The Dutch dunes between Hoek van Holland and Zandvoort are one of the most beautiful nature reserves that the Netherlands have to offer. That’s a fact, not an opinion. Nationaal Park Hollandse Duinen is namely competing for the title ‘Most Beautiful nature reserve in the Netherlands’. And that’s exactly why I love to ride my bike there, a couple of times a week.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who discovered the beauty of the dunes and that’s why many people are cycling through it. Too many in my opinion. That’s why I’ve seen so many dangerous situations there, where crashes or almost-crashes happen way to often. The reason for that: too many people on a bicycle path that is too small. But because you can’t allow one group to cycle through the dunes as you prohibit the same thing for one another (or can we?), it’s best to make it at least a bit safer. Here I’ll give you 5 tips on how we can achieve that.
1) Cycle Safer: don’t ride like it’s the Tour de France!
Most of the almost-crashes in the dunes start when people try to overtake each other. That’s because there are roughly three types of cyclists who drive at different speed levels. You have the normal cyclists at normal bikes (speed: 10 – 20 km/h), you have the e-bikers (speed: 20 – 25 km/h) and you have the racers (speed: 25 – 40 km/h). You see that the different speed levels make it almost inevitable that one overtakes the other. That’s not a problem in itself, but it’s important that you are alert when you overtake someone else and aware of what you have to do when someone rings its bell and try to overtake you.
First of all, the overtaker has to respect the traffic rules. That means that you can’t overtake someone when there’s an extended white line in the middle of the bicycle path, because the view of the road is unclear and it’s dangerous to overtake another cyclist in that area.
As I said earlier, it’s a small bicycle path so if you do overtake someone in an area where there’s an extended white line you’ll take a risk that you crash into another cyclist from the other lane, because you haven’t seen him or her. I know it’s difficult to wait a bit until the extended line ends when you’re pumped up with adrenaline and try to show your mates who’s the king of the bike or because you try to break your Strava record, but keep in mind that you’re not riding the Tour de France, and it’s better not to break your season’s Strava best than breaking your bones. I mean, you don’t want to be famous for being the new ‘Sander Dekker of the dunes‘, do you?
For the people who are overtaken it’s best to be aware that there are maniacs who think they’re driving the Tour the France and so if someone is ringing its bell, it’s better that you try to get to the right side of the road as quick as possible before they tap you and you end up taking a closer look at the Dutch asphalt.
2)Smaller groups please!
There are also many local race cycling clubs that use the dunes as their training ground and so it is not uncommon that you bump occasionally into a large group of cyclists from 10 to 20 persons. I know that it’s really cosy and great fun to ride with such a big group, but it also comes with certain types of extra danger.
Most of the time, large groups of cyclists are riding with more speed than individuals. That’s because you use less energy when driving close behind someone and it’s easy to speed up a bit. But when you’re in such a large group it’s like driving in a train full of cyclists that can easily push other cyclists of the path and trains have a higher risk to get involved in crashes. That’s mainly because the bicycle paths in the dunes are not fit to such large groups who ride with such speed.
Furthermore, it can cause aggression in other users of the road, because of the large amount of space they use, which we have seen last week. Therefore, I think it’s best that you’ll drive with a maximum of 5 riders per group for your own and others safety.
3)Get out of the way grandpa!
I think that most of the elderly are not equipped well enough to ride in a high risk area like the dunes, certainly not in the weekends and in the summer. A lot of the elderly drive an e-bike because uhhhhhh……………they drive an e-bike. That means they are quicker than the normal cyclists but slower than the racers, although their reaction speed, their skills and their motor functions are not adjusted to that kind of speed and the risks they face while riding on the same small path as cyclists who even have a higher speed level.
That’s why my first tip would be that the elderly try to avoid the dunes in the weekends and the evenings (especially in the summer) as much as possible when it’s overcrowded and a lot is asked from their reaction speed. My second tip for the elderly is that they occasionally look over their shoulder when they try to overtake a normal cyclist, because it happens that a racer tries to overtake them at the same time and that means: full brakes and a bigger risk of crashing for the racer.
My third tip would be: be alert on ringing bells. Most of the time it takes way too long before the elderly get out of the way when you ring your bell, because they underestimate the speed of the racer and the time it takes till he’ll overtake them, because they are half deaf or because they are retired and think that everyone else should adjust to their pace of living and riding. Most of the crashes I’ve seen in the dunes were between cyclist racers and aged cyclists, so it’s recommended that you keep my advices in mind.
4)You’re not allowed up here!
Although it looks like I’m most annoyed by the elderly in the dunes, there are groups that are even more annoying and dangerous, namely walkers and motorbike riders. There are walkers who actually think that it’s OK to walk on the asphalt bicycle path instead of the shell-paths that are specially built for them, because asphalt is a more comfortable surface to walk on. Well guess what: Get the f*ck away from the bicycle path and crawl back to your own path, because you overcrowd our path and you are moving dangerously slow and extend the risk for cyclists to make a nasty crash.
Furthermore, don’t stand still on our bicycle path because you would like to take a closer at a deer or a fox and think that every cyclist will stop for that. It’ll bring the same amount of risk, so just don’t do it and take your binoculars next time if you want to take a closer look at something. And to the motorbike riders I would like to say: It’s actually illegal to drive on most of the cycling paths in the dunes, so you don’t have any right to be here. Go away, or I’ll call the cops! I mean it. Actually I’m not, but I always wanted to say that.
5)Broaden the bicycle paths!
I know it’ll cost a lot of money and a small piece of nature, but PLEASE do it Minister Schultz van Haegen. Do it for our safety!
[…] These are all, of course, complete conjecture, but the point is, if you want to fit in to Dutch life, you should probably get a bicycle. What is quickly becoming noticeable though about this cliché is that bikes are modernising, and fast. Although you will still see many of the clunky, heavy, back-pedal brake models that you would associate with being Dutch, do not be surprised when you are overtaken by a silent, sleek looking bike with a less-new looking owner – electric bikes are rapidly becoming more popular, and more difficult to distinguish from regular bikes. This can be a good thing, if it is making exercise and freedom more accessible for those who are less mobile – but it also means that older generations are suddenly much speedier than they are used to, so keep your wits about you! (For more cycle safety tips, see Jordy Steijn’s article). […]