IMAGES: Typical Dutch cycling

DUTCH CYCLING SERIES: This is the first in a series of articles on Dutch cycling and what we can learn from their experience, culture and design.

The series follows a week-long trip to the Netherlands on a bicycle media tour, which the Embassy of the Netherlands in Dublin was kind enough to send IrishCycle.com on.

Barefoot: For starters, barefoot cycling may not typify Dutch cycling but the feeling of freedom seems to, and the bicycle is typical Dutch — mudguards, chain guard, rear carrier, and wheel lock, all adding up to a practical bicycle for everyday use:

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Gender split: The male/female balance of cycling in Ireland, the UK and the US is skewed firmly towards men, but it does not have to be that way. In the Netherlands, it’s close to balanced and slightly skewed towards woman.

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It’d be nice if we had the weather! We do. For example, Amsterdam has around the same climate as Dublin, but, according to some yearly records, the Dutch capital has slightly more rain. Snow is more common in the Netherlands, while Ireland can go winters without notable snowfalls. Like those who cycle in Ireland, the Dutch adapt to conditions, in their own way:

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But the wind: Wind is more problematic in the Netherlands. So much so, some cycle paths require warning signs like this one:

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The Netherlands is flat. Isn’t it? It mostly is. But if the wind mentioned above does not make up for hills elsewhere, Amsterdam’s canals has a load of sharply curved bridges which locals cross with style:

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Cargo on board: These bridges — which you can cross a few of when cycling into Amsterdam city centre — can be a killer on single-geared rental bicycles if you lose momentum just before crossing one of them. We’re guessing it’d be something similar if riding a cargo bicycle full of children and shopping as many locals do:

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And they start off young: Like most of what’s pictured here, cycling while pregnant is everyday stuff. It’s normal:

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A seat with a view: Front-of-bicycle child seats are also typical:

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Out on their own bike: It’s not long before Dutch children are on their own bicycles:

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Hop on: Older children, if not on their own bikes, often just sit on back carrier of their parent’s bike:

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Social: Giving a friend a backer is also common:

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Cycling with a friend: And cycling side-by-side is standard by design:

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Suit you: The lack of helmets and high-vis is the norm in the Netherlands. Yet, the country has a higher percentage of its population cycling than any other country in Europe and the best safety record.

These are not selective images, while traveling across three providences, high-vis stood out as we only spotted it used once away from construction sites and motorcycle police officers. Helmets clearly mark out sporting cyclists and tourists on rental bicycles; the only other place hard hats are visible is on the odd child. Suits are more common:

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Risk takes: It’s not the Dutch don’t take apparent “risks”, like cycling under a museum where bucket loads of tourists are walking all around only half aware of the cycle path:

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Hands on: Phones in the hands of people cycling can be seen all around:

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Double act: Listening to music on your phone and you get a call but your headphones does not have a microphone? No problem:

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Did we mention umbrellas? On a rainy mid-week morning in Utrecht we woke up to rain and locals on bicycles cycling in every direction with umbrellas — at times, up to 1 in every 4 or 5 people had an umbrella up while cycling:

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This series on Dutch cycling will continue, covering issues such as cycle routes, bicycles made for carrying stuff, mass bicycle parking and more.

Cian Ginty
I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.
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11 COMMENTS

  1. In the south of the Netherlands there is a Hilly part in a Country area where it juts into the Ardenne area dont ask me what it is called,I read an article on it once on Cycling there.

  2. Great post! Another reminder that I should write up my study tour to the Netherlands, Copenhagen and Malmo from almost a year ago. Actually, I could just copy yours and replace “Ireland, the UK and the US” with “Australia” as the same applies.

    Looking forward to the next post in the series.

  3. […] Unlike in Denmark where two-way routes are generally only used on greenways or other paths away from traffic, two-way paths like this one pictured are fairly common in the Netherlands: This two-way route, which is also depicted in the below photo, shows that cycle paths can work even in areas where people are not used to cycle paths — this example in Amsterdam between the central train station and the core of the city centre. It’s also between a large hotel and coach parking. It has a lot of tourist pedestrian traffic beside it and crossing it: A fundamental of Dutch most single-directional modern cycle paths is the trilingual-like island between the cycle path and turning cars, vans and trucks. This gives cyclists a protected place to stop in advance of motor traffic: The protective island comes in different shapes and sizes. Below is an example of it on a larger road — it shows how far back turning motorists wait and the wide turn they have to take to get to the cycling crossing point. It makes visibility and good eye contact easier: This typical junction deign is covered in detail in the below video by the excellent Bicycle Dutch blog: (article continues below) Even before you land at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport you can see cycle paths. In this case, the cycle path around this fairly rural roundabout does not have priority over motor traffic – but the norm in built up areas, as explained by Bicycle Dutch, is that there is “priority for cyclists on roundabouts in the Netherlands” and this works even on busy city junctions. At crossings without traffic lights, it’s generally the case that bicycles have priority over motor traffic: Including two-way cycle paths around roundabouts in urban and suburban areas: Amsterdam has retained and expanded its tram network, but as with with Irish cities, there is no shortage of buses in the centre of Utrecht: Buses and bicycles in the Netherlands are however kept separate even in the city centre. Here’s a bus stop bypass which has a dual function of a cycle route and a service street: Some cycle paths which are now old and narrow, by current Dutch standards, still look wondrous from Irish eyes. Like this one in the suburbs of Amsterdam: Then you come across newer cycle paths, like the freshly built path pictured below in Utrecht. And you end up repeating aloud: “It’s one-direction and this wide”. It’s in the middle of the city centre in Utrecht and there’s the space for it because the city has chosen to give the space over to walking, cycling and public transport: Copenhagen may have fairly wide streets which allow for wide cycle paths all around the city — the same can’t be said for Amsterdam and the centres of many other Dutch cities. On the street shown below, you’d never fit wide cycle lanes or paths along with two general traffic lane, but a two-way cycle path fits in nicely when the street is reduced to one traffic general traffic lane: Where there is parking on a street, cycle paths are placed between the parking and the footpath — the cycle path continues uninterrupted: Details are important. At this t-junction, the cycle path across the road is also uninterrupted and remains segregated, yet there’s clear access on and off the path. The road sign shows the direction of the cycle path and the painted Dutch yield markings (the white triangles) tell people cycling that they are to yield when accessing the path and yield when crossing the road: Getting details right seems to be at the centre of how the Dutch get cycle routes so right. As with this case, where the cycle path widens at a traffic light to allow for wobble room when starting off: Segregation comes in a few different ways. Around larger roads in urban areas, grade segregation  is used – people walking and cycling are segregated fully from traffic. Underpasses or bridges are used to get people safely across the busier and larger roads: We cycled around Amsterdam and Utrecht, and passed by many more kilometres of cycle routes in other areas – there’s zero signs of shared use footpaths of the type used in the UK and Ireland. Cycling and walking only mix sometimes in historic city and town centres on streets where motorised traffic is removed or very limited and on wide rural paths which are as standard much wider than ours. Shared space — where motorist, pedestrians and people on bikes mix — is limited to very small areas of the country. It’s not common. This image below shows a (we think, fairly uncommon) raised junction design which mixes bicycle and cars but not pedestrian: This series on Dutch cycling will continue, covering issues such as permeability and why its about more than just cycle paths, mass bicycle parking and more. Check out the first in the series: IMAGES: Typical Dutch cycling. […]

  4. Its fantastic to see so many bikes being used every day. But here at home there is still a LONG way to go before it is a reality here. Get the infrastructure sorted out first then see what happens.

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