Bicycle culture in The Netherlands

A friend recently visited The Netherlands for a family reunion. Over a few weeks, he travelled to four cities and as a keen photographer (and the owner of a new bike for cycling forest trails), James was captivated by the way in which bicycles are part of everyday life.  With James’ permission, here are his observations and photographs:

Netherland Bikes – A way of life for all seasons.

It was so nice to see a country that relies so heavily on bikes as a common mode of transport. Walking the streets, one could hear approaching bikes as, in places, there are fewer cars and hence less road noise; aside from under serviced bike chains, or the clinging of bells to advise pedestrians or the laughter and chatter of approaching cyclists or those on their mobile phones. It is truly a country geared for cycling where if an accident occurs it is usually blamed on the vehicle driver. Bikes of all shapes and sizes were pedalling the streets, all times of the day and night whatever the weather.

It was a sight to behold when you arrived at railway stations; the parked bikes in dedicated Bike Parks – some single height bike park racks, others double height racks and then there is the multi-level bike park.

…my less than three year old second cousin, to the quite elderly still cycle daily and everywhere.

The view in the photograph above shows the railway station of Delft. I panned across to see double store racking for cyclist commuters catching the train to the final destination.

I came across a number of bikes that took my interest; some older models and some new – all the same it was very interesting to see how from the very young such as my less than three year old second cousin, to the quite elderly still cycle daily and everywhere.

Double tier bike racks

We didn’t quite get to see how the bikes were lowered off the racks or for that matter onto the racks for parking. I should’ve stood around to see how this was done, however it was cold and a hot chocolate beckoned.

A multi-level bike park, a facility dedicated to bike parking in the busy city of Rotterdam).(FIET is Dutch for bicycle)

A multi-level bike park. FIETS (Dutch for bicycles) is a facility dedicated to bike parking in the busy city of Rotterdam.

Bikes - an industry in itself. This was one such Bike Hire facility; along side was a huge maintenance workshop.

Bike hire – an industry in itself. This was one such Bike Hire facility; along side was a huge maintenance workshop.

This cargo bike was later seen carrying two small children snugly tucked under a blanket in the cargo box with Mum pedalling.

This cargo bike was later seen carrying two small children snugly tucked under a blanket in the cargo box with Mum pedalling.

A family bike

An upmarket bike for the family.

Delivery Van or should I say Delivery Peddly.

Delivery Van or should I say Delivery Peddly.

All shapes and sizes - depending who wanted to get to their destination first.

All shapes and sizes – depending who wanted to get to their destination first. (Note from Gail: I showed this photo to another friend who is looking for a Tandem Trike so he and his 98 year old dad can ride together. Wonderful!)

One for the family

Another one for the family.

A child's jumpsuit attached to the front seat of the bike with a wind shield for further cold weather protection.

A child’s jumpsuit attached to the front seat of the bike with a wind shield for further cold weather protection.

New Ply Sandwich bikes. I did see some bamboo bikes also but wasn’t poised with camera ready to shoot.

New Ply Sandwich bikes. I did see some bamboo bikes also but wasn’t poised with camera ready to shoot.

Foldaway bikes

Foldaway bikes

15 Comments on “Bicycle culture in The Netherlands

  1. What an encouragement for all of us to stay active through life – and when your bike gets difficult to manage, then shift into another style.

    I remember meeting some Dutch travellers in Thailand who said that not owning a car and using bikes meant they could afford their regular overseas trips each year. Another bonus!

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    • It’s great isn’t Jenny. Cycling at all ages. There seem to be some innovative designs emerging for trikes and tandems which makes it even more accessible. And as for saving money for travelling, well that’s got to be attractive!

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    • I agree, Robyn. The way cycling in Holland is so well integrated into everyday life is inspiring.

      Yes, James took some wonderful photographs. There are quite a few more which might find their way into some future posts.

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    • Yes, the Dutch have a long history with cycling for sure. I was interested to read recently that there were years when the number of cyclists diminished as car numbers grew and it was only through the Dutch people rallying for better facilities for road sharing with cars and pedestrians that there was an upturn in cycling numbers again.

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  2. Hopefully this posting is not too out of date. Thanks to Alida’s post I was pleased to come across your very interesting site. It’s amazing to see the innovative bike culture in the Netherlands. When coming to Oz in the early sixties my bike was the only means to explore the new world. And what a wonderful experience it was. (Apart from the fact I could not afford a car at the time) I think the motor car is too aggressive; it displaces the traveller in a way that is too rushed and fleeting for any transformative experience. But bike riding comes instinctively to a Dutchman like myself and this means of conveyance, supplemented with bushwalking, allowed for the intimacy indispensable for an enduring relationship with the land. I am most fortunate today at age 71 and following a major operation for cancer of the esophagus (which has a survival rate of only about 20%) that I am still able to ride & hike. I am hoping in spring to ride from Buchan over the ranges to Jyndabyne and Thredbo, but I’ll need a different bike. My current one is good for rail trails, but not so good on the big hills. Good luck to Alida; she sets an inspiring example.

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    • Thanks for writing Henk. This is a lovely surprise. When I heard of your manuscript project at HARDCOPY, I knew we shared some common ground in how we each perceive the land around us. Now it’s fantastic to also know that extends to bike riding 🙂

      You are so fortunate to have experienced life in the Netherlands where bicycle riding is so well engrained and I’m sure your bike riding and hiking in the bush continues to bless your health. It’s so inspiring to hear stories like yours and read of the feeling that riding and hiking, each with their slow gentle pace, brings to the spirit.

      I like the sound of your plans for Spring. I’m interested to know what type of bike you might choose.

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      • Thanks for your lovely response, Gail. I last rode a bike in the Netherlands in the late fifties, so things were very different then. People mostly got around by bikes (and light rail etc.), but there were few dedicated bike paths. Of course there were not many cars either. Not having been back since 1972 I was amazed to see on your site how well the bike culture has developed there. Some lessons there I think.
        I have written a fairly well developed piece about my experience in those early sixties and how that shaped my relationship with the environment. I intend to incorporate it into that book one day! I hope your writing project is going well.

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