Fietspad is Dutch for “cycle path”. However, after 4 days cycling in the Netherlands, I realise that as the Inuit are said to have 20 words for snow, and we English have at least as many for water falling from the sky so “cycle path” fails to do justice to ” fietspad”. Fietspad is more than a splash of paint with less power than a yellow line. Fietspad are physical paths on which you can cycle safely and are also a culture in which motorists respect cyclists so that a splash of paint means so much more than in the UK. Road planners also clearly think in terms of the journey a cyclist might want to make rather than the British approach of where might I put a cycle lane without inconveniencing other road users.
The worst sort of Dutch cycle lane is an unseparated line at the side of the road. However, the behaviour of motorists is clearly that they do not cross the line if there is a cyclist in the lane. Even if that means slowing down behind a cyclist, or stopping for an oncoming cyclist. So , not only do you feel safe, but you also feel your children can cycle safely.
Moreover, many roads, even relatively minor roads, have separated cycle paths at the side of them. Sometimes there is one on each side of the road. Other times, there is one lane with a dotted line, separating cyclists in opposite directions, just like a proper road.
We are in a very touristy area. So it may be unrepresentative. But there are also cycle only paths through the forest. We had lunch at a pancake house that you have to pedal or walk to. And everything is so well signed and maintained. Some of our paths have been gravelly or unsurfaced but I don’t recall a pothole.
Everything is so well linked. We took a few paths today that crossed more major roads. So, of course there was a cyclist crossing with a request button at the right height. And you are taken safely around roundabouts, rather than deposited on the inside of a left turning lorry as is the custom on the so called Super Highways.
You do have to be very careful of motorists when a cycle path crosses a road. Rather than accelerate to avoid being slowed down by a cyclist, the Dutch generally stop to let you cross. This can cause embarrassment to the Englishman waiting for his family to catch up. So my advice is not to stop too close to the edge, always sloped, never a curve.