Dutch Quirk #127: Ring their bike bell while they tailgate you

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #127: Ring their bike bell while they tailgate you

Ever had a breezy bike ride in the Netherlands interrupted by the harsh sound of a bell ringing behind you? If you manage to crane your head around, you might notice the cause of the sound is a not-so-friendly visitor creeping up on your rear. 

Your initial instinct might be to panic or stop, drop, and roll (word of advice: don’t do that).

What does this bicycled stranger want from me, you might ask? Why did they just ring their bell? Are they cat-calling me, angry with me, or just giving a little salutation? Welcome to the mysterious world of Dutch bike etiquette. 

What is it?

That ringing sound behind you is a way for a Dutchie atop a bike to alert you to their presence while they’re not in your line of vision. 

Maybe you’re about to round a corner, maybe you’re just clambering on your bike in the bike shed (you still haven’t gotten the hang of swinging your legs around it like it’s a well-tamed horse), or maybe you’re at a busy intersection. The sound of another bike can strike at any moment. So, why do they do it?

Chances are, if a Dutch cyclist rings their bell while they tailgate you, they probably want to overtake you — or, in some rare cases, prevent you from crashing into them. 

@rogierbakcomedy Hopping on a bike? Crossing the bike lane? Just know what you’re signing up for. #comedy #dutchnessexplained #ringmybell #fyp #lol #yourguide ♬ Ring My Bell – Anita Ward

The bell is a polite notice to say that you and your rookie international bike moves are endearing but also a bit too langzaam (slow) for their tastes, so they’re probably about to usurp you with skill and grace that will leave you gazing with admiration. 

Why is it quirky? 

One reason this phenomenon might feel so distinctly Dutch is that cyclists from other countries (who, first of all, tend to wear helmets) are less confident manning the bike lane. 

That’s why they usually keep careful 10-metre distances between two-wheelers, and tailgating doesn’t seem to feature in their vocabulary. 

Tailgating doesn’t even feature in fearless Dutchies’ vocabulary either, since to them, that’s just a perfectly reasonable amount of space between bicycles — why would we need a word for it? 

Once they’re on top of that saddle, they sure are comfortable getting up close and personal. 

Should you join in? 

Terrifying and intimidating as this practice may feel at first, it’s certainly thoughtful. We mean, what’s the alternative? 

Having them overtake you in complete silence would undoubtedly make your blood run cold, not to mention the increased risk of a dangerous collision. 

So, it’s advisable that next time you feel bold enough to overtake someone, you give them a similar heads-up before scaring the living daylights out of them. 

Have you experienced this Dutch quirk? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Ellen Ranebo
Ellen Ranebo
As someone half Swedish and half Irish who has lived in the Netherlands, the UK, and attended an American School, Ellen is a cocktail of various nationalities. Having had her fair share of bike accidents, near-death experiences involving canals, and miscommunications while living here (Swedish and Dutch have deceptively similar words with very different meanings), she hopes to have (and document) plenty more in future.


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