Biking in the Netherlands


When you come to the Netherlands you will notice that you entered the fietsland. The bicycle-country par excellence!

In the Netherlands 27% of all trips and 25% of trips to work are made by bike. About 1.3 million bicycles were sold in the Netherlands in 2009, at an average price of 713 euro each. Amsterdam, the capital and largest city of the Netherlands, is one of the most bicycle-friendly large cities in the world, with 400 km of bike lanes and nearly 40% of all commutes in Amsterdam are done on bike.

The bicycle is the main form of transport in the Netherlands. Cycling daily is fun, convenient and healthy. The Netherlands are considered the cyclist’s heaven. Cycling here is a way of life. Everyone cycles: indipendently on their income or their age, people ride the bike. You don’t need to be physically fit to cycle here as the flat terrain is ideal also for long distances. And the quality of bicycle lanes (Fietspad) is very high throughout the whole country.

Bicycle Traffic

Some rules

If you cycle in this bicycle-country, you should be aware of some rules. You should follow the same rules as the other vehicle drivers, i.e. adhere to traffic lights and signs, signal by putting out your arm when you change direction, give right of way to busses, trams and taxis. But you will soon notice that most of the fietsers will follow their own rules. This is probably due to the upright position on the bikes. It gives a great overview over the traffic but you may notice that cyclists often take risks only to pass a street, a crossing etc. and overestimate the situation.

Children under 8 years should cycle on the pavement but sometimes this is not possible and you’ll see small children riding their bikes alongside parking cars on the street.

everyone rides bicycles in the Netherlands

And note that on the cycle-paths are also allowed some bromfietsers, motorcycles. This is why it’s not very safe to let very small children ride on the cycle path, especially in areas where is much traffic.

Another thing that you’ll notice is that Dutch people usually don’t wear a safety helmet on their bikes– those who do are usually foreigners.

Travelling with bikes

You can’t get on busses or trams with your bike, but if you want to take your fullsized bicycle in the train, you need a special ticket before boarding (you’ll find designated places for the bicycles at the end of the train). Note that it’s not possible to transport bicycles during rush hours (before 9am and 4.30pm/6pm). And “if you want to travel on trains with a foldable bike, you can do that free of charge any time, provided, of course, that you fold it.” (thanks for adding this, ZJShen-PSimon).

Bike parking

You will find bike stands for your bicycle all over the country, some indoor, some outdoor.

Since in most of the Dutch cities trams, cars, busses and bikes share the same street, you need to keep an eye on the traffic, always, and watch out that the whells don’t get stuck in tram rails.

Lock Your Bike - It's Alright

If  your bike gets stolen, don’t expect the police doing something about it. The percentage of stolen bicycles in the Netherlands is 5%. – If you don’t ride your bike, then lock it (preferably with the ordinary and the u-shaped lock) to something immovable, preferably a bike stand.
Usually headlight and tail-light are an optional to Dutch bikes: if you buy a bike, they are not always included. “But they must be on the bike by law. White in front and red on the back plus white reflecting strips on the sides of the tires so you can also be spotted from the side. You can get fined when you cycle in the dark without proper lighting and the police catches you.” (Thanks to Wim for pointing this out!)

Some more useful informations about biking in the Netherlands

If you visit the Netherlands and would like to rent a bike you can do so in every city, usually next to a railwaystation. You can find useful links and bike rentals here.

On nederlandfietsland.nl you can find plenty of informations about cycling in the Netherlands: a route planner, maps and guides, cycle-friendly places to eat, drink and stay, and even GPS tracks long-distance routes.

The best season for long-distance cycling is May until September. – Ga maar lekker fietsen!

Moving House By Bakfiets

Moving House By Bakfiets (Photo credit: Amsterdamized)

Fiets: Mama Bakfiets, Leidesplein, Amsterdam

Fiets: Mama Bakfiets, Leidesplein, Amsterdam (Photo credit: Nik Morris (van Leiden))

12 responses to “Biking in the Netherlands

  1. Hi Ute, nice article. A small comment. Bicycle lights are not optional but must be on the bike by law. White in front and red on the back plus white reflecting strips on the sides of the tires so you can also be spotted from the side. You can get fined when you cycle in the dark without proper lighting and the police catches you.

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  2. Bike helmets are law for kids under the age of 12. All road cyclists wear helmets too. I can’t imagine riding a city street without one. Cool article, Ute.

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  3. Hi Nate, personally I would prefer everyone wearing a helmet on a bike, to be honest. But this is not likely to happen here. Even if biking in the Netherlands is surely safer than in other countries, especially when you bike on the city street (or any street that you share with other vehicles!), it should be law to wear them. My kids all wear helmets even if their Dutch friends don’t – and this makes them feel strange sometimes, but they understand that it’s for their safety. – There are many articles about wearing helmets. This one is just one from the US: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/03/the-bike-helmet-paradox/273555/. And for those who prefer having an invisible helmet, take a look at this: http://vimeo.com/43038579. It’s a great invention from two brilliant women.

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  4. Sounds like the bike’s paradise :D
    I went to Amsterdam about 13 years ago. I went to a couple of museums and I did not have time for using a bike ;) maybe next time I travel to Netherlands I will ask you for some tips!

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  5. Hoi, Ute, a good one, but one important addition: if you want to travel on trains with a foldable bike, you can do that free of charge any time, provided, of course, that you fold it. What you’ve written about trains allowing bikes is only true for normal, full-size bicycles.

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  6. “If your bike gets stolen, don’t expect the police doing something about it. The percentage of stolen bicycles in the Netherlands is 5%|”

    My friend’s daughter had her bike stolen last year. By strange coincidence, they saw the stolen bike in town on a Thursday night. So they kicked the lock and stole the (uniquely painted) bike back..

    Just cleaned mine up after all the bad weather. Thinking of taking her out for a spin later– but the pollen count is deadly on this side of the Ijssel at the moment, so that might just remain a thought.

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  7. Misirlou, your daughter was very lucky. We’ve also “personalized” our bikes in order to recognize easier – also on the parkings! – and up to now no bike had been stolen yet (fingers crossed). I hope you’ll be able to go for a ride soon and enjoy the weather (without pollen!).

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  8. I wish there were more of a bike-riding culture in the United States!

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    • Could you tell which are the cities – or places (also small towns) – where bike-riding is not only considered a sport in the US? I read somewhere (a few years ago) that in New York there were more than 200,000 people biking every day. I don’t know how it is today and if anything changed?

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