What an intercity journey looks like in the Netherlands
I live in Utrecht and once a week I travel 90km to Nijmegen.
Each time I’m so impressed with the efficiency of the journey. This time, I thought I’d share it.
0612: Get your bike
I park my bike on the street. There are 3 of these bike stands within 10 meters of my door and they’re all full.
Don’t forget your lights though.
0615: Too the station
The ride is very quiet this early. It’s a mix of streets with traffic calming measures and where space allows, proper segregated bike lanes.
There’s just one stop on the way when the bike lane crosses a big road, but there’s a countdown timer so you know you’ll be on the move soon.
0625: Park up
Utrecht has the world’s biggest underground bicycle park and whilst it’s normally full on weekdays, I’m early enough today to bag a spot
It’s free for 24 hours and you use your OV card to get access. OV cards are used for everything in the Netherlands. You can access car shares, trains, buses, trams and bike hire with them.
And up it goes.
0630: At the station
A quick stroll upstairs from the bike park, past the beautiful city hall and we’re at the station entrance.
Utrecht just finished the renovation of its main train station. Since it’s the busiest station in the country, it was sorely needed.
OV card out again and we’re through the barrier. Train fares in NL are calculated by KMs travelled. Coming from the convoluted UK train ticketing system which requires your to by months in advance for the cheapest fare, this is wonderful.
Down to the platform and the trains already waiying, 8 minutes before we depart.
The biggest decision of the morning, upstairs or downstairs? Upstairs obviously.
Each carriage tells you information about the journey, where the next stop is and if you’re ontime.
26 minutes after I leave the house and we pull out of the station.
You can track progress in the NS app, which even tells you how fast you’re going.
The carriage stays pretty empty throughout the journey, but we’re probably still before rush hour.
Along the way a charming lady came through handing out cards explaining that this line has engineering works planned for a few weeks time. Such a great and effective way of communicating information with regular commuters.
0732: Arrival in Nijmegen
Right on time, and as dawn breaks, we pull into our destination.
The NS app even reminds you to check out by tapping your OV card again at the barriers.
And when you do, it’ll tell you how much the journey cost.
Now onto the second bike of the day.
With OV Fiets, I can rent a bike at most stations for just under 4 euros. You need to add a free 'add on' to your OV card but then it’s as simple as muddling through Dutch small talk with the bicycle mechanic and tapping out.
The bikes themselves are well maintained and are the quintessential Dutch bike. This means they use coaster brakes which for me, was like learning to ride a bike again. I soon picked it up though.
Then I join Nijmegen’s commuters on the short cycle to the hospital.
0755: You have reached your destination
The weather’s noticeably brisker than in Utrecht, so I make an effort to make the journey as quick as possible. Thankfully, I soon arrive, lock up and head into the warm.
Door to door, it took me just over 90 minutes to make the 90km trip. Sometimes things go wrong of course. One time it took me 2 hours after some winter delays. But on the whole, it’s a great start to the day.