The Dutch really love riding their bikes. Did you know the average adult pedals about 1,000 kilometers a year—and teenagers do double, a whopping 2,000 kilometers! Everybody bikes, no matter their age (even 25% of seniors ride their bikes every single day!). Cycling is just a lifestyle here—the country’s young professionals use their bikes for about 75% of all their journeys.
If you’re thinking the Dutch must have some kind of cycling magic…well, we won’t argue with you. In fact, we’ve come up with 16 reasons the Dutch are in love with their bikes.
1. There are over 35,000 kilometers of dedicated bike paths in the Netherlands—you never run out of great car-free places to ride.
It’s not hard to understand why the Dutch spend so much time on their bikes—with thousands of kilometers of scenic bike routes to enjoy, it’s just plain fun to while away a day on your bike.
But don’t think cycling is only for sightseeing the country’s gorgeous countryside—when you add in the dedicated bike lanes through cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht, there are actually 55,000 kilometers of bike-friendly trails!
2. In a country of 17 million people, there are 22 million bikes
Yep, you read that correctly—there are 1.3 bikes for every person in the Netherlands! Sure, China has way more bikes (like 500 million more, to be honest), but with 1.37 billion people, it’s per capita bike ownership doesn’t even come close to the Netherlands. Want to compare that with the U.S.? In a country of 325 million, there are just 70 million bikes.
3. Even babies are biking practically from birth in their bakfiets
Bakfiets literally translates to “box bike,” and it’s really just a super-popular cargo bike that the Dutch use for practically everything, including pedaling their children from place to place.
It’s not uncommon to see mothers, fathers, even grandparents pedaling a bakfiets with two or even three little kinderen around the tulip-laden streets of Amsterdam.
4. They even teach mandatory cycling proficiency classes to children in school
It’s true. Every spring, Dutch school children take their veerkeersexamen, basically a bicycle traffic test. It’s a good idea, too, since the vast majority of secondary school students (generally age 12 and up) pedal to and from school each day.
We’re not talking short jaunts, either—Dutch kids pedal as many as 15 kilometers to school each way. That’s a lot of road time!
5. Traffic rules are so bike-friendly, the Dutch don’t even wear helmets
The Dutch cycling infrastructure is so well planned, biking accidents are relatively unheard-of. They also use special traffic-calming procedures to keep the shared spaces safe for two-wheeled traffic.
And since the Dutch do just about everything on their bikes—even go to fancy galas or weddings—well, a helmet simply wouldn’t do.
6. No one wears spandex to ride—unless you’re a racer
In the U.S. cyclists wear lots of special kit when they take to the road on their bikes—and it typically involves a lot of spandex. In the Netherlands, people wear their normal clothes (after all, they do most of their day-to-day traveling on a bike).
Who has time to change in and out of exercise clothes five or six times a day? In the Netherlands, only a wielrenner wears lycra, not your average cyclist.
7. They have the world’s biggest underground bike parking lot
If your bicycle tour takes you to Utrecht, be sure and check out the massive underground bike lot under the train station. In Utrecht, about 40% of the visitors arrive on a bike, so the city needed infrastructure to accommodate all those riders.
The new Utrecht bike lot will have space for 12,500 bikes when it’s finished this year.
8. It’s the safest place in the world to ride a bike
The European Cyclists Federation compiles statistics on bike safety throughout Europe each year, and the Netherlands typically takes the top spot. That’s probably a really good thing, given the Dutch aversion to helmets.
9. They have amazing umbrella-holding superpowers when it rains
Maybe it’s no surprise that the Dutch can bike while holding an umbrella—it’s a country that gets its fair share of wet weather. But if you’ve never seen this phenomenon in action, it’s quite a sight.
Of course, if you’re not quite that coordinated, you can always try something a little more traditional like a plastic cape—or this super high-tech raincoat that (let’s be honest) only the Dutch would invent.
10. Greener than green—Dutch solar bike paths actually generate electricity
The Dutch are extremely proud of their green credentials—have you ever cycled the Green Heart of Holland? But they take it to a whole new level with their solar bike paths.
A pilot program in Amsterdam actually replaced normal bike paths with solar panels which turned out to be a pretty good idea. In the first year, the 70 kilometers of solar path produced 9,800 kWh of electricity.
11. Bicycle rush hour is a thing of strange beauty.
In Utrecht, a city of about 325,000 people, about 125,000 cycle the streets on a daily basis, over 33,000 on one particularly busy street alone.
And far from being a scene of chaos, it’s actually an amazing, unintentionally choreographed spectacle you really have to see to believe.
12. The dogs love biking almost as much as the people.
Many European cities are dog-friendly, but the Dutch really bond with their dogs. You’ll see dogs going everywhere with their owners—which of course means riding with them on their bikes.
You’ll see small dogs in baskets, large dogs in bakfietsen, and even dogs balancing neatly on a child’s bike seat.
13. Then there’s the Hovenring.
There are a lot of amazing sights and experiences on a bicycle tour of Holland, but perhaps none are so unusually futuristic and just plain awesome as the Hovenring in Eindhoven.
What’s the Hovenring, you ask? Oh, just an incredible flying-saucer shaped cycling bridge floating over the entrance to the city. You know you want to go there just to ride around it a few times (and who could blame you?).
14. How about popup bike racks?
Only a country like the Netherlands with a gazillion bikes would think of such an ingenious solution to bike parking. Milou Berg, an industrial designer from Eindhoven, didn’t like the way rows of empty bike racks cluttered up public spaces during certain times of the day, so he invented a nifty popup bike rack that disappears into the ground when it’s not in use.
15. Let’s talk about the Van Gogh bike path.
Vincent van Gogh is Eindhoven’s most famous son, so it’s only fitting that a local artist, Daan Roosegaarde, would design a gorgeous, glowing bike path in the style of van Gogh’s Starry Night masterpiece. You can pedal along a path strewn with thousands of blue and green fairy lights (solar powered, of course).
16. So many ways to ride with someone you love.
One of the most romantic ways to spend a holiday is cycling somewhere beautiful with someone you love. And the Dutch do cycling for two better than most—tandem bikes, family bikes, and even just holding hands while you pedal along a canal.