Half an hour after the railways announced it wasn’t certain the trains would go riding again after the storm last Thursday and that it would be wise to seek alternative transportation, I was on my bike to ride the 55 kilometres from my workplace to my home. The routeplanner of the Cyclists’ Union informed me it would be just over three hours at a speed of 18km/h. Five hours later I was home, ten minutes before the first train arrived from Utrecht in ’s-Hertogenbosch after all.
The storm on 18 January 2018 was of a category that takes place about once in a decade. The Germans named it “Friederike”, but – following Dutch custom – it remained nameless in the Netherlands. Sadly, the storm claimed three lives in this country. Since the storm only arrived in the late morning I had no problem reaching my workplace by train in the morning rush hour. However, when the storm hit it had a more devastating effect on the railways than at least I had expected. All over the country there were 344 incidents, including 97 trees on the tracks and over 20 locations where the overhead cables had been damaged. At least one of those power cables had already been broken around 9 in the morning on the line from Utrecht to ’s-Hertogenbosch, when I had just reached work.
I had to go all the way through Houten from north to south. The signs sent me via the red line, but, accouring to the Cyclists’ Union route planner, I should have used the blue line in the north. Can’t have been a very big detour though.
Houten, recently elected Cycling City 2018, I hadn’t expected to cycle here again so soon, on the main square of the old town centre!
Was it careless to simply jump on the bike for such a long ride in the January cold? Maybe, but I – sort of – knew the way. I had done this before. Sure, the last time I cycled the return journey (110kms) on one day was in 2005, which is quite a while ago, but I had cycled in Houten very recently and I cycle in Culemborg quite often. I would also pass these stretches on this journey. I had my smart phone to check the route if necessary and I had a bottle of water and something to eat in my back pack. The wind speeds had decreased from about 140km/h (90mph) at the height of the storm to about 20km/h (12mph), so that would be doable, I thought, because I did know that the remaining wind would be in my face for at least the second half of the way. The one thing I overlooked a bit was the fact that it would be dark half an hour after I started my journey and that I had no puncture repair kit or a pump with me.