Nieuwkoop spends 900,000 euros to move a small section of cycle path slightly to the side. It concerns a bicycle lane of less than 40 meters long that currently wraps around a yard.
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“When I heard it, I thought: gosh,” says Josephine Könst of Cyclists’ Union Alphen. The Nieuwkoop working group of the Cyclists’ Union has for some time classified the cycle path as dangerous. She is surprised and happy that Nieuwkoop is taking the step: “I think that is very special. They really understand how dangerous this point is.”
To avoid a yard, there is a slight bend in the cycle path. According to Könst, accidents often occur because cyclists quickly veer out of the bend. They then end up on the road or collide with each other, because the cycle path also narrows.
It is also a busy road with a lot of truck traffic, where people drive fast. “Dozens of accidents occur every year,” says neighbor Peter Groen. “It often involves some abrasions, but there have also been a few serious injuries.”
One family has been holding back plans for decades
The municipality of Nieuwkoop has been dealing with the problem for decades. There is a grass strip along the rest of the road, but this is not possible on this part. Ever since the cycle path was constructed, the municipality has been trying without success to persuade the owners to give up a piece of the garden.
Since the same family lived in the house until recently, the situation has always remained the same. “We have spoken to the people a few times,” says Groen. “But people preferred not to do that.”
Last month the municipality managed to find a solution, at a huge price. After decades, the family put the house up for sale. In order to be able to install the cycle path, the municipality bought it for approximately 900,000 euros. As originally conceived, a few meters of the garden can now be sacrificed to straighten the cycle path.
Ukrainians come to the house temporarily
The municipality of Nieuwkoop justifies the enormous amount by saying that the house will be sold again in two years. The municipality hopes that the house will retain its value. According to a spokesperson, moving the cycle path makes little difference, according to research. “That effect seems very limited.” The municipality will spend approximately 70,000 euros on relocating the cycle path and selling the house.
Josephine Könst of Fietsbond Alphen cycles along the very narrow section of cycle path. Photo: Merel Klijzing
The municipality expects to have completed work on the cycle path in early 2025, after which the house can be sold again. In the intervening years, the municipality wants to place ten to twelve Ukrainians in the house. “This temporary use prevents vacancy and the risk of vandalism,” the municipality writes. Few adjustments need to be made, because there are already two bathrooms and toilets in the house.
City Council represents a fait accompli
Because the municipality purchased the house quickly, the municipal council has not yet been able to approve the plans. The proposal will soon be discussed in the council, but the municipality is committed to the purchase, even if the councilors do not agree. “We have confidentially informed a council representative in advance,” says a spokesperson. “Fast action was necessary.”
Cyclists passing by are now reacting happily to the news. “It’s a piece of shit,” says Gery Zeilstra. She has been cycling on this cycle path almost every day for years. “Look at how many children cycle here in the morning. It’s really wonderful that they do it anyway.”