Bicycles are such an integral part of life in The Netherlands that this topic simply can’t be dealt with in a single post. But this is a start…
Every Dutch person owns a bicycle. In fact, they often own more than one bicycle. For example, if you commute to work by train, it is not uncommon to have one bicycle in the town where you live and another bicycle in the town where you work. This way, you can ride the first bicycle from your house to the train station, lock it up for the day, and then have another bicycle waiting for you at your arrival station to ride to work.
Many people also own a spare bicycle. Indeed, there are more bicycles in The Netherlands than there are people. For a population of 16.5 million, there are 18 million bicycles, or 1.1 bicycles per person. This makes for the highest number of bicycles per capita of any country in the world.
Everything in Holland seems to be designed for bicycles. The city centres have very little automotive traffic, and on the roads where there are cars, there are designated bike paths and a special set of traffic lights just for cyclists with a little green bicycle indicating “go” (similar to the green walking man for pedestrians). The country is covered in nearly 30,000 kilometres of dedicated bicycle paths, there are bicycle parking garages at every train station, and you never have to walk far to find a bicycle rack. Not to mention the extremely flat topography of the “Low Country,” which further contributes to the ease of getting around on two wheels.
But what is most amusing about the Dutch cycling culture is all the quirky things Dutch people do on their bikes and with their bikes. I think I’ll have to leave this to a future blog post, but just to give you a taste of what I mean, I’ve seen women riding bicycles in short skirts and heels, men riding bicycles in smart suits, couples riding two to a bike, people riding back from the bakery with several loaves of bread hanging off their handlebars, and bikes painted every colour of the rainbow (pink being particularly popular).