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.
— Olivier Beens (@olivierbeens) 22 februari 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.