Petra Vroomen talks about ‘Heerlen Fietst’
Get involved, cycle your neighborhood!
The platform Heerlen Fietst – literally ‘Heerlen Cycles’ – was created to inspire, connect and show people how much fun and worthwhile cycling can be. Heerlen Fietst organises fun activities and events with a bike theme. We asked cycling enthusiast and founder of Heerlen Fietst, Petra Vroomen, to tell us something about the movement she started.
Petra, how did you come up with the idea of Heerlen Fietst?
In 2013 I started the Facebook page Heerlen Fietst, a platform created for and by cyclists. The reason was simple: I cycle to work every day and regularly in my spare time. It’s not just a fun thing to do, it keeps me fit and healthy. Not only that, it’s an extremely environmentally friendly way to travel and good for the quality of life in urban areas. So my message to everyone would be: get on your bike! Heerlen Fietst helps me to share my passion for cycling with others and connect with others and encourage group cycling. Bicycles are a sustainable means of transport, whether for going to school, to work, to the shops and even to the pub!
What activities have encouraged people to cycle most?
We organise various cycling tours and other fun events. The Summit2Summit Ride during the film festival is an example of the former. This is a bike ride from the highest point in the Netherlands (322m) to the highest point in Belgium (674m) and back along a scenic route. We also organised the Tour du Moulin Huile, a cycle loop in Heerlen around which participants are challenged to do as many laps as possible within the space of an hour and takes in the steepest hill in Heerlen: Oliemolenstraat. At the top of the hill cyclists receive a red sticker to put on their jersey. The cyclist who ends up with the most stickers is the winner and has their very own king of the mountains jersey! Of course, activities don’t always have to be outdoors. For example, in 2019, Heerlen Fietst and the DMFF organised the Dutch Mountain Bicycle Film Festival for 500+ cycling film enthusiasts.
But equally important are the meetings we arrange with provincial and municipal authorities to discuss issues around cycling. I sometimes like to call myself Minister of Bicycles, because I believe that the powers that be should be putting the bicycle higher on the agenda in all walks of life (e.g. the economy, sports, education, culture, health, mobility, etc.) and should be taking it more seriously. So it’s not just about cycle paths and intersections, but more: how can our towns and cities become cleaner, healthier and safer with fewer cars and a better quality of life. I hope that I can do my bit with Heerlen Fietst!
Can anyone with a bike join Heerlen Fietst?
Heerlen Fietst is mainly about spreading the word, having fun and campaigning for sustainable transport. You don’t have to be an experienced cyclist to join in our activities. During the lockdown, we have been challenging people from Heerlen to “colour in” their own neighbourhood / postcode area on Strava (or other fitness app) by cycling all its streets. Any kind of bike will do!
Can we challenge you to come up with a fun new activity for the DMFF?
Many cyclists have managed to colour in their own neighbourhoods, but actually what you get is just a jumble of lines. You could try to be more creative and make a drawing with these lines. Stephan Lund is the true maestro ate doing this and has come up with some fantastic GPS drawings. My tip is to start with a simple stick figure and then work up to more detailed drawings.
How can we get involved?
Grab your bike, turn on your Strava and start cycling. If you have already created a GPS drawing like Stephan Lund, why not share it with us by tagging Heerlen Fietst and the DMFF when you post on Facebook or Instagram with the #gpsart hashtag? We will share it with others too! If you would prefer to cycle an existing GPS route, why not download a GPX route, like the example of the Limburg Dog we have included below. Soon there’ll be lots of beautiful cycling routes on the site!
Finally, what would you most enjoy doing by bike?
The DMFF has already mapped the 7 summits in Limburg and the Dutch Mountain Trail. It would be great if these peaks could be joined up by a bicycle route too, so that that cyclists can also enjoy their own version of the trail!