Fans of David Hembrow's blog A View from the Cycle Path will probably be aware that he runs twice-yearly study tours of the cycling infrastructure around Assen and Groningen, usually in May and September. These are invaluable for any cycle campaigner and particularly so for UK based ones, because David is British and has spent many years cycling and campaigning in the UK so can put it all in a UK context.
Every September, we are encouraging Embassy members to book themselves onto the study tour as a group. If we can get a big enough group in advance, David might even be able to run separate Embassy study tours tailored to the Embassy's interests. Going on one of the Embassy tours is a great way to meet like-minded CEoGB members as well as seeing for yourself what world-class cycling facilities look like - and more importantly, understanding what it is that makes them work so well. In 2011, most of the Cycling Embassy board went on the September trip and came back more determined than ever to fight to see that quality of infrastructure built in the UK. We now want to spread the word about these wonderful tours, and hopefully energise new cohorts of campaigners to join us in this cause.
If you want to join the next group your first step is to email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know and to explore whether a separate Embassy tour will be possible. Unfortunately, we can't afford to subsidise the cost to members, so the tour has to be self-funded. The next public tour is 25th-27th September 2012. The cost is from €475 which includes bed and breakfast accommodation but not travel and lunch and evening meals.
You can view photos, videos and blog posts from the 2011 Embassy tour on the wiki
I've already read the entire archive of A View from the Cycle Path, is it still worth me going?
Yes! Even though David does an amazing job of explaining Dutch infrastructure on his blog it still has to be seen - and ridden on - to be believed. One of the things that's hard to get across is that the blog truly does not cherry-pick the best infrastructure, nor can it really get across just how ubiquitous good cycling design is in the Netherlands. We all thought we knew what Dutch infrastructure was about but it was still a revelation to take the tour. Also, the network is being developed and upgraded all the time. Taking the tour shows you places that David hasn't got around to writing about yet
I've cycled in the Netherlands on holiday, will I still get much out of it?
Yes. David's explanations of how things work and the inside information about Dutch culture and politics are part of the tour and can help understand why it works so well. When you're cycling it, mostly the paths and junctions work so well that they become 'invisible' - after a while you forget that they're there, you just get on with enjoying cycling along. Also just being in a group of like-minded campaigners will help you share experiences and ideas for bringing similar design back to the UK
I don't cycle much in the UK, will I need to get into training?
Probably not. Although you do cover a fair few kilometres on the bike every day, most of it is at an easy pace, with much stopping and starting. Riding from Assen to Groningen is a bit more of a ride, but it's on beautifully smooth tracks, and can be done at an easy pace - and you can always get the train back for the return trip. And don't forget that the Netherlands is famously flat. Once you get going, it's not much effort to keep going for a surprisingly long way.
Can I bring my own bike? Is it possible to hire one?
It's up to you. The Hembrows can renting you a proper Dutch bike if you like or you can rent one from the station in Assen. In fact, after a day or two in the Netherlands, your average English bike without a kick-stand, nice upright handlebars or dynamo lights, starts to feel a bit incomplete. Also you'll need to pay to take a full-size bike on the Dutch trains so even with the cost of renting a bike, it may work out cheaper in the end.
Can I bring along my non-cycling partner who doesn't want to go on the tour?
This can be done by arrangement with the Hembrows who can add them to your accommodation. The Hembrows also offer self-guided or guided ordinary cycling holidays so a partner who cycles but doesn't want to spend all day measuring cycle paths widths could take themselves off on a day tour.