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How To Navigate Bicycle Paths In The Netherlands

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cycling, leisure, recovery

While riding your bicycle through the Netherlands, finding your way without electronics is easier than you think—and you don’t have to worry about batteries.

Road direction signs are posted along main roads for bicycles (wherever bicycles are allowed to travel).

Highways and freeways are, of course, off limits, but they often have a trail parallel, often at a quieter and more scenic distance. Unless you know the way, you have to rely on travelling town to town using a map and road signs.

Bicycle road signs are red on white. Sometimes a sign with green on white points to a scenic alternative to the same destination (not often the same distance).

These signs you'll see quite a lot.
Photo by Dennis Crosby.

Besides arrows on a pole, there is also a variant known as a toad-stool (paddenstoel). These are usually a little over knee high and topped with a truncated pyramid. On one or more of the 4 sides, the names of towns and distances a listed by each arrow direction.

The ANWB, which is the national auto-club / driver’s interest group, has established a national bicycle-path network. This overlaps the general infrastructure, but provides signs and maps along the route which goes node-by-node using numbers.

An example of a "paddenstoel".
Photo by Dennis Crosby.
An example of a "paddenstoel".
Photo by Dennis Crosby.

These numbers are posted at varying intervals along the way to let you know that you’re still headed towards the point you expect to be headed towards. Or not. They are small circles with numbers and arrows and can be posted low or high, and you can miss them behind weeds or low branches.

Some intervals between nodes are pretty long. On the polders especially, but not only there. Some places you have to try to stay on the main bicycle path more or less by instinct. I’ve been relieved more than once to see the expected number after an unexpectedly long distance.

These routes are often longer than following straight lines, but often much more scenic. Worth the trouble if you’re looking for things to film and photograph. I’ve been using the ANWB routes increasingly but I still switch to signposts and familiarity for different reasons (usually weather related).

A Roadmap Next To A Bicycle Path In The Netherlands
A road map on the side of the path.
Photo by Dennis Crosby.

The ANWB book.
I have this book with me nearly every time I go riding, unless I’m staying close to home. Even places I regularly go, this can provide an alternative if something unexpected comes up, or I just change my mind.
It shows the trails using the node system (like the signs along the way), but it also shows other roads. Sometimes a short stretch can be a big shortcut, and this book helps you spot those also.

The book covers the entire country and the pages point at the top to the page number above and at the bottom to the page number below.
The only problem is keeping it dry. It wears fast when it’s wet. This is my second copy, and it’s worn too.

A bicycle road map issued by the ANWB.
Photo by Dennis Crosby.
A bicycle road map issued by the ANWB.
Photo by Dennis Crosby.
A bicycle road map issued by the ANWB.
Photo by Dennis Crosby.
Buy "De Landelijke Fietsatlas" here.
De Landelijke Fietsatlas (Dutch Edition)
Dennis Crosby

Dennis Crosby

I've been in a wheelchair for four years, before that, sick for a long time and didn't get out much. Now, my health is almost restored, and I ride my bicycle all over the Netherlands. I film my bike rides on my GoPro, and share them on Facebook, and in our Facebook group. I also bought a drone, and fly it all over the place, filming anything worth capturing.
Dennis Crosby

Dennis Crosby

I've been in a wheelchair for four years, before that, sick for a long time and didn't get out much. Now, my health is almost restored, and I ride my bicycle all over the Netherlands. I film my bike rides on my GoPro, and share them on Facebook, and in our Facebook group. I also bought a drone, and fly it all over the place, filming anything worth capturing.
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