We all know that the Dutch love their bikes, and they love cycling. However, we were a bit surprised to find out that they also love their safety.
After all, Dutchies holding hands, cruising around with umbrellas, and checking their phones on the bike is not an unusual sight. And what’s a helmet again? Traffic lights, who? But as it turns out, first impressions can be deceiving.
Rumour has it, almost every Dutchie has had the chance to take a proper bike exam at some point in their life — yep, the legendary verkeersexamen (traffic exam). 🚲
What does a verkeersexamen entail?
The traffic exam is organised every year for school children between the ages of 10-12 by Veilig Verkeer Nederland (Safe Traffic the Netherlands).
While you may never have heard of it, the programme has been running at most Dutch schools for the past 85 years. Who would’ve thought that Dutchies are so committed to safe cycling?
The verkeersexam consists of a practical and a theoretical section. For the theoretical section, students have to answer 25 questions about basic traffic etiquette. If they answer at least 16 out of 25 questions correctly — they pass the test. 🎓
Pssst: Would you pass the theory test? 🤔 We prepared three sample questions down below. Check it out!
More than just theory
For the practical part of the exam, the students need to show what they have learned in the real world. Around the neighbourhood, there will be a designated route for the bike novices to follow.
While they ride, keen-eyed volunteers are set up along the route. Did the cyclist indicate a turn to the right with the correct hand signal? Did they stop at the red traffic light? Every move is watched, recorded, and graded. 🖊️
If all goes to plan, the successful graduates receive a diploma to show off their accomplishments. (Just to forget everything again a few years down the line, it seems. 🙄)
Would you pass the theory exam? 🤔
Let’s see, shall we? We selected (and translated) three questions for you from an actual VVN practice test. In total, there are nine categories with two or more questions each, so there’s definitely more to learn.
But let’s give you a little taste — ready, set, go! 🚦
Category 1: Traffic Signs (verkeersborden)
Why are traffic signs important?
A) They make sure everyone sticks to the rules
B) They make sure pedestrians don’t get into arguments with each other, drivers or cyclists
C) They make sure that you know what you have to do and what to look out for
D) They add a little colour to overall traffic so that it doesn’t get boring
So what’s your answer? If you guessed C, you are correct! 🎉
Category 2: Priority rules (voorrang)
What do you do if you approach a crossing and are faced with a stop sign?
A) You stop if there is traffic from the right.
B) You stop if there is traffic from the left.
C) You always stop, even if there is no traffic.
D) You slow down, but you don’t have to halt.
More difficult this one, huh? Well, the answer is…C! Stop means stop, obviously.
Category 3: Big vehicles (grote voertuigen)
You are approaching a red traffic light on the bike. A big truck is already in line. Where do you wait?
A) To the left of the truck.
B) To the right of the truck.
C) At the back of the truck on the left, with ample space.
D) At the back of the truck to the right, with ample space.
What’s it gonna be? Think about it… Ready? it’s D! It’s important to avoid the blind angle (dode hoek) and stand where the truck driver can see you.
Congrats on completing the quiz! How did you do?
First things first: Bike check!
Sadly, we can’t really make sure that you’re fit for the practical, but we can help you figure out if your bike is fit for traffic. First of all, you obviously need to buy a good bike.
Okay, then we can get started with the fietscheck (bike check). If you have (or visualise) your bike in front of you, these are the things you have to cross off the list:
✅ Is the red backlight up and running?
✅ Is the white front light bright and shiny?
✅ Is the saddle adjusted to the right height? (Your toes should just about reach the ground when you sit on it.)
✅ Is the bell working?
✅ Are there orange reflectors in the spokes?
✅ Are all the spokes in place?
✅ Is the chain neither too loose nor too tight?
✅ Are the tires properly inflated?
Check, check, check on all of these? Congrats! At least you would be allowed to take your very own bike exam (if you were a Dutch middle school child, that is.)
Stay safe! What to remember when cycling in the Netherlands
If you have cycled at least once before in the Netherlands, you know that most adult Dutchies seem to have forgotten that they likely took a bike exam once. There are many different types of cyclists, and only some of them will have mercy on you.
So, remember, if in doubt, stick to the right side of the road. And just because traffic lights don’t seem to exist for some Dutchies, they do for most cars. (And should for you too.)
Finally, if you’re not sure who should stop for who, look out for the big white triangles (haaientanden or “shark teeth”) painted on the bike paths. If the tip of the triangle is pointed at you, you need to give way to other cyclists, pedestrians, and cars.
Good luck! It’s a biker’s world out there, and everyone else is just trespassing. 🚴
Do you think you could pass the Dutch bike-riding test? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December 2021, and was fully updated in December 2022 for your reading pleasure.