In other parts of the Netherlands, the southern city of Maastricht does not have a reputation as a very good cycling city. Especially people from Groningen, in the far north of the country, are no doubt unimpressed when they come to Maastricht and find that the level of bicycle use is roughly half of what they are accustomed to.
By any international standards, however, Maastricht is doing very well. Cycling in Maastricht has a modal share of almost 30% of all trips up to 7.5 km, which is really not bad at all. (For comparison, my home city of Frankfurt am Main, Germany, has just recently managed to get up to 16 % after a big push in recent years.)
Knoop means ‘knot’ and punt means ‘point’, so Knooppunt literally means ‘knot-point’. The whole region of South Limburg is covered with these nodes or knot-points, which is where various bicycle routes come together. At each node there is a big map showing other nearby nodes and the bicycle routes that lead to them. Along the routes themselves there are little signs with the number of the next node, so you really can’t get lost.
The idea is that you can plan your bicycle tour (in advance or ad hoc) by following the marked routes from one node to the next. The system is very flexible, because you can start at any node, wherever you happen to be, and go to any other nodes that are nearby. This system originated in Belgium, apparently, and is now used in numerous regions of Belgium and the Netherlands.
Knooppunt 2, the second node of the South Limburg bicycle network, is in the Céramique district of Maastricht, on Avenue Céramique at the corner of Sonneville-Lunet.
This is a district where (as the name implies) there used to be a big ceramics factory, starting on a small scale in 1851 and gradually developing into a major firm called the ‘Société Céramique’. This was one of two major ceramics companies in Maastricht, until they merged in 1958.
The factory buildings were torn down in the early 1990’s to make room for the library and a new housing development. Both of these were given the French name Céramique, even though French is not otherwise spoken in Maastricht to any great extent.
At Knooppunt 2 there is a bus stop where I later caught the number 50 bus going to Aachen, Germany.
Knooppunt 3, the third node of the South Limburg bicycle route network, is near the main building of Maastricht University. Parts of the old city walls and fortifications are nearby, as are some of the main churches and public squares in the city center.
For some reason I neglected to take a photo of the sign at Knooppunt 4 (the fourth node of the South Limburg cycling network), but this is where it is, at the corner of Köbbesweg and Hoge Weerd near a wide place in the river at the south end of Maastricht, just west of Gronsveld.
Across the river is a cement factory called ENCI (Eerste Nederlandse Cement Industrie), which turns out to be the largest (and most controversial) cement factory in the Netherlands. ENCI has been producing cement in Maastricht since 1926, and directly employs 212 people.
Until recently this was an integrated cement plant, meaning that the full cement production process was carried out here. Limestone was mined from a 135-hectare open-air quarry directly behind the plant. The plan now is that the quarry will be gradually transformed into different zones for the countryside and recreation, including 60 hectares of natural biotopes, though some steps in the process of cement production will continue to take place here.
Apparently cement production is a very energy-intensive process. According to a European Union report, this plant alone consumes nearly 1% of the total primary energy demand of the Netherlands.
The main attraction of Knooppunt 5 (the fifth node in the South Limburg cycle route network) is the Gronsveld Tower Windmill, which is on the boundary between Gronsveld and Maastricht.
From here it would have been just a short ride to the town of Gronsveld (1.9 km to Knooppunt 73), and from there another short ride to Rijckholt (2.3 km to Knooppunt 74) or to Sint Geertruid (3.1 km to Knooppunt 72), but since I was there on a very hot day — the 95 % chocolate bar was melting in my backpack, as I later discovered — I decided to be sensible for a change and not over-do it, so from here I just went back to Knooppunt 2 and the air-conditioned library.
By the way, the word Knooppunt is also used in the Netherlands to designate motorway interchanges. Maastricht has a particularly dreadful one called Knooppunt Europaplein which takes up huge amounts of urban real estate that could much better be used for other purposes.
My photos in this post are from 2012 and 2015. I revised the text in 2019.