One thing you can’t help but notice when travelling around any Dutch city is the presence of bikes – 84 per cent of the population own one.
Thanks to the lack of steep hills and extremely safe cycle lanes, exploring the historical sights of Holland by bicycle is easy. But before you pedal your way around the Netherlands, there are a few local cycling dos and don’ts worth taking note of.
1. The Dutch like to look good on their bikes and tend to wear their normal clothes when getting from A to B on their two-wheelers. Men ride suited and booted and women ride in skirts and heels. So don’t even think about wearing lycra, hi-vis jackets or a helmet!
2. The Dutch are generally a friendly people, but when anyone gets in their way on a cycle lane, they can get a little hostile. They will ring their bell frantically and revert to shouting “halloooooo!”. The latter can be loosely translated into: “Get out of my way!” And the expected reaction is to do just that.
3. The Dutch seem to use their bikes to transport all kinds of stuff. This can range from large shopping bags, luggage, dogs and even people. Dutch people seem to have this unrivalled ability to ride a bike while carrying at least two shopping bags, a few kids and a couple of house plants strapped on the luggage rack. Probably best not to try this yourself.
4. The Dutch don’t do shiny new bikes. You’ll see them whizzing by on rusty old bicycles with several parts falling off along the way. Their motto is: the older the bike, the better. Contrary to what you might think, this has nothing to do with their frugality. Bike theft is extremely rife in the Netherlands, so the Dutch are more likely to splurge on a couple of solid locks than on a state-of-the-art bike that will disappear in no-time anyway. So do lock your bikes at all times.
5. The Netherlands receives quite a bit of rain. A lot, even. This doesn’t stop the Dutch from getting on their bikes. The odd Dutch cyclist might don their waterproofs, but the majority will ride with an umbrella in hand. Their motto seems to be ‘staying dry over safety’. It’s probably wise to take a bus or a tram on rainy days.