Wind instead of hills

It is often stated that the Netherlands is a flat country, and that is the reason why we are cycling that much. David Hembrow showed on his excellent blog that this excuse for not cycling is besides the truth. I found another source to prove the Dutch love hills.

The Dutch love hills

I was pointed at the Strava global heat map, which shows fantastic figures of the routes people use with their bicycles. On twitter it was quickly found out that the Utrecht Hillridge is popular to cycle.

But this is sportive cycling, completely different of cycling as a mode of transport. One of the interesting things is the huge amount of cycling at Maliebaan (the red diagonal in the center at the map below) in Utrecht. Locals know that more people are crossing the Maliebaan, on their everyday commute to University in the East.

Heatmap Strava Utrecht

Heatmap Strava Utrecht

This makes very clear that Strava is not catching everyday cycling. But it is a nice tool to see where the fast cycling people are moving. For those who want to implement the National Altitude map of the Netherlands with Strava or other applications, you can use this link (description is unfortunately in Dutch only).

No hills, but wind

In the area’s where hills are not nearby we have other challenges to overcome. Like wind. Friday I was with my family in Rotterdam, to visit the beautiful new underground bicycle parking at the railway station and the Maritiem museum, also very nice. After the museum we had a stroll along the Erasmus bridge. This bridge is 13 meters above water level and world famous for the Swan shape. For the locals the bridge is better known for the ramps and the fierce wind, as this little movie shows.

Today I passed the 20 year old wind barrier in Houten. This barrier was the first one in the Netherlands, specially designed to protect people on bicycles for wind. In an experimental way it was found out that the barrier should not completely be closed, as it would cause turbulence, but only be filled for 40%. Residents of Houten didn’t believe the usability of this wind protection, they still had to struggle with the ramp of the bridge crossing the Highway A27. And they said the barrier is ugly, well, that is about taste and I think they are right. Today wind was south, and indeed the barrier functioned in the way as expected, the wind resistance was less at the road. In fall the effectiveness of the barrier is even being visualized, as leaves fall on the road, instead in other parts the leaves are blown aside of the road.

Wind barrier along N409

Wind barrier along N409

Wind barrier in Houten

Wind barrier in Houten

Nowadays on different spots barriers like these are made, but they are still rare in the Netherlands. The perception of riding through a tunnel and the safety feeling are combined with the higher maintenance costs mayor disadvantages of these solutions. In the region of The Hague, near the coast, with even more wind than in Houten, some cycle routes crossing the highway A4 have a wind barrier.

Wind barrier A4 The Hague

Wind barrier A4 The Hague

In my own region Utrecht, the best wind barriers still can be found at Rhijnouwen, a cycle path with hedges on both sides. Of course these kind of barriers are very much appreciated, but also expensive in maintenance.

Natural wind barrier

Natural wind barrier

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7 thoughts on “Wind instead of hills

  1. The Strava Global Heat Map is interesting in other ways- for instance, recreational/sporting type cycling is popular in France, yet as country they’ve not taken to Strava in the way say the UK has. Meanwhile the map might almost make you think cycling is as, if not more, popular in the UK than in NL.

    Similarly, the Portugese are uniformly into using it, whilst there’s huge gaps in Spain. The Alps glow thanks to the vast numbers of tourists as well as locals.

    As for wind? I’ve heard the term “dutch mountains” used a fair bit to describe a stiff breeze on a flat plain. We get them, funnily enough, plenty in Cambridgeshire, where deliberate barriers are non-existent and hedges often rare.

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    • Thank you for additional analyzing the heat map. As I am not very familiar with Strava, I don’t know which languages are featured and how it is put in the market. But the differences between countries and in countries itself are remarkable.

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  2. Depends who uses strava really. I record all my rides regardless of purpose, mainly because I’m a mapping geek ;*)
    It would be really useful to have an app which recirded all movement automatically and classified it by mode according to speed/stops etc. Make this run all the time and try to get it distributed to all cyclists, then use the data to help identify most used routes to help build better cycling networks. Add in some element of age/cycling preference/destination and the data analysis gets a lot better.

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  3. Interesting topic, the use of Strava and other gps-tracking devices for cycling Big Data. Could be an interesting research. If only you could find a few thousand (slow) bikers (University students?) with smartphones in their pocket… that would be nice Big Data.

    It would give more insight into differences in routing between city-cyclists and the faster Strava users. And specifically for the “Utrechtse Heuvelrug” you could learn more about the roads where there isn’t much room for faster cyclists to overtake slower bikers.

    Thanks for the info on wind barriers. That’s something I haven’t thought about, ever.

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    • Yes, would be great to have data of everyday cyclists!
      They could use the RingRing app, have a look at http://ring-ring.nu/ The incentive to get people to switch their phones is by rewarding them. Ring-Ring solves this by gaining points they could spend at local shops. It is working now in Amsterdam (IJburg), it would be nice to have it working in Utrecht too. I am willing to support any group that introduces Ring-Ring or other app to gather data regarding everyday cycling in this region.

      And about the wind, numerous people have solved this issue by buying an electric assist bicycle.

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  4. Hedges. The man-made barriers *are* ugly, or at least cold and impersonal; they take energy to construct; and in a world of concrete and tarmac they only add to the bleak industrial landscapes of our times.

    Hedges suck CO2 out of the atmosphere; will create a beautiful natural-looking and quaint landscape if we’ll-maintained; will provide habitat for small woodland creatures (a problem in my home country of Australia where one — say a Tiger or King Brown Snake — may come out and kill you, but not so much I think in the Netherlands); and will create a new employment industry for landscape gardeners. So, put in more hedges and plant more trees and flowers. I notice that a lot of the Netherlands wonderful bike paths I see on the blogs have little or no beautiful landscaping along them. What a pity!

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    • Hi Frank, You are completely right about hedges, they are very good as wind barriers. People are often afraid about social safety and they cost more public money than trees and grasslands.
      For your last point, I often want to picture the infrastructure itself and that means it is often new infrastructure without any grown trees or other landscaping. But we have a lot of them, for instance my Instagram picture of the day https://instagram.com/p/0DhlCSGM_9/ showing the cycle route beween Utrecht and Zeist.

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