Bicycle Highway from Den Haag to Leiden Parallel to the N44 Highway (with Emma Katz and Jesse Morrow)
Toward the end of our time in the Netherlands, Emma, Jesse, and I rode on the bike highway between The Hague and Leiden that runs parallel to the N44 Highway. This route runs somewhat parallel to the North Sea coastline, through the northernmost section of the Green Heart of the Randstad, and cuts through some smaller towns and villages like Wassenaar and Maaldrift before arriving close to the more recently built area of Leiden, near its medical center, flagship university, and primary train station. Although there are a couple significant splits between the bicycle highway and motor vehicle highway along the route, they are close to one another through most of their course. With a total distance of fifteen kilometers from one city center to another, it is definitely a corridor that cyclists can use for commuting, but it might not be a comfortable round trip distance for every cyclist (as a one-way trip between the cities takes about one hour).
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The route begins on the eastern end of The Hague in the Haagse Bos, which is just outside the S100 Centrum Ring and just northeast of The Hague Central Station. The path’s beginning can be hard to find, as the nearby way-finding signs are somewhat contradictory, and the signs which are closest to the path itself don’t formally let a cyclist know what path they’re on. Once a cyclist is on the path, however, it is incredibly straightforward. The Haagse Bos is a massive rectangular park which spans the equivalent of dozens of city blocks in area, and is what appears to be an untouched urban forest. The cycle path here is a wide, unpaved mixed-use path which runs the length of the park and is flanked by a wide expanse of trees on either side. This section of the bicycle highway corresponds to Section A on the map.
Figure 1: At an intersection near the Haagse Bos. The path is stunning and insular, and its 2 kilometer length makes it quite the urban oasis.
After about two kilometers, the path becomes paved, and gradually emerges from the park, becoming a more conventional cycle track, with red pavement and a striped white line indicating two-way bicycle travel. After the path passes underneath the N44, it emerges on its northern side, and runs alongside it for several kilometers.
Figure 2: The bike highway’s grade separated pass under the N44, just east of the Haagse Bos. Note that the tunnel walls cave are angled outward, letting in ample light.
Section B is the section of bicycle highway past this underpass, when the cycle track was, for the most part, separated from the adjacent sidewalk and cuts through mostly rural areas alongside the highway. Here, the pavement was smooth, regular, and there were few intersections where cyclists did not have priority. The cycle track’s separation from the road was also substantial, with either a grass strip, tree-lined area, or three-foot wide concrete bump usually serving as a barrier between the two lines of traffic. At intersections, areas of curb protected cyclists from adjacent traffic.
Figure 3: A typical view of the path looking eastward, with physical separation from traffic found throughout the route.
In some areas, the cycle track lost its exclusivity and became a mixed-use path once again. Because of the low volume of pedestrians utilizing the path, this was not an issue, and did not slow us down at all.
Figure 4: This picture shows the transition from a cycle track to a mixed use path which allows both cyclists and pedestrians.
When the N44 reached Wassenaar, the bicycle highway to Leiden was diverted off of the cycle track and onto some local roads in the town. Here, the bike highway went through some advisory lanes, some fietstraats, and some one-way cycle tracks. In this segment, Section C, way-finding remained intuitive, and traffic was very low, making the route continue to feel safe throughout. After cutting through the town, the bicycle highway went down a country path surrounded by farmland, and stayed in this setting for a kilometer or two before rejoining the N44.
Figure 5: One of the advisory lane segments in Section C, traveling through Wassenaar.
Once the bicycle highway converged with N44, it began what we are calling Section D, which mirrors Section B in design and functionality. After another kilometer or two of this, the cycle track approached the Leiden Center train station, where there was a cycle track junction, and from there we were able to find our way to Leiden’s old town.
This bicycle highway was incredibly direct, owing to its proximity to the highway for most of its course, but also featured a diverse set of surroundings, including residential areas and farmland. This diversity makes it a very enjoyable path to ride on, and only enhances its functional capabilities, which are ensured by the fact that it has evenly paved lanes, a safe distance of separation from traffic, and mostly excellent way-finding. There noise of the highway also felt somewhat insulated from the bike highway, due to the physical barriers put in place, and it made for a bicycle ride that didn’t feel like it was along a highway.
Figure 6: One of the many way-finding signs that we found along the route.
We were also lucky enough to take this trip on a pretty nice afternoon! It was drizzling throughout our return journey, but the weather getting to Leiden was sunny, cool, and breezy. Even though it was nicer getting there than coming back, the rain that we ran into was followed by a gorgeous rainbow.
Figure 7: A rainbow seen from the highway.
Overall, this route is pleasant throughout, and has some commuting utility, but would be most useful for individuals travelling from one of the smaller towns in the center of the highway to one of the bigger cities at the ends, rather than from one end to another.