canal at Velsen - credit: Eric Swierstra under Creative Commons
Ferry on the canal at Velsen - credit: Eric Swierstra under Creative Commons
Ferry on the canal at Velsen – credit: Eric Swierstra under Creative Commons

In all likelyhood, you have never heard of Velsen in the Netherlands. I have, but I have never been there. Today, I received a blog from BicycleDutch (written by Mark Wagenbuur) in my inbox. It is one of the few blogs I follow as it gives me a good picture of what is going on in the Netherlands. Contrary to popular belief, I am not often in the Netherlands. The last time I visited the Netherlands is already about 2 years ago and I have no plans to go there soon either.

Usually I am not reblogging stuff that others write as I assume you can find those blogs on your own. But I want to quickly draw your attention to his latest post.

Bike friendly city of the year

The Netherlands is voting for its most bike friendly city once every so often. One of the contenders this year is the town of Velsen. With a bike modal share of 32% (that is Copenhagen levels by the way), Velsen is not considered a real contender as its bike share is a wee low. Low! FYI, North American cities usually score between 1-2%, Ottawa’s downtown is at the high end in North America with around 6% in the summer and autumn.

Canal is a challenge

The reason why I picked Velsen (population 67,000) to share with you is that Velsen has the extra challenge of a huge canal going through its heart. Not Rideau Canal stuff, 19th century hand dug well meant but never served its purpose canals, but a canal that sends large sea vessels with biomass from Vancouver to Amsterdam, further inland from Velsen. This barrier means ferrying people across the canal.

BicycleDutch (in English) points out a few strong and a few weak parts of Velsen’s bike infrastructure in a less than 5 minute video that I think you should watch. A run of the mill town in the Netherlands of which there are so many. Daily life in a place that is not Amsterdam, Zwolle, Houten or Groningen to name some random model Dutch bike municipalities for a change.

What to look for

  • bidirectional lanes,
  • bike boulevard (called a carriage way in the clip by Mark),
  • roundabouts,
  • bike lights,
  • the ferry,
  • LED street lights,
  • 30km/hr speed limits (20mph),
  • bike signs everywhere and
  • the colourful paving.

All the stuff that we’d love to have, but that city councils and engineers are often not convinced that it will work. In the Netherlands, it is perhaps not good enough for the “cycling city of the year” award. But then again, as Mark notes, it might be. While you are on it, you can probably get some ideas for your own hamlet, town, city.

I strongly suggest to watch this  nice clip to get an inside of a ‘normal’ Dutch town with ‘only’ a 32% bike modal share:

Follow BicycleDutch here, there are many educational videos on his blog: BicycleDutch. Another source you might want to follow is the Dutch Fietsberaad, that puts out newsletters in English on a regular basis with some really innovative cycling stuff. Click in the top right corner on MyFietsberaad for a popup to sign up with email.

So there you go, my sources of cycling news in the Netherlands.

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