Friday, October 28, 2011

Fiets freaks!

Now, here's a (quick!) blog entry that is way over due! Cycling, Dutch style!

One thing I love about living in Holland are the bikes. A few well-known facts are that every Dutch person has at least one bike, there are more bikes than cars in this country, and many bikes end up in the 4000km of canals and rivers throughout the country. I heard that every year the City of Amsterdam literally rakes the canals for bikes, then fixes them up and sells them!

Bicycle diversity

This country is outstanding on all accounts when it comes to bikes. In the Netherlands, about 27% of all trips were made by using the bicycle in 2006, and other sources claim it's more like 33%--an impressive mode share to us Americans (we're at, what, 3% in San Francisco?!), but considered 'low' to the Dutch Ministry of the Environment, even though it's the highest rate in Europe. A majority of these trips are traveling to work or to shop, and rarely ever for recreational purposes. Why, you ask, is the Netherlands the capital of cycling? Good question. I can think of a couple reasons (Dutch readers, please give input!).

First, the country is very flat. Almost painfully so. This makes for leisurely cycling, so you're not too sweaty when you get to the office. Another reason, the incredible infrastructure. Timed bike traffic lights,  abundant (yet never enough!) bike parking, visible and plentiful way-finding signs, and of course the fietspad all make for easy cycling in this country. Almost always you'll find yourself cycling on a fietspad, or 'bike path,' in the city or countryside--an off-street 4'-10' path, often colored red, usually buffered by parked cars, and sometimes raised from the street. It's truly divine.

Another [better?] rationale for cycling is that it's just normal. Cycling has been around in Holland since the late 1800s and the separated cycle path movement began in the early 1900s and continues today. Cycling is not a political or individual statement here, it's the norm. And a safe norm, for that matter. Even in a modern city like Rotterdam!

Separated cycle paths are obviously wonderful for cycling safety, but more than that, drivers here are also cyclists themselves and therefore drivers are cautious of cyclists. The driver-cyclist relationship is respectful, friendly, and symbiotic (for the most part).

You honestly cannot walk 10 feet without seeing something to do with the bicycle. And neither wind, rain, nor snow will stop people from using their bike. No matter what--you'll always see the fietspad full of cyclists!

Well, Elliot and I are off to the Dutch countryside for a short weekend adventure. We hope to see
some nature, enjoy the crisp outdoors, and take advantage of the beautiful fall colors while the leaves are still on the trees. We're not bringing our bikes--our feet will have to do!



  1. I even ride my bike in my suit and tie!

  2. The pics of the bikes would make a great art poster...


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