The cycle of life: The Dutch cycling lifestyle
In the Netherlands, cycling is not just a weekend activity, a mode of transport or a fitness regime. It’s all of those things and it’s a way of life. Since the 1970s, the Dutch cycling lifestyle has held on to its popularity and promoted a culture that is intrinsic to its identity. All the while, the Netherlands has earned a position at the forefront of sustainability, where innovators and entrepreneurs steer us towards a green future.
The only way to travel is on two wheels
Many visitors to the Netherlands haven’t touched a bicycle in years. Other cities might consider it an eccentric hobby or a niche activity for the discerning weekend warrior. But as you stroll the streets of any Dutch city, it’s hard to miss the racks of dozens of bicycles patiently waiting to be claimed. As the sound of a jaunty bicycle bell and two wheels whizzing over the pavement fill your ears at every turn, you’ll quickly come to realize: the Dutch don’t just ride bicycles for fun, they live them.
Rain or shine, it’s easy to see why cycling is a preferred mode of transport among those living in the Netherlands. Not only is cycling great for the environment, but it’s also great for your health. And with its vast cycling network, cycling in the Netherlands is a safe and easy way for riders of all ages to travel and see the sights.
A bicycle for everyone
Some might say that being in the Netherlands without a bicycle is like being in the desert without a camel. On any visit, you’ll want to get your hands on a bike of your own – and soon! Luckily, with an average of 1.3 bikes to every person, bicycles are readily available to visitors and residents alike. From bicycle rentals to subscription services, like the successful Amsterdam-based Swapfiets, to the vast amounts of new and used bikes for sale in markets and stores, there’s no budget too small or skill level too low to find a bicycle that’s right for you. Accessible options such as handcycles, recumbent bicycles and various models of tandem bikes and tricycles make the activity more inclusive.
The egalitarian nature of cycling is a keystone of the Dutch cycling culture. Whether you’re a visitor taking a leisurely cycle along a Van Gogh-themed route or you’re a working mother with a bakfiets dropping your children off at school before heading to the office, whatever your income, gender, or age, the Dutch prefer to reach most destinations by bicycle. Even the Dutch prime minister is regularly spotted riding his bike to work!
Good for you, good for the planet
With the environment at the forefront of many global conversations and concerns, there is much the world can learn from the Dutch cycling culture. The healthy lifestyle of cycling is not only good for the cyclist (studies show regular cycling increases both your happiness and prolongs your life!), but the low-carbon emissions mean it’s also good for air quality.
The cycling lifestyle has laid the foundation for the Netherlands to cement its place as a leader in sustainability. With every Dutch city featuring a root system of cycle routes, it’s easy to imagine their place as green cities of the future. With a culture built around such a sustainable mode of transport, it’s a natural next step that the Dutch would be pioneers in green innovation.
Visiting the Netherlands? Cycling allows you to take part in creating a greener world while also experiencing all the cultural highlights that the country has to offer. With a route network that’s over 37,000km long (that’s almost the equivalent of going around the world!), there is so much to see and discover at your own pace.
Did you know?
Cycling has been synonymous with Dutch culture for decades. But how did this come to be so? Believe it or not, the current cycling lifestyle in the Netherlands did not begin to fully take shape until the 1970s. Though cycling was popular prior to WWII as a cheap and easy way to get around, the vast majority of bicycles were confiscated during the Nazi occupation – and though cycling returned to its previous popularity afterward, infrastructure favored the increasingly affordable automobile over the bicycle. And then, everything changed…
In the early 1970s, road fatalities were on the rise. And with a shocking number of children being struck down on Dutch roads, the people had had enough. The now famous campaign, Stop de Kindermoord (Stop the Child Killings) was born. After two years of peaceful but persistent demonstrations, the politicians took note and by 1980, the cycling infrastructure the Dutch are famous for took shape.
Cycling into the future
All around the Netherlands you can see groups of friends cycling together or loading groceries into their bakfiets. The Netherlands is constantly upgrading its cycle networks to make them increasingly safer and easier for people to access. There are also many tech innovations that keep the Dutch ahead in the cycling game. Companies like Van Moof and Veloretti are leading the way in e-bikes – a perfect alternative when you want to cycle to work but don’t want to arrive in a sweat. Van Moof is also thinking about keeping the future green by creating modular e-bikes. This means less waste and resources spent on keeping bikes in tip-top shape. The Netherlands is also home to the world’s first bicycle subscription service: Swapfiets, a monthly subscription that offers maximum convenience (and peace of mind against damage or theft).
With cycling at the forefront of sustainable transport, and being such an ingrained part of Dutch culture, the Netherlands has made it an integral part a net zero future with further innovations such as solar panel bike paths and smart paths that use sensors to manage user behaviour. Integrating cycling with renewable energy and cutting-edge technology is exactly the kind of bold innovation we need to make cycling part of a sustainable future.
As a sustainable and healthy way to traverse the
landscape, cycling in the Netherlands offers a unique sense of freedom that has
to be experienced to be fully understood. Dutch cycle culture is a blueprint
for a forward-thinking and green future. So hop on your bike and join the
movement. See you on the cycle path!