My friend and I took an afternoon ride around Zoetermeer and Bleiswijk, two suburbs of The Hague with 125,000 and 10,000 people, respectively. Read other posts from this trip.
Friday, May 12, 2023 – 195 photos taken – find more on Flickr
- I don’t remember what I did in the morning – I probably worked.
- My friend and I left his flat on our bikes at 15:00 and met my other friend to eat at Mecca, where Zu, a neighborhood cat, wandered in.
- After this late lunch my friend and I started our bike ride along the Rotte River (how Rotterdam got its name) towards Bleiswijk.
- We biked atop a lot of dikes, through several rural neighborhoods, and past the Willem-Alexander Baan (a rowing course in an artificial lake).
- We also biked under a temporary bridge. As I’ve written before I believe the Dutch are very good at building infrastructure, and that extends to temporary infrastructure as well including modular and prefabricated pieces like a bridge!
- At one point it was time for a McFlurry. We turned off of the intercity bike path, through a comfortably large bike tunnel under a motorway, and into the McDonald’s parking lot, where was plenty of bike parking and e-bike charging points (I suspect that many of the bikes parked here belonged to the employees).
- The McDonald’s was in a commercial area full of fast food restaurants and logistics and distribution centers nestled in one corner of a motorway interchange but throughout all of this was well-designed, separated bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
- After the ice cream break we headed over to an odd new transit interchange station called Lansingerland-Zoetermeer. Here people can change between a small park and ride, a kiss and ride, buses, sidewalks, and bike paths, to a ground-level intercity train station (to The Hague or Gouda) or to an elevated light rail station to The Hague. Service to Rotterdam is also possible via two bus routes to a nearby Rotterdam Metro station but I’m not sure why you would have gotten into a situation where you would need that connection.
- (I’m calling it light rail for simplicity, but if you’re looking at how the street and sub-street rail transit networks overlap in Rotterdam-The Hague-Delft you could get easily confused. For example, there is a Rotterdam Metro [light rail] line to The Hague but which is also called RandstadRail, a RandstadRail line from The Hague to Zoetermeer, trams in The Hague, and different trams in Rotterdam, as well as a single tram line from The Hague to Delft but no Rotterdam Metro and no Rotterdam tram to Delft – there are Sprinter and Intercity services instead.)
- I think something that is really neat about the station’s design: if you arrived there for the first time via the light rail then it would be very hard to tell that you would be standing on a bridge over an intercity track and a motorway after disembarking. The station looks very typical and uses vegetation and a wall to block the sound of high-speed vehicles below.
- Next we arrived into Zoetermeer, greeted by two cats. (There are a lot of cats roaming the traffic calmed neighborhood streets in the Netherlands.)
- Zoetermeer is a “new town”, in that its prime development period was in the second half of the 20th century after many urban planning principles had changed, the automobile was a major factor in city design, and European countries were still rebuilding many cities after World War II – growth started in earnest in the 1960s when new housing was needed.
- The population growth, in typical modern Dutch fashion, happened in a way that planned residential, commercial, and retail land uses, transportation, and green space, in concert with each other. These compact and mixed-use patterns – where most of what one needs is accommodated for or provided nearby – are repeated easy to discern even if you only visit a few towns, including Zoetermeer, Almere, Houten, Diemen, and the newer, outer parts of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Utrecht.
- At this time we had been cycling for less than three hours but it felt like longer because of the seemingly large gaps between stops (in fact, they’re not that large, it’s that they’re separated by wide expanses of open space or industrial areas rather than continuous low-density built up area like you would see in the United States).
- We turned around to go home, via another way (see the Strava map below). The return route took us on a path that paralleled the bus-only road that carries two routes between the Lansingerland station and the nearest Rotterdam Metro station at Berkel en Rodenrijs, adjacent to where I was trainspotting yesterday (as well as some intermediate stops to reach the greenhouses).
- The bus-only road has a self-enforcing design. There is a “bus sluis”, or “bus sluice”, or “bus gate” (see my photo), which is a dip in the road where car wheels go but a height increase in the road between the wheel area. This means that if you’re driving a vehicle that is not high off the ground like a bus or a farm equipment you will severely damage the underside of the vehicle.
- Oh, yeah, this area is the greenhouse zone of the country where lettuce and tomatoes and other vegetables are grown for the country and for export, propelling the Netherlands to have one of the highest agricultural GDP in the world.
- Amidst the greenhouses is the HSL (the high-speed line between Amsterdam Schiphol airport and Rotterdam Centraal). I stopped at least once to take some photos and videos of the Thalys, Intercity Direct, and Eurostar trains that ply this route.
- Along the route I saw what looked like an amazing playground called Tuin van Floddertje. Floddertje is a children’s book character, a girl who gets into all kinds of dirty messes immediately after washing up.
- We rolled back into the neighborhood where my friend lives and said hi to “Loofje”, the yellow tabby cat that I named “Little Loaf” using a fake Dutch word I invented that’s pronounced “loaf-juh”.
- This is also when I saw the neighborhood square that helps make this a complete neighborhood, since it’s 20 minutes away from the city center.