Netherlands 19: The route to Delft

During the second week of our Netherlands 19 trip at Duinrell, some of our group were keen to go to Madurodam. Now, we love Madurodam, but it’s getting to the stage where we’ve probably been there enough times. For me it is anyway.

So, while taking the rest of the group to Madurdam, I decided I’d leave them there and carry on to Delft. It’s a few years since we’ve been to Delft. The last time we were there was back in 2015. Given the many great things Modacity have shared about Delft since moving there, I was keen to get back and have another look.

I don’t think we’ve ever cycled to Delft before. We got the tram from The Hague on our last visit. The times before that, I think we’ve driven there on our way back home to the UK.

Setting off from Duinrell, we took the North Sea Route (Noordzeeroute) to Madurodam through the dunes, I covered this route last year in the post The route to Madurodam.

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Riding across the dunes to Madurodam on the North Sea Route (Noordzeeroute)

After dropping everyone at Madurodam, I set off for Delft. I started by riding along Plesmanweg and Raamweg towards the centre of The Hague. At this point, there were very good quality one-way and two-way cycleways. This included a cycleway on stilts above the canal as it passed under a ramp coming down from the S200 viaduct.

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Cycleway passing under the S200 viaduct ramp

Getting closer to centre of The Hague, I started hitting some large signalled junctions. These are quite typical for The Hague, which on the whole is quite heavily dominated by motor vehicles. Riding through The Hague, you have to get used to waiting a while at many of these junctions as motor vehicles tend to have priority.

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Waiting for a green signal at one of the many large junctions in The Hague

Carrying on, the road turned into koningskade. At this point, the road widened up to eight lanes of motor traffic. Though on the other side of the canal, there were even more motor traffic lanes on the far side beyond the tram lines. Thankfully, the good quality cycleways continued, so it was never necessary to mix directly with the motor traffic.

As I continued, the cycleway diverged from koningskade as the road entered into Koningstunnel, a tunnel passing under Central Station. At the time I was there, the tunnel was closed for renovation, though it has reopened since.

I had now arrived at The Hague Central Station. Like many train stations in The Netherlands, this has been recently renovated. From Koningin Julianaplein, you’d think the transformation is less dramatic than in other Dutch cities. Though that’s not the case from the other side.

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Approaching The Hague Central Station

From what I’ve read, a large underground cycle parking facility is being constructed here, under two yet to be built towers. Though it’s not due to open until 2020.

I passed the station on Rijnstraat, which is a bit of a mess of motor traffic, trams and bikes, and is a little confusing to ride through. The road continued as the S100, parallel to the train lines leaving the station, then passing under an elevated road. At this point, things get a bit better with one-way protected cycleways in a slightly more residential area.

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Crossing the tram lines on Rijnstraat

The road then passed under another elevated road as I carried on and the area become more commercial, a bit like a retail park. There there was a lot of construction work being carried out on the street here.

In addition to new footways and cycleways, more motor traffic lanes were being added. Again, this is quite different to many other Dutch cities, where road improvements usually involve removing motor traffic. At least the cycleways have been significantly improved and were nice and wide.

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Newly built cycleways on the S100

The S100 at this point was Binckhorstlaan. I carried on over a bridge as the area become residential again and the cycleways become older paved versions, which were perfectly fine. I turned right onto Pr. Mariannelaan and passed over another bridge, above the Vliet Canal (a name that takes my mind to Captain Beefheart, the charismatic/idiosyncratic singer and artist Don Van Vliet, who’s no longer with us).

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Construction work on the Vliet Canal

I was now riding on the road parallel to the Vliet Canal, which was in the process of being rebuilt. By the looks of it, pretty significantly rebuilt, with canal walls being replaced. I crossed over the Hoornbrug bridge, which had a slightly strange setup of cycleways. Then carried on a little way along some more cycleways.

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Slightly unusual cycleway setup on the Hoornbrug

I continued onto Delftweg, which has changed recently from having dedicated cycleways to becoming a cycle street (fietsstraat), more on this later. Riding between tram lines and the canal along the cycle street on this sunny day was actually pretty pleasant.

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Riding on Delftweg, between the tram lines and canal

In the distance, I spotted a rather interesting looking cycling bridge. This turned out to be the De Oversteek, a swinging cable-stayed bridge, built to enable ships to pass. You can read more about it at the ever informative Bicycle Dutch blog.

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De Oversteek, a swinging cable-stayed cycling bridge

I couldn’t resist giving the bridge a go, so I cycled over and carried on along the other side of the canal on Jaagpad. The route continued as a mixture of cycle streets and dedicated cycleways. Again, this was quite pleasant in the sun.

The route passed under the A4 motorway, which went across in a series of bridges. As typical for The Netherlands, this was clean and well lit, and had good lines of sight through.

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On Jaagpad, passing under the A4

Getting closer to Delft, I was now riding along a road with painted lanes. While it wasn’t great, it was pretty quiet and didn’t last for long. I soon arrived in the centre of Delft and was riding along the old canal-lined streets.

Having seen lots about the cycle parking at Delft Station, I thought I’d take the opportunity to park my bike there and go for a wander. The station reopened in 2015, with a newly built cycle parking facility below with space for 5,000 bikes. This was part of a larger scheme to transform this whole area.

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The new Delft Station

Train lines used to run along side the canal near the station, originally at street level, then elevated. These have now been buried and the whole area has been transformed. You can read more about the bicycle parking at Delft Station on Bicycle Dutch and this revisited post.

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The radically transformed Phoenixstraat, once home to an elevated train line

Using the bike parking couldn’t be easier, you just turn up, park and lock your bike. Finding an available space is probably the hardest bit. Like station parking in most Dutch stations, it is well used.

After parking my bike at the station. I headed into the centre for a wander round. I didn’t have long as I would need to set off again soon, so it was only a quick walk and a break for lunch.

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Parking up under Delft Station

Delft is reminiscent of many Dutch cities, with its narrow streets lined with canals and medieval buildings. It’s compact and easy to walk round, and its streets in the centre are generally traffic free or have very low levels of motor traffic.

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Delft’s leaning Oude Kerk in the distance, take from Oude Delft

I headed for the Market Square to have my lunch. This is the location of the Nieuwe Kerk and the market, of course, which was in full swing when I arrived. Market squares like this are a common feature of The Netherlands and much of the continent too, though is something of a rarity in the UK now.

It’s a real shame we don’t have many of these market squares in the UK. The hustle and bustle of market day really adds to the vibrancy of towns and cities, something that can’t be replaced with retail parks.

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A busy Market Square and Nieuwe Kerk

In addition to the busy market, I also saw many tourists and guided tours. A rich history and world famous pottery obviously make Delft a popular tourist attraction. Given its proximity to The Hague and Rotterdam, plus its very walkable city centre, it’s easy to see why so many tourists visit.

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A very typical Delft street scene

By now, it was time to go back to Madurodam, so I headed for the station and collected my bike. Leaving the station, I returned along Phoenixstraat and past the last remaining windmill in Delft, Molen de Roos. This flour mill was one of fifteen windmills on the old Delft city walls and lies directly on top of the new rail tunnels.

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Riding along Phoenixstraat, towards the Molen de Roos windmill

On the way back, I was mostly following the route I came. This included some less than ideal roads, with questionable painted lanes.

This is something I’ve seen at a few towns and cities in The Netherlands. Sometimes, just as you reach the centre, you get streets that seem to have been forgotten about. Almost like they’re in some kind of no man’s land between the centre and the routes in and out of town.

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Painted suicide cycle lane, like being back in the UK

I was soon back riding along the canal, though on Delftweg, on the opposite side to when I arrived. As I mentioned earlier, this has recently changed from having separate protected cycleways to being a cycle street (fietsstraat).

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The start of a section of cycle street (fietsstraat) on Delftweg

I shared my experiences of riding along the cycle street on Deftweg on Twitter at the time. While my experience at the time was very positive, it’s clear the change from protected cycleway to cycle street isn’t universally liked.

I can see why that might be the case. While there were very few motor vehicles at the time I was there. It was the middle of the day and so not representative of traffic levels at peak times. So I wasn’t able to experience the kinds of problems you may get with cycle streets.

For a cycle street to be successful, it needs to have very low levels of motor traffic and not be a through route for motor vehicles. I’ve seen examples where this hasn’t been the case and the experience is much like using any road with too much motor traffic and no protection.

So much of making a cycle street work is in the planning. Where to put filters to stop through traffic, while ensuring there’s still adequate access for motor vehicles where it’s required. It may be the case that this example on Delftweg has some shortcomings in its design.

It wasn’t long before I was back in The Hague, riding through the city centre and waiting at the many junctions I needed to cross. I then arrived back at Madurodam, where I collected everyone for the ride back to Duinrell.

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It was very pleasant ride to Delft. Something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but hadn’t had opportunity to do. I really didn’t have enough time to have a good look round though, so a return visit is definitely on the cards. Maybe in 2020…

Back to part 4 – The route to Voorburg

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