Friday, June 8, 2012

Cycling around the Ringvaart

The Ringvaart is a huge circular canal just north of Leiden surrounding the Haarlemmermeer polder. On the inside, there is a road with on-street bike lanes all the way around around, about 60k. It's a cyclist training dream (except for the 30kph speed limit for cars and bicycles alike), with almost no stops, low car traffic and smooth easy paths.

A few sites list maps and routes.
The only potential problem is the pelo-tons of other cyclists. :)

I took this photo around 9am...
Peloton on the Ringvaart
However, if you wake up super-early like I do, then you can spend a peaceful time cycling by yourself. The peloton-ers don't appear until after 8:30 am, lazy bums...

Earlier in the morning with nice long shadows... 
Long shadows

Horses are just waking up.
 Lazy horses
Overall, the route is really pleasant. I'm not a racer or wielrenner, but sometimes I like to ride my bike for a good distance without stopping a lot. It took me about 3.5 hours door to door, 80k total... and that's fast enough for me!

(Although I was tempted and taunted by the speed capture cameras along the route.)

I'd recommend the route for a leisurely day ride, too. There are many cafes and bars lining the whole ring, a few cute little towns and at least two historical sites, the Cruquius and Fort Vijfhuizen.

And a tip- There's a bit of construction near Schiphol on the east side of the ring with an omleiding. Trust it... but ignore all other omleidings and just follow the canal. I got a bit lost on one omleiding and a nice elderly couple on a morning ride told me to ignore the closed path sign and ride up it, just like they did.

A lone racer at the top!
Always ignore the omleiding


  1. There is no speedlimit for cyclists in the Netherlands.

    I once watched a TV programma about undercover police patrols who watch the traffic on the main roads in the Netherlands.

    They saw a velomobile which had a speed of more than 50 km per hour, the allowed speed for motortraffic at that point.

    They halted the cyclist. No because of his speed, but because the TV persons wanted an item about this bike in their program.

  2. The speed limit is for the road and all road traffic, including cyclists.

  3. @anonymous: the video you refer to can be found here:
    Officially there is no speed limit for bicycles, for various practical reasons. But as Alicia points out, a speed sign covers the road and all its users. The velomobile you see in the video is not on the road but on a separate cycle path, so exempt from speed limitations anyway.

  4. @Frits B. Thanks for the link.

    I think you didn't took the time to watch it again. The reporter asked a policeman what if the cyclist rides 60 km in a 30km zone? The policeman: we will probably stop him to check if he hasn't some kind of engine, bit if he hasn't then we have to let him go.

    And 60 km per hour in not hypothetical, the cyclist claims his max. speed is about 70 km ph!

  5. @anonymous: If you Google "maximum snelheid fiets" you will find several forums on which policemen explain their dilemma. There is no provision in law with regard to cycling speeds, because (a) bikes have no speedometers so logical reason demands that you cannot require them to have knowledge of their speed, (b) bikes cannot be identified by registration numbers so evidence that a certain bike went too fast is difficult to find unless the cyclist is actually stopped. On the other hand, a speed limit sign is valid for all users in the road it covers, so including bicycles. It's telling that for on-road bicycle races must apply for a licence of freedom of speed.
    As for this velomobile, the only reason why it would go scot free when caught by a speed camera, is exactly that it cannot be officially identified unless stopped by a patrolman, and that I suppose would be very rare plus a lot of hassle as a lawyer would immediately point out that non-motorized vehicles are non-existant in speed legislation. In other words: the law doesn't recognize - yet - that bicycles might be able to go over the limit when powered by the rider alone. It's entirely different for e-bikes as these clearly have some sort of engine and are thus not human-powered only, and they have speedometers. That's why they are limited to 25 km/h.

  6. You can still be halted for dangerous or reckless riding, so even velomobile riders are not completely outside the law.

  7. It's really simple about speeding:
    Only motorized vehicles (excl. electric bicycles) have speed limits.

    Bicycles must only obey speed limits when there is a traffic sign for speed reduction (sign A1

    In reality: There isn't any.

  8. Almost all speed limits at the ringvaart are implemented as zones (zones for max 30 or max 60 kph) or are the consequences of being in a build-up area (bebouwde kom). These speed limits do not apply to cyclists.

    If the speed limit sign (bord A1, white circular sign, red edge, max speed in black characters) applies to cyclist is not clear to me. I saw a post on an internet forum where the poster claimed it was valid. As argument he gave a link to a forum for policemen, but one has to be a member to see it.

    In this discussion it is claimed that the sign A1 does NOT apply to cyclist:
    As argument is given the explanatory statement to the relevant legal article.

    If the speed limit is valid for everyone it has some weird consequences:
    1. A build-up area is indicated by a rectangular blue sign with the name of the town or whatever in white characters. Such a sign is almost always accompanied by the speed limit sign for 50 km. That sign serves as a reminder. If I enter a town on bike with my usual 60 kph, I shall have to reduce speed because of the speed limit. After the first crossroads the speed limit is no longer valid and I can go back to my usual 60 kph.
    2. Speed limits of 15 kph do occur in the Netherlands. Must a runner reduce speed when he encounters this sign?

    by the previous Anonymous.

  9. @Anonymous at 8:22
    The A1 speed limit sign applies to the road it is placed on. If a cyclist rides on a separate cycle path, the sign will not apply, but if he rides in the road it will. So indeed, if you enter a town on a bike at 60 km/h, you will have to reduce speed. That the speed limit is no longer valid after the first crossroads is an argument I have seen elsewhere too, but if it loses its validity for cyclists on a road it should also be open to non-observance by car drivers. Seems illogical, and I wouldn't bet on it, as there is a standard rule that within a built-up area speed limit signs need not be repeated at every street corner, unless they change at that corner. In other words, within a town the speed limit is always 50 km/h unless signalled otherwise for a defined area. We had this discussion in my home town where almost the entire inner city is 30 km/h. The 30 km/h zone is signalled by a sign saying "Begin 30 km/h zone" and you stay in it until you encounter a sign "Einde 30 km/h zone".
    A runner entering a zone limited to 15 km/h should of course reduce speed ... if he runs on the road the sign applies to. Would he? This is all very theoretical.

  10. The speed limit of 50 kmh in a town is not the consequence of a speed limit sign, it is the consequence of the sign which indicates that you entered the town. The blue sign with the name of the town. That sign is very often, but not always accompanied by a speed limit sign, as a reminder. But regardless of the presence of the 50 kph speed limit at the entrance of the town, there is a speed limit. The law gives speed limits for all kind of road users in the build up area, but NOT for cyclists, pedestrians or runners.

    The same goes for a speed limit zone, only signs at the entrance and exit of the zone. Again, the internet tells me, not valid for cyclists.
    In the video the reporter asks the policeman what if the cyclists rides 60 kph in a 30 kph zone? Answer: if he hasn't some kind of engine this is allowed.

    A speed limit sign (bord A1) is really only valid until the next crossing. Therefore, on a city highway, where 70 kph is allowed, the speed limit sign for 70 kph must be repeated at every crossroad, or a 70 kph zone must be indicated (but I have never seen that).
    The zone is introduced to avoid all those speed limit signs.

    I still don't believe that the speed limit sign is valid for pedestrians or cyclists.

  11. I can't tell if it was legal or not... but I managed to go over 30kph yesterday and see the unhappy face of the speed capture :(! Yay!


  12. I looked this one up, you can find my findings at

    Keep in mind that the Dutch road rules differentiate between 'vehicle operators' (bestuurders) and 'motor vehicles' (motorvoertuigen).

    Speed limits within a built up area are for motor vehicles, mopeds and so on, but not for bicyclists.

    The rules about speed limits indicated by signs reference 'vehicle operators' however.

    One thing I did not see mentioned in the comments so far is that speed limits on a Woonerf apply to vehicle operators, which includes bicyclists.