Does cycling make a civilized nation part 1? Cycling in Holland.

Does cycling in Holland make it a civilized nation?  I have just returned from a family holiday in Holland.  We had been once before but only to Amsterdam.  We knew Amsterdam was cycling crazy and I’ve put some pictures up on the books Facebook page if not the blog.  However this time we did a circular tour of Holland and saw more of the cycling culture at first hand and joined in by hiring bikes in two different places.

Here are some general observations on cycling in Holland.

  • First, its mainly off road in a series of tarmacked and well maintained cycle paths.  These make a very complete network, but are as we found are not everywhere.  Unlike Germany they are one side of the road, not both.  In most places you can cycle on the road though in some places its banned.  Since they are on one side of the road they often cross the road from one side to the other.  This has its cons obviously.  One big drawback that I can see is that in many places mopeds are allowed to use the same paths.
  • They are well signed with numbers, place names and distances.  Red signs mean mopeds can share the path, green signs are for cycles only.   There are series of national routes.
  • Its very very flat.  This makes it very easy.  We found that this makes a real difference when driving, the car was getting amazing fuel economy.
  • An astonishing range of people cycle and a lot of them.  We saw the very young, the very old and those getting on a bit.  Almost all children cycle to school, this was quite clear.  We saw a a scout group on the move, again about 50 kids all cycling.  People take their dogs on the front or the back, usually in a wooden box.  I saw one old bloke cycling with one hand and holding a crutch with the other hand.
  • The Dutch make it very easy to cycle.  Renting a bike is easy and cheap.  Here is the scene that greeted us on Schiermonnikoog.  After a few minutes we were off to explore the Island having paid, adjusted saddle height and pumped one tire up.  The rental company had our mobile contact details and promised to bring a replacement anywhere if we broke down

DSC_2418In a national park cycling was encouraged with free bikes.


  • Dutch bikes are fairly low spec, a bit basic and a bit boring frankly.  They all look the same come in a basic range of colours and have a maximum of 7 gears and usually a built in lock.
  • The whole country is set for cycling not driving at least in urban areas.  Road narrowing and lack of signs for cars make navigating difficult.  At least once we used the cycle signs at junctions.
  • Cycling in Holland is getting more not less popular.

DSC_2346In the next post I will have a look at some other sustainability issues as well as the central question I have raised.


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