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If the rural area offers more options for recreation, cyclists, hikers and touring cyclists can set off closer to home.

The Fietsersbond, cycling association NTFU, Fietsplatform and Wandelnet call on the provinces to structurally include walking and cycling in their programs for rural areas. More space for cycling and walking makes a major contribution to achieving climate, nitrogen and quality of life targets. However, research by the Fietsersbond shows that provincial authorities barely include cycling and walking in their plans for rural areas.

The provinces are currently drawing up programs to elaborate the agreements for nature, water and climate from the National Rural Area Program (NPLG). The plans per province must be submitted to the central government before 1 July. The main goals are to improve nature and biodiversity, ensure good water quality and combat climate change. 

"More space for cycling and walking in rural areas is needed to achieve the goals with regard to accessibility, sustainability and quality of life".

Missed opportunity

The Fietsersbond has analyzed the provisional approach per province and concludes that the provinces barely include mobility and recreation in their plans. An exception is North Holland, which includes cycling and walking in the recreation theme. 

"Recreation is inextricably linked to other vital themes, such as landscape, nature and quality of life".

North Brabant, South Holland, Groningen, Overijssel and Utrecht do see opportunities to link recreation and mobility to the regional plans. In Gelderland, Limburg, Flevoland and Friesland, this role is still completely unclear. 

“The lack of attention for cycling and walking in the provincial programs is a missed opportunity. Especially now that it is getting busy in the nature reserves. Shared use of the rural area by holidaymakers, entrepreneurs and residents is a win-win situation."

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Unfortunately, walkers and cyclists in rural areas still encounter barriers and closures.

More diversification through new recreational opportunities

The varied and green landscapes in the rural area offer plenty of space for recreationists and sports enthusiasts. Unfortunately, walkers and cyclists in rural areas still encounter barriers and closures.

“The cluttering of the landscape, the increase in cut-through traffic and barriers also make the recreational connections in and to the rural area less attractive and accessible. Despite the enormous popularity and great social significance of recreation, walking and cycling are under pressure as a result."

The removal of barriers and the opening up and upgrading of closed areas by, for example, water boards and farmers offers new recreational opportunities. Hikers can, for example, take walks on farmland paths across meadows and along flood defenses that have been opened up by landowners.

Local entrepreneurs can benefit from the extra recreational routes with a varied range of activities and facilities. An example is the Buijtenland van Rhoon, where visitors follow a cycle route along nature-inclusive fields. Along the way, cyclists pass a farm shop with local regional products and a picking garden. Another good example are the many farms that open one day a week to visitors or even all year round, such as camping farms.

Closer to home

If the rural area offers more options for recreation, cyclists, hikers and touring cyclists can set off closer to home. Cycling and walking will then replace car trips to busy and vulnerable nature reserves. This is not only healthier for holidaymakers, but also better for the environment. In this way, the quiet character of nature reserves is preserved and nature is better protected.

To keep recreational cycling safe and pleasant in the future, action is needed now. Bicycle platform, ANWB, Fietsersbond and cycling association NTFU have therefore drawn up a Top 10 for recreational cycling. This offers concrete tools with recommendations to get started immediately. In addition, the Fietsersbond points out 10 points that really benefit every Dutch cyclist and Wandelnet has provided a 6-point plan to provinces to make better use of the power of walking.

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