The Dutch and their bikes go together better than peanut butter and jelly — but how did the Netherlands become a cycling paradise in a world increasingly dominated by cars?
It’s safe to say that Dutchies take their love of biking very seriously. In fact, you’ll find Dutchies biking under any circumstance — they bike when they’re drunk, when they’re texting, when it’s raining, with a bucket full of children, oh and even when they’re naked. 😳
So, what makes biking so popular here? Is it convenience or simply a fun and social activity? Here are 17 reasons why biking in the Netherlands is anything but ordinary. 🕵️
1. The landscape is incredibly flat
With no bumpy roads and no need to huff and puff up a hill, biking and commuting to work, school, or a friend’s house is smooth sailing — and sweat-free.
2. Great cycling infrastructure is found everywhere
Since the 1980s, Dutch cities began to make streets more cycle-friendly by introducing cycling paths, cycling traffic lights, and pro-cycling policies.
On Dutch streets, bikes rule the road and for a good reason. Not only are there separate and clear bike lanes but all bridges, lifts in stations, trains and metros, and even stairs in public spaces are designed for, oh, you guessed it, a fietser. 🚴🏻♀️
3. Dutchies bike before they learn to walk
Dutch children are inducted into the glorious world of cycling as soon as they’re born. As babies and toddlers, they travel in ‘bakfietsen,’ scoot along on a learner’s bicycle with no pedals by the age of two, and are often cycling by the age of four; talk about growing up fast! 😄
It’s even integrated into schools: students take cycling lessons, and a verkeersexamen (traffic exam) is mandatory, specifically designed to help children learn how to cycle safely and move around in traffic.
4. Biking in the Netherlands says nothing about status or hierarchy
“Biking is only for the people that can’t afford a car or public transportation,” said no Dutch person ever.
Biking in the Netherlands is truly for everyone — no matter what you do for a career or how much money you have in your bank, cycling the streets is the norm.
🚲🚲— Mark Bray-Parry 🌳🌱 | ☀️🌬️🌊☢️ | ⚕️ (@brayparry) March 6, 2023
Descriptions and statistics just do not do the cycling culture in the Netherlands justice. Having just spent a day in Utrecht, I’m utterly blown away. It isn’t just the numbers but the varied demographics: age, gender, fitness, wealth. Also no helmets or high vis in sight!
Who knows, you might very well be biking next to a CEO of a company, the Dutch Prime Minister — or a millionaire! 👀
5. Cycling is cheaper and healthier
Let’s face it: having a car in the Netherlands is not cheap. Add in paying for gas, taxes, and parking fees, and it will cost you a stack of geld (money).
Enter: biking. People go everywhere with bikes on a daily basis — from going out at night to the gym or visiting someone — making bikes a cheap, practical, and healthy option.
And let’s not forget that the Netherlands is one of the top ten healthiest countries in the world. Is it partly due to all the cycling? Natuurlijk! 💪
6. The government and employers actively encourage Dutchies to bike
With the Netherlands being famously cyclist-friendly, it is common that the government actively discourages car use and motivates bicycle use instead.
But the Netherlands takes it one step further, by offering bike allowances at workplaces. This means that some companies offer to cover travel expenses for cyclists with a tax-free mileage allowance of €0.19 per kilometre — that’s one way to get people to ditch their cars! 😀
7. The 1970s changed biking in the Netherlands forever
Today, the Netherlands is known to be a cycling haven, but that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, it wasn’t till the 1970s, when an oil crisis, car crisis, and social movements hit, that the Netherlands began to push cycling over driving.
One of the most important social movements that led the government to create bike paths was Stop de Kindermoord, which literally meant to stop children’s murders. 🛑
They did in the Netherlands and made the country into one of the top places for quality of life specifically because of it. Everything is closeby cycling and cars barely kill people— Anon user (@CarloAguilar96) March 28, 2023
With cars came consequences. In 1971 alone, more than 400 children were killed on Dutch roads. This led to protesters, especially mothers, taking over the streets and starting demonstrations against the use of cars.
Nowadays, thanks to new systems and cycling infrastructures, kids in the Netherlands can bike freely to school, sports, or friends, with fewer parents worrying about their safety.
8. The Netherlands is one of the safest countries in the world to bike
With cyclists having priority over cars and pedestrians by law, cyclists have their own right of way, making them feel powerful and protected when they’re on the roads.
Have you been to the Netherlands? Cycling there is just like driving here – fast and intuitive to the locals, a bit intimidating to visitors. But what a thrill to ride where cyclists truly have right-of-way!— Robin Richardson she/her 🚲 (@CanadaRobin) November 30, 2020
In turn, cyclists are expected to respect and obey the rules of the roads as well in order to prioritise safety for others. Using your phone while biking? Nee, alsjeblieft! Having working lights on your bike at night? Ja zeker! Riding recklessly? Nee!
9. Bike parking is available everywhere
Some countries have car parks, and the Netherlands has…bike parking lots? Fietsenstallingen are found all over the country and might be outside, inside, underground, or even underwater — this is very normal, extremely practical, and often free.
The Netherlands is known to have two of the world’s biggest underground bike parking lots, one in Utrecht, which can store up to 12,500 bikes and the other in The Hague, which can hold up to 8,500 bikes.
With so many bike parking lots available, this means no more dumping bikes in the canals — do you hear that, drunk people?
10. The Dutch are firm believers in dedicated bike paths
In need of a break from cycling in cities? Not only does the Netherlands have bike paths to get you to work or school, but it also has incredible scenic bike paths where you can cycle to get closer to nature.
Many national parks offer peaceful bike rides, where you can pedal the day away by soaking up the sun, breathing in the fresh air, and getting surrounded by greenery. 🌲
11. Biking is eco-friendly, and Dutchies are proud of it
Cycling is a great way to improve your physical and mental health, but (bonus points!) — also the health of the planet! Dutchies regularly take pride in doing their bit for the environment, simply by replacing their car trips with their two-wheel commute. 🌍
By not using any gas, bikes do not release harmful emissions that pollute the air, nor any carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change. That’s right, choosing to bike makes a huge impact on your carbon footprint, and we’re all here for it! 🙋♀️
12. Buying a bike is ultra-cheap
Buying a bike in the Netherlands won’t make your wallet want to cry — a second-hand bike can cost between just €50 and €250.
READ MORE | Where to buy a bike in the Netherlands
Best part? Once you’ve bought a bike, your only costs are maintenance. Compared to a car, it will save you hundreds of dollars on gas, expensive maintenance, and insurance.
Oh, and if you’re scared of your bike being stolen, you can even get bike insurance — echt fijn!
13. Dogs love biking almost as much as Dutchies
Don’t want to leave your furry friend behind when you go on a bike ride? You don’t have to.
You’ll see dogs biking everywhere with their Dutch owners: in baskets, bakfietsen, grocery baskets, saddle bags on the back of the bike, and even balancing on top of children’s bike seats!
Having bikes with these extra features gives owners the possibility to bring their pets with them anywhere they go — a true Dutch family outing. 🐶
14. When drinking, biking home is way cheaper than a cab
€40 for an Uber to get home after a night of drinking? Dutchies say nee bedankt (no thanks). The best way to sober up from all the beer drinking is with a refreshing bike ride anyways. 🍻
Biking in the Netherlands is very humbling 😊— R Max (@rmaxdev) March 12, 2023
(especially late at night with heavy weight) pic.twitter.com/fu5aWtZrvi
Never mind that biking under the influence is illegal and dangerous — less money on public transport means more money for beer, say the Dutch.
Skip the stress of having to check your watch for when the last tram or metro goes, biking home after a night out is the true Dutch way (just be careful not to fall in a canal, yes, it happens).
15. Biking is often faster than driving
Want to travel to a Dutch city and go to the centre? Well, you can’t. Not with a car, at least, as many Dutch cities forbid cars from entering their city centre.
Instead of turning circles and wasting half an hour with your car until you find a parking place that is relatively close to the centre, cycling is the way to go!
16. There’s no need to wear a helmet or athletic gear
There is nothing worse than biking with a helmet to a special gathering or event, and you take off your helmet and then boom: your hair looks like you haven’t brushed it in days.
Not to worry in the Netherlands, though, as it is not mandatory to wear helmets, or there’s no need to squeeze into Lycra either (unless you want to, you do you!).
That’s right, Dutchies only really wear sportswear if they’re a wielrenner (racebike rider), not the average person who cycles daily. Who has the time to change in and out of sporting clothes anyways? After all, Dutchies like getting things done in a practical and convenient manner.
17. Dutchies aren’t cyclists, they’re just Dutch
Biking in the Netherlands is so common; everyone cycles regardless of the time, the weather, or the distance. For Dutchies, biking is an integral part of their everyday life.
One of the nicest things about cycling in the Netherlands is that you’re just a person (who happens to be riding a bike), not a cyclist 😃 pic.twitter.com/e6P2Q7Cbhi— TallBikeGuy (@theTallBikeGuy) March 27, 2023
They’re not concerned about how they look while biking or with having the latest model of bike. Instead, they regard their bikes as loyal companions in their everyday adventures.
It’s about creating memories with your friends or family — a bike ensures an everlasting kind of love. 💞
From social and historical reasons to economic, and environmental ones, Dutchies bike for many reasons. It’s tricky to understand Dutch people and their concepts without considering their best, most faithful friends: their bikes.
Dutchies bring their bikes everywhere they go, and why wouldn’t they? With cycle-centric rules of the roads to amazing biking infrastructures, Dutchies love to bike.
What is your favourite thing about cycling in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!