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Free Bicycles at Park in Netherlands

February 02, 1992|LUCY IZON

Veluwe National Park in the Netherlands is one of the most cyclist-friendly places in all of Europe. Not only does it have 26 miles of cycle paths, but there are also more than 500 bikes available for visitors to use free of charge.

The 13,590-acre park is situated between Arnhem, Ede and Apeldoorn. The well-marked paths lead past ponds and through forests, which are home to hundreds of red deer, wild sheep, roe deer, wild boar and a wide variety of birds.

The park employs two repairmen to maintain the bikes, which are painted white; 25% of them are replaced each year. Special wheelchair bicycles and white tandems for the disabled are also available.

In the center of the park is the Kroller Muller Art Museum. The park was originally a hunting reserve that belonged to Antony Kroller, and the museum was set up by his wife. It now houses a collection of 278 works by Vincent van Gogh, plus old masters and modern works. The largest sculpture park in Europe is behind the museum.

The park is fun for travelers who just want to take a day to cycle, but for those who want to spend a week cycling economically, Future Line Travel offers a variety of options. Future Line Travel was founded in 1988 by the Youth Hostel Assn. of the Netherlands. It now operates independently and offers a variety of do-it-yourself packages that use both hostel and hotel accommodations.

The new "Cycling and Castles" tour sounds ideal for those who have their own bike. The seven-day, $185 package includes youth hostel accommodation, with breakfast and dinner in Arnhem, Gorssel and Apeldoorn. The route covers 19 to 38 miles a day. Participants can start any day between April 1 and Oct. 25.

Another package offers visitors a new bike that they can keep. Holland Bike Holiday includes your choice of a 12-speed mountain bike or a Dutch Grandmother bicycle with pedal brakes.

With the bike you get seven vouchers for accommodations in any Dutch youth hostel (with breakfast), a rain poncho, tire repair kit and a temporary youth hostel membership (good only in the Netherlands). This package is available from March 15 to Oct. 15. The mountain bike package costs about $404; the Dutch Grandmother bike package is $387.

For those who prefer more privacy than a youth hostel offers, there are individual bike tours that feature seven nights' accommodation in three-star hotels, with breakfast and dinner, a rental bike and luggage transportation. There are three routes: one known as the "Heart of Holland" (start any Saturday from May 16); the "North East" (any Sunday from May 17), and "Rivers and Forests," which starts in Arnhem each Saturday from May 16. The cost is $461 per person, double, plus a $116 deposit on the bike. The route averages 38 to 47 miles per day.

Future Line Travel also offers sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, parachuting and mini-Amsterdam packages. The four-day Amsterdam packages include hostel or hotel accommodations, a three-day public transportation pass and a museum pass valid for 12 months for many museums in the country.

The hostel version costs $116, while the hotel version is $188 per person, double occupancy. There are no age restrictions, and the packages are available throughout the year.

For more details on any package, contact Future Line Travel, Prof. Tulpstraat 2, NL-1019 HA Amsterdam, Netherlands, phone 011-31-20-622-2859, fax 011-31-20-622-8590.

An item in the Jan. 19 Youth Beat column listed incorrect telephone numbers for reserving accommodations on Beachcomber Island in Fiji. These are the correct numbers: From the United States, (800) 521-7242; from Australia, (02) 357-3222; from New Zealand, (09) 443-4193, and from Fiji, (679) 661-500.

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