Netherlands 17: Around Utrecht centre

While in Utrecht, I had the opportunity to leave the family at our apartment, take to the cycleways and explore the city. This was early evening, after most people had returned home, so the streets were pretty empty.

Starting at the reinstated city moat. I’m not sure there’s a better example of the commitment to improve the city than the removal of the unpopular urban motorway and reintroduction of this section of the city moat. Indeed, I wish Manchester were as brave as this with our own urban motorway, the Mancunian Way.

The reinstated city moat in Utrecht

Bicycle Dutch’s post on the conversion of the moat to motorway and back to moat is well worth reading. Looking at this section of the moat, it’s hard to imagine how it looked previously. It now looks like it’s always been like this, although it was only in 2016 when it reopened.

View of the city moat from Vredenburg

Riding towards the centre, Sint Jacobsstraat is a good example of one of a Utrecht street with high quality cycleways. There’s a combination of unidirectional and bidirectional cycleways of a decent width along the street, with priority over side roads and kerb protection.

High quality bidirectional cycleway on Sint Jacobsstraat

Maliesingel, which runs alongside the south eastern side of the city moat, is an example of a less successful street. Although it has reasonable levels of through motor traffic, there’s no protected cycleways, just paint on the road. Compared to an equivalent road in Manchester city centre, it’s reasonably fine to cycle along. But I’d be less comfortable about riding along here with the kids.

Paint on road lanes on Maliesingel

At this time in the evening, around 8-9pm, there were plenty of families out riding. This was great to see and true sign of how normal an activity cycling is here. Back home in Manchester at this time in the evening, things couldn’t be more different. Maybe one day we’ll see sights like this here too.

Families out on their bikes in the evening

Heading further out, I reached Waterlinieweg where I crossed over the railway lines, using the protected cycleway on the bridge. Once over the other side, I headed back towards the centre.

On a bridge above the railway lines on Waterlinieweg

Riding back from Waterlinieweg I took a route through a residential area, along a cycleway running parallel to the railway lines. Looking at Google StreetView, you can see this cycleway was resurfaced in 2015, as part of some bigger changes.

High quality bidirectional cycleway parallel to railway lines

The cycleway here is bidirectional and is away from the road. It’s passes a number of green spaces and playgrounds, and includes underpasses, enabling people to get to the other side of the railway tracks.

Underpass under the railway lines

The underpasses are wide, well lit and have clear views through. So levels social safety are high. In the UK, underpasses have such a poor reputation. This is often due to poor implementation, dating back to the 60s/70s and lack of improvements since. If people in the UK saw what good looks like, they might not be so keen to rip them out.

Approaching the Briljantlaan/Baden-Powellweg junction

I carried on onto Vondellaan and then onto Croeselaan. Both streets feature a combination of wide, high quality unidirectional and bidirectional cycleways. This enables the kind of social cycling that’s almost impossible on most streets in Manchester.

Social cycling on Croeselaan

At the end of Croeselaan, it was a short ride through Daalsetunnel and I was back at the city moat at Daalsesingel. From here, it was a short ride along Amsterdamsestraatweg and I was back at our apartment.

Riding towards Daalsetunnel, passing under the railway lines

Back to part 3 – Around Utrecht Centraal Station

Next to part 5 – The route to Griftpark

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