No. 1: Bicycles

You may have noticed more than a few wheeled contraptions whizzing by you in this town. In fact, it sometimes seems impossible to separate where the Dutch begin and their bicycles end. Rain (or rain or rain) or shine, the Dutch can be found criss-crossing this bridged city on their trusty (and rusty) two-wheeled friends. With over 880.000 bicycles in a city of less than 790.000 people, you can understand why we’ve made this #1 on the complete list of Stuff Dutch People Like. The numbers, my friends, speak for themselves!!

Hmm…which one is mine?

Of course cycling in itself is not such a special feat, many cities around the world are now home to a growing mass of daily cycle-commuters, but trust me, the Dutch bring their own distinct flare to the sport. Don’t expect to see any fancy, sophisticated, titanium-suspension-rigged bicycles on the streets. Dutch people certainly will not be impressed by how much your posh new bike set you back.

Nope, Dutch people love their gearless, rusted, chain-just-barely-hanging-on variety. Why, you ask, with the amount of biking they do? Well,  we all know that practicality and “frugality” (and directness..but we’ll save that for another day) run through every Dutchie’s blood! Why spend  your hard-earned cash on fancy features when your unusually large thighs and lungs can do the hard work instead?!? Heck, the Dutch would even rather power their bike lights with only their leg-pumping-energy (…’cause we all know how the cost of batteries can sure add up!! ;)

The lock is just keeping my handle-bars company.

The most impressive feat of all however, is how Dutch people ride these heaps of metal and rust. Don’t be surprised by the Dutch’s uncanny ability to ride a gearless bicycle while talking on a mobile phone, carrying 2 children, 6 bags of groceries, a television set, and a mattress balanced neatly on the back! Having grown up on wheels, the Dutch can conduct daily superhuman acts with laid-back coolness. I’d strongly recommend not trying it on your own.

Watch out! Hell hath no fury like an angry Dutch cycler!

Are you wondering how you are ever going to avoid getting run over by a fervent cyclist? Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of good advice for you there. Keep your eyes peeled, don’t dare set foot on the bike paths, and listen carefully for those angry bicycle bells ringing an onslaught of nasty insults. Oh….and don’t get too confused if in a moment of rage, someone tells you to “go get cancer”!

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109 Responses to No. 1: Bicycles

  1. Verlene Law says:

    i enjoy reading your blog alot. you are so funny. One day i will go and see it for myself. =)

  2. I’d just gotten used to bicycle lanes when someone almost ran me over on the path with a bicycle with a wheelbarrow full of children on the front 0.o

    • Katharine (admirer of the Dutch, apart from the ones that run you over) says:

      I’m sure this person has moved to Oxford and still rides on the pavement :-)

    • Janneke says:

      Oh dear. You’ve met the ‘bakfiets’ (freight bicylce/carrier cycle), which was probably being piloted by the ‘bakfietsmoeder’. (freight bicylce mum) I can imagine being flabbergasted!
      I’m not a fan of the ‘bakfiets’; unless you have infant triplets, there’s no need to carry them everywhere the same way you’d carry loafs of bread.
      When i was young (which wasn’t that long ago), we didn’t ‘do’ that kind of stuff. We all learned how to ride a bike – on our own and pretty fast (like by the age of 3, 4, 5 tops – this still happens) and before that we were being transported in this seat-like contraption that was being placed on the handle bar of mum’s bike. In fact, we young ones assumed EVERYBODY everywhere knew how to ride a bike. I just did some Googling; turns out there’s a wikihow-feature on how to ride a bike. I’d never have imagined that (I’m in favour of having skills like riding bikes, horses, or cars being taught to you by an instructor). Nowadays there are plenty of bicylce riding lessons for adults being organised in the Netherlands, so have no fear if you’ve immigrated to the Netherlands and you want to get around using a bike :-) !

      • Janneke says:

        Also, I want to add:
        We don’t use helmets. Ever. Well, a few years back letting your kid aged under-10 use a helmet has come into fashion at certain places, but even then, they’re most often seen as a nerdy thing; something you just don’t bother with, unless you practise bicycle racing. We have many and good bicycle lanes, hence our idea we don’t need them.

      • Bama says:

        I ride my bakfiets with my 2 kids, because we live in Amsterdam and don’t want my kids to get into an accident with a tourist who is not used to drive his car next to bikes. I keep to the right so other bikes can pass me by. I am a big fan of the bakfiets, keeps me fit.

      • Lulu van Vuuren says:

        I’m getting my citizenship in ten days! I can’t wait to get to the Netherlands and ride a Bakfiets with my Oma, I’m not dutch, but can not wait.

  3. I love your blog. I live in the US but I have a couple of friends that live in The Netherlands. One of my friends e-mailed our prayer group a link to your blog, so I subscribed. I do thoroughly enjoy reading about the Dutch people. Keep up the good job as it is very entertaining.

  4. Mechelke says:

    There is actually another reason why Dutch people ride old, shabby-looking bikes: Bikes get stolen very frequently, and new and fancy ones have a higher chance of getting stolen.

    • Lisette says:

      Exactly, wanted to make this same comment.
      Outside the big cities most people do have more fancy type of bikes, just not in the big cities where the chance of the bikes being stolen is quite large.

      • Ilja says:

        The crucial trick: if possible, put your bike next to a better-looking bike with worse locks.

      • Just another Dutch living abroad says:

        So true about the bikes getting stolen, especially with the old rikketik locks.. take a bike, lift the rear-wheel, run and push the rear down.. you loos a couple of spokes, but hey, you’ve got a bike again!
        It’s like a game for a lot of people, how many bikes need to be stolen or having let stolen to find your very 1st back again

    • g2-de2dd391f77fc1c215358e8df212f113 says:

      … stolen and “removed” by the bike police.

      they also tend to pile up at the bottom of canals for some reason.

      • Red says:

        That would be drunks throwing bikes into them, possibly after having the chain fall off once too many.

  5. Andrea Newton says:

    Pretty Dutch-realted words: How about “stroopwafel”?

  6. chargaile says:

    I do thoroughly enjoy your blog. I live in the US and have a couple of friends that live in The Netherlands. One of my friends sent a link to your blog a few months ago. After reading it, I immediately subscribed to receive it when a new post was written. It is very entertaining and I will say again that I thoroughly enjoy it. I always look forward to seeing a e-mail notice that a new blog has been posted. Thank you for sharing your “view” of the Dutch, my friend says it is all quite true.

  7. Marijke says:

    The best advice is to keep te same line as you were walking. Don’t step aside whitout looking and don’t stop walking unexpected. Then you won’t be hit by a bicycle :)
    And the reason why we all have really cheap bicycles is that they are stolen a lot! If you look outside the bigger (student) city’s, people have bicycles that are more expensive.

    • Ton says:

      Very true, a lot of my family members live in a small town in the south and they all own gigantic shiny two wheeled vehicles most resembling space crafts. Not that they use them anyway, because small town people much rather drive cars.

    • Maartje says:

      True, but not in the middle of the streets like a lot of tourists do..

  8. Benjamin says:

    :-D

    Just to add some people who do weird things on bikes: http://www.bicycleband.nl/nieuw/

  9. Ann says:

    for some more information (as a ‘dutchee’), we don’t make our bikes beautiful or stand out from the rest, because then you can be sure it will be stolen very soon. Would be rather sad after all the hard work on your bike ;)

    • Aniek says:

      As another Dutchie, I disagree with you. The more your bike stands out, the less likely it is that it will be stolen. If you have a unique looking bike a thief would be a gigantic idiot to steal it, as he will be caught much easier. Your bike stands out, so it is easier to get noticed both by you or the police (if you are lucky enough that they will do something about it ;))

      • Hans says:

        Not sure if I agree. Bikes get stolen by the thousands a day, so the police won’t do anything about it. They’ll register your report and that’s about as far as that goes. Fancy bikes might disappear to heaven knows what country, just as stolen cars do. On the other hand, just this week someone I know mobilised all her Facebook friends to try and find her stolen bike back. Guess what, it worked.

      • Anna says:

        Not sure too about what you say Aniek. I am not Dutch but we have the same problem in my city and an expensive posh bike will surely be stolen, You can bet on it! Those of us who use bikes everyday, do use old bikes. At least if it is stolen you won’t feel an idiot for having spent a lot of money on it!! :) Moreover if the city is flat, why do you need gears and other adds-on? a ordinary bike is more than enough and a bridge is surely not a problem if you use the bike everyday. What I found a bit difficult in Amsterdam, instead, was knowing the way ahead and I admit sometimes I caused some trouble to people behind me because I had to change route all of a sudden. So, before swearing, please think that Amsterdam is quite chaotic and have mercy!! LOL

      • Martijn says:

        It depends on how it stands out. It shouldn’t stand out by being all new and shiny, but it’s fine if it stands out by being pink with green flowers and having some knitting work attached to it.

      • Astrid says:

        It would have to depend on the way your bike is unique – if it is unique in a posh and luxurious way, that is the best way to get your bike stolen. If it is unique in a way that most people don’t like… for example it stands out because it has neon colors, or you painted it by hand or…. some other weird notion… that would help in keeping your bike, unless you stumble onto doing something unique with the bike that then turns out to be a big hit and everybody wants extactly that…. My cousin used to buy a long chain and throw his bike in the canal instead of stalling it on the street – best way for it not to get stolen, he said….

  10. Sarah says:

    I’m currently learning to drive in the Netherlands and the cyclists here are the biggest menace. They have zero respect for any road rules and they know that they can get away with anything…it’s terrifying because you are left to juggle with their life because of their carelessness and incompetence. Never mind the fact some of them are mothers with babies strapped onto the front of the bike…then just running red lights etc. Hard to believe they can’t see the danger.

    • Paulien says:

      True! And the reason is quite simple: by law cyclists are protected as the weaker party in case of a collision with motorized traffic

      • Walter says:

        Nonsense. There is not a single cyclist in the whole of Holland who thinks “No problem if I get hit, it is not my assurance who has to pay”. Because that is what you are saying. Cyclists break the law partly for the same reasons as drivers, partly because the infrastructure sucks for cyclists, and partly because it is often safer. Safer? Yes, safer! You seeing them doing those things, means you actually SEE them. In many cases you simply have to break the law to avoid being pushed in a dangerous little corner where nobody sees you.

      • Tom says:

        @Walter
        I strongly disagree with you. The fact that we have a real stupid law that says whenever a bicyclist or pedestrian gets involved in an accident with any motorized vehicle other than mopeds the bicyclist is never to be held responsable for damage caused UNLESS the motorized vehicler (by lack of a better word, sorry) can prove without a shadow of a doubt he could have done nothing to prevent the incident does indeed contribute to the fact dutch bicyclist are amongst the most reckless morons in the world.

        Just the other day I drive a 3 weeks old van through a small town at very low speed (street was small, had fragile cargo in the back) when some bicyclist raced himself from a hardly visible exit into the middle of the road. He plummeted into the front of my van leaving the first ding and scratches on it. He himself wasnt hurt but we we’re both shocked and amazed. Why would anyone do that??
        Obviously we got out to check if everything was okay. It was, except for the damage to my van. Now get this……His reaction was….. Well, sucks but good thing Im protected traffic right!? ( at this point I was about to punch him in the face ). I firmly convinced him to fill out a damageform regardless, which he did. So what happened? I called my insurancecompany and they told me to better forget about the whole thing cause there’s no way he’ll end up having to pay for the damage since I didnt have any proof (witnesses) that could testify I couldn’t have done anything to prevent the incident.
        -Sigh-

        Oh and by the way, Yeah it is true the reason most bikes are absolute wrecks is because they get nicked anyway. In fact I’d say stealing a bike is as much part of the dutch culture as riding one ;)

    • Hans says:

      Try driving through Amsterdam during rush hour! If you manage that you’ll be able to drive anywhere. Oh, and those rust heaps are quite often kroegfietsen. Those bikes are public property. Yours stolen? Loan another one!

      • eva says:

        That is what i do, and all my friends for that matter. Some bikes don´t even have locks on them because everybody uses them.

    • hdehing says:

      Why they can’t see the danger? That easy, because:

      1
      The road (including sidewalks, promenades, roadsides, cycling lanes, etc.) belongs to cyclists. For that matter: bike riding can be done with the flow (right hand side of the road) or against the grain (left hand side of the road).

      2
      Traffic lights are mere guidelines and can be ignored, just like pedestrian crossings can be ignored.

      3
      Pointing in which direction your going, be that left, right or straight ahead, is, however legally required, not necessary. It should be read from the cyclist’s mind.

      Should, despite these rules, a cyclist get involved in a near accident, it is always the other party’s fault, regardless of the situation. And should the other party not agree, the cyclist in question may blow up in your face (see: No. 42: swearing with diseases),

  11. nomynot says:

    there is one other reason we Dutchies love our rusted bikes.. they do not get stolen within seconds of leaving it at our destination. Ever wondered why all those rusty bikes have big shiny new locks? Well that is because a bike thief will have to try a bit harder to get at it and throw it in the gracht after using it. The cheaper and rustier your bike is the better.

    • Just another Dutch living abroad says:

      in general situations, the lock is more expensive then the bike itself.. how often i have cursed (with diseases as a typical dutch) because my lock was stolen or broken.. i didn’t care a bit about my bikes

  12. EJ says:

    I like to add to this (hilarious!) blogpost, that the nr. 1 reason that Dutch people ride old bikes is that they get stolen aaaall the time! I lose about 7 bikes in a year. And you can buy them from a junky for 5 Euro’s, which you’ll eventually do after investing in 35 bikes.. There is a huge black market for bikes, it’s grazy.

  13. Julie says:

    6 children and a television set and a few (Albert Heijn) grocery bags hanging … hahahaha…. Is so true.

    What is the love of the Dutch with children though? I live in rural Netherlands and gosh, you see child after child! one neighbor got pregnant and in 2 years time, the rest was pregnant too, now there are hoards of annoying screaming children running around the place and the parents always keep saying: ” Zo gezellig toch?” … NOPE!

    • ingridbrok says:

      Be honest now. With the current rate of population growth in the world, that is certainly not just something typically Dutch :P

  14. Aniek says:

    As a Dutchie I don’t think that we run people over by riding bycicles, it is your own fault if you walk on bycicle paths (you are also not going to walk on the A2 Highway ;) ) Non-dutch tourists are even worse when they decide to go for a bicycle ride around Amsterdam or any other city…. That’s when it get’s really dangerous.

  15. Richard says:

    There’s another reason for not buying expensive fancy bikes, they get stolen!!

  16. As a Dutchie married to an American I never lived in Holland again once he seduced me away to various exotic locales. And I ended up with “American” children. One time my younger daughter and I were in Amsterdam and sitting on a terrace of a Leidseplein restaurant that looks out on an endless row of bikes parked along a canal.

    My daughter, very much into biking in the US, observed the bikes for a bit and finally said: “What a bunch of crap.” Needless to say I enlightened her on the reason why they are a bunch of “crap.” It’s been said several times already in the replies: They’re simply for transportation, and expensive, trendy sports bikes will get stolen.

  17. ellendircks says:

    Haha this is all so true. I like to add to all the tourists, please don’t rent a bike or car, unless you want to get killed or hit a cyclist. Just walk, but watch where you are walking or they will scream and shout at you and you might get hurt. Dutchies have invented a whole other level of cycling, don’t try to copy this!

    • Diego says:

      Ellen, i have to say i enjoyed cycling for the first time in the Netherlands and didn’t have any problem at all!. However i wasn’t in Amsterdam or any bigger city but i went from the station of Groningen to the a new nearby village (about 20km) and back. I am looking forward to going back to Netherlands and i intend to cycle again!

  18. Cool blog, as a Dutch biker I recognise all things said! For those who also want to bike as a Dutchman, check this relative cheap worldwide sold bike company VANMOOF:

    “At VANMOOF we pursue only one goal: help the ambitious city dweller worldwide move around town fast, confident and in style. We stripped the traditional Dutch bike from redundant hoo-ha, that can only break or frustrate, and added sensibility instead. The result? Simplistic striking bikes so smooth that they fit your style demands, yet so functional they make you go to work whistling. The no-nonsense VANMOOF bike is the ultimate urban commuter tool, anywhere around the globe. Be aware cause we shake the unshakable! “

  19. Patricia Boon says:

    As a Dutchee I want to add that I love to ride my bicycle. And I have a couple of them. For different purposes. One to drive to the store (with my child strapped in the back or in the front), one to race, one to do some mountain biking (not a lot of mountains in Holland but you know what I mean…). My father and mother own even more bicycles. I think they add up to 10. They have different once for the winter and summer! But we will not take those bicycles for a spin in the city…. If I would take the “expensive” ones with me. I park them INSIDE the house / office etc.

  20. Diana says:

    Foreigners not understanding the unspoken rules of traffic are a major source of frustration for Dutchies. And with unspoken rules I don’t mean the roadsigns, no. I mean that we all assume one thing:

    If you don’t signal that you are changing direction by either pointing, looking over your shoulder repeatedly or standing still and looking around, then we assume you are going to continue in the same direction you were [walking, riding your bike, etc]

    To make your life a lot easier, point where you are going.

    Also, if you are a pedestrian or cyclists who is looking around (for example, to see if you’re going to get run over by a suicidal Dutch cyclists) then we assume you’ve seen us. Try this for a day: Don’t look up, down, left or right and keep going in one straight line as long as you don’t need to change lane or take a turn. Works for me :)

    Another Dutchie. (Do any foreigners read this or do we Dutch people just enjoy reading about how illogical we are?)

    • Clone says:

      Hilarious! I come from a crazy town in terms of traffic: Rome. The point you bring up regarding bikes is just similar for what concerns the car’s and scooter’s unspoken rules in Rome. With the difference that in Rome, pointing where you are going is just an optional fortunately put in practice by most of the drivers but not expected to be done just in any case it would be required. Therefore, the crazy but wise Roman driver (which category I proudly belong to) is, even in his/her recklessness, incredibly aware of what he/she is doing and able to prevent an accident having developed by experience the ability of predict what the crazy driver in front of him is about to do. This is in other words, the Third Eye ability. The secret is if you can’t beat them, join them, or you will fall down.

  21. Derk says:

    Don’t forget about the freight bicycle! –> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freight_bicycle

  22. harma says:

    one reason to ride an old rusty bike inside town is a. bikes often and easily get stolen (yes is you spend money on it, bye bye the investment) and b. have you ever take a closer look for example any railway station in a middle sized or bigger town in the Netherlands and how bikes, well not exactly a place to park your new pimped bike. Many people have TWO bikes one for inside town for the short rides and one for outside of town for the longer rides. That is why there are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands.

    I live abroad now, and really if I miss one thing it is my bike. Not the bike itself but the convenience of short distances (like 1 to 3 5 km) going quick from a to b. Visit a friend, the supermarket etc. It is hilly hear so not real fun to bike and besides that traffic is already crazy here, riding a bike is equal of being suicidal.

    great blog!!!!

  23. So true, I have 2 bicycles myself and would be lost without them.

  24. will says:

    i actually failed my drivers exam because of a dude on a bicycle took the roundabout in the opposite direction and without lights on….
    i felt like getting out the car and punch him.

  25. Stroopwafel says:

    I find your wit and observations enjoyable to read, please keep it coming! I am currently dating an amazing Dutch guy for a year, and no he’s not the typical Dutch guy cos he’s shorter than average, about 1.65 m. but can totally relate to all I’m reading here. He tells me similar stories and I do see it in him personality-wise spot-on. Even though I have not been to Holland yet, we’re planning to go soon, so thanks for equipping the rest of us :)

  26. RH says:

    I love cycling in the Netherlands—as a keen walker but a lazy cyclist, the aspect of NL (no hills) that makes me miss ‘proper’ walking and hiking means that my bicycle has never been used so much, though the gears don’t get much of a look-in. It’s a great way to explore the city and the countryside, and I love the fact that I can do this without the need to wear a helmet.

    But the thing that really bemuses me is why, when the Dutch have one of the best system of cycle lanes and paths in the world, people still cycle on the pavement all the time (pests!) and cycle the wrong way on the cycle lanes. Why? Why? Am I just too much of a conformist for the laid-back Dutch culture? ;-)

    • hdehing says:

      RH, you can say a lot about the Dutch culture but in my opinion ‘laid-back’ is not one of them. It may have been years ago, but I think that the Dutch are quite stressed-out these days. But that’s a whole nother issue…

  27. Richard says:

    In a small country like the Netherlands, where things are often located close to each other inside towns, bikes are much more practical to get around than cars. I myself live in Hilversum, and especialliy the downtown area here has a lot of small streets that are one way traffic for cars but not for bikes, so you can definately get from A to B faster by bike.

    And like other people said; the old, gearless, rusted, chain-just-barely-hanging-on type of bikes you describe here are mostly used as city bikes for going into town to get groceries etc. Because it is a sad fact that bikes are indeed stolen very often. Dutch do have fancy, sophisticated bicycles as well, but only use them for pleasure rides outside the city and activities like mountain biking.

  28. Gerko says:

    Haha, nice read, and so true. I’ve been riding around on a gearless, rusty bike without breaks and a saddle (the seat is reduced to a mere iron skeleton) for over a year now. Without accidents, good thing it’s a flat land. How I got this bike? Barehandedly broke it’s lock in a furious rage when my own bike got stolen.Will I ever get rid of it? Never!

  29. Marlies van der Meer says:

    And what about:
    - ZIJWIELTJES. Learning to ride your bike (age 2,5) on a little bike with ‘ZIJWIELTJES’ (on each side of the rear wheel you attach a little wheel). Once you know how to balance your bike, those ‘zijwieltjes’ get removed. It’s like receiving bike ‘diploma 1′. For ‘diploma 2′ you have to ride a bigger bike. My daughter is 7 and is now riding her 4th bike (different sizes) and I think she’ll have 1 or 2 more bikes before she has her grown-up bike. Ofcourse all these bikes are second-hand; they’ve only been used for a short time. And naturally we sell her bikes again … with almost no loss :)

    - FLOWERS. Bikes in big cities; the ones that get ‘parked’ in public places are old so that they don’t get stolen. BUT since all old bikes look alike, we try to give them some distinct feature. Strange colours; painted like the rainbow OR what about all the plastic FLOWERS on a string rapped around your bike (since this is so popular; all the bikes look the same again).

    - E-BIKES. At age 70 or 80 its still normal to ride your bike (at least here in the south) and nowadays we have the E-BIKE; the eletrical bike; you still have to do some leg-pumping but thanks to a little motor (almost invisible) riding is easy. So don’t be surprised if you get overtaken by a granny while your sweating on your bike.

    - CRATES. In the ‘old’ days it was normal for a womans bike to have a basket attached to her handlebar. Later these baskets became old fashioned and more a thing for grannies or little girls. These days the basket is back again but then in the form of a plastic CRATE. Not only easy for groceries but also for highschool kids to carry their ‘bag’ full of books. Theyre really hip.

    PS: And never in my life have I seen more cyclers waiting at a traffic light than in Hanoi or Saigon. With all my Dutch cycling experience it took me some courage to cycle through the mad traffic of these cities (on a rented bike with basket for 1$ a day)!!

    • Marcel says:

      Ooh, ebikes, I hate those octogenarians driving 50 kmh. Not just because they set the bar ridiculously high for me on my racing bike, but they generally don’t have the reflexes for that speed. Emergency rooms have become very used to them.
      I love those crates, there’s always one around when I can’t find a trashcan.

  30. Martijn says:

    If you want to see what cycling in the Netherlands is all about, you should check out the YouTube channel of this guy: http://www.youtube.com/user/markenlei

    I think he has a blog too, but the videos really capture what it means to be riding a bicycle over here.

  31. NBA says:

    I really like your blog, and this issue with the Dutch cycling is really strong, I am Brazilian and Dutch dating with a man, he always wants to put the bike in my life, but I explained to him that here in Brazil we do not have that culture, clear that we walk a bike, but most of the time is for relaxation and do life with it, of course there are exceptions, but it is very little. I totally agree with everything you wrote. I have visited the Netherlands for 2 times, at first I did not know about the danger of being run over by a bike in the parking lot of a supermarket almost got hit by a guy on a bike ran well and speaking words poorly educated, I was scared.

  32. Ron Selsbridge says:

    It’s strange… I’m starting to see Dutch bikes popping up on British roads. I always thought they were a steadfastly continental design but it seems British people are taking to them.

  33. Nichola says:

    I just love the way the Dutch put their children on the FRONT of the bike – either in a seat or a sort of wheel barrow affair. This appear to make the children into a kind of airbag or crumple zone for the rider – if they hit anything the children take the impact first. Also the child becomes a great way of stopping cars – you just thrust your child into traffic and dare any motorist to hit it. Really, walking and even cycling in the Netherlands can be daunting (never cycle slowly!!), but driving in a city like Utrecht, for example, is a total nightmare!

    • tim says:

      And how often does that happen, Nichola? There can be impacts on bikes from all sides. Maybe you should look up statistics. The Netherlands has some of the lowest traffic related death rates in the world.

      • John Birch says:

        Actually, could I say that she did not write that – I did, but the laptop was logged into WordPress as her. Mistake. Whoops. Apologies all round.

        Anyway, Tim, that cleared up I have to say that OBVIOUSLY it happens very little, because otherwise there would be hell to pay. Perhaps because motorists become so scared to death by all these tiny infants being thrust in their way every time a light turns green, that they drive with extreme caution before having a near nervous breakdown later in the evening. Or maybe that was just me.

        It is, however, very noticeable that in most countries where children ride on their parent’s bike they sit at the back, so that if Dad hits a tree/building/car/other bike or something they are (relatively) okay (do I speak from personal experience here? You decide). Whereas in the Netherlands they are almost always at the front. Statistically this may be fine, to me it looked really strange.

        As for the Dutch doing well on accident stats, yes, they are about 7th in the world (depending on how you count it) – I would expect no different (though I see the UK does much better).

        But finally… you really did take the first post very seriously, Tim. Quite excessively seriously actually. One assumes from this you are not Dutch, as they can normally take a joke?

      • tim says:

        Reply to John Birch: No the UK does not much better when it comes to road safety. These are statistics published by the EU earlier this year:
        http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/pdf/observatory/historical_evol_popul.pdf

  34. Reblogged this on amsterdamnyankee and commented:
    By way of background, one of our group leaders rode around town with a case of beer on the back of her cycle after someone bet her she couldn’t – only to find out that one of the other groups had someone with three cases – two stacked on the back rack and one on the front.

  35. Inge says:

    And the dutch on their bikes in the winter:

  36. juffiegelukkigonderweg says:

    As we say ” in de wereld van ambitie, zit ik fluitend op mijn fietsie”. (Utrecht)

  37. Pingback: No. 35: Impossibly steep stairs (aka: the death “trap”) | Stuff Dutch People Like

  38. Joyce says:

    Hahahaha you had me at the “Why spend your hard-earned cash on fancy features when your unusually large thighs and lungs can do the hard work instead?!?”

  39. Christopher says:

    hehehe I’m just thinking of the ridiculous stuff I have done on a bike whilst cycling through town and it includes putting on or taking of a jacket whilst wearing a backpack. Unpacking my backpack/checking if I didn’t forget something, taking pictures, filming, texting, calling, writing and drawing (on a full sized A4) and obviously eating a sandwich and drinking beer. Ow and sleeping (well nearly sleeping at least)… And I have never had/caused an accident (it is a miracle if I think about it)

  40. sonik says:

    please be aware there’s a reason why cyclist don’t care that much for rules and traffic-law. In the Netherlands law and rules serve one goal, and one goal only: to limit all the others, in order for you to exercise absolute freedom. They don’t apply on an individual level. Its the paradox of a community that does not want to relate.

    Check this: Rich people from “the Randstad” move to the rural area Achterhoek. They buy farms and go live there lives there. And than they complain about the smelly farm nextdoor which they found so charming when they bought the house.

    a girl I know started to rent a room above a pub (she rented it from the pub-owner). After a month she complained about the noise and filed lawsuit. Guess what?: the judge thought she was right, and the pub had to shut down.

  41. Steven says:

    Anyone familiar with the Prins Hendrikkade/Damrak crossing near the central station in Amsterdam? I must have hit 20 tourists WALKING through the red light there, and scare the sh*t out of a hundred more. Dutch bikers at least look if it is possible to bike through red light…

  42. Silvia says:

    I hate bikes!

  43. Pingback: Funny list of things Dutch people love « holinholland

  44. Merel says:

    I used to train myself to be able to ride my bike to school with no hands. About 1 km drive, taking corners, sidewalks and gutters in stride. Not an uncommon Dutchie practice.

  45. Tony S says:

    I am British but lived in the Netherlands for 11 years (1985-1996) – I am surprised there is no mention of the sign that used to be held up at football matches between Dutch and German teams – Can we have grandma’s bike back? or variations thereof – in dutch of course. Does that still happen?
    Explanation : During the retreat of German Forces from The Netherlands in 1945 with no transport or petrol many bicycles (including oma’s) were stolen by the defeated and demoralised German troops.

  46. The practise is so common that we named the action after the vehicle: “fietsen”. Compare that to “fahrradfahren” in German or “riding a bicycle”. In the book and movie “De Aanslag” (The Assault) a dutch traitor in WWII gets assassinated by the resistance while he’s on his bicycle in the evening and the German officer responsible for his wellbeing is so annoyed that he shows his despise for “fahradfahren” by using the dutch verb to ridiculize it. “Der Idiot! FIETSEN….!!! Im Dunkel!!!”

  47. heloise8 says:

    Reblogged this on The Trough and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  48. learndutchtogether says:

    Just shared your post with Learn Dutch Together community fans. Keep blogging :)

  49. Kimberley says:

    We actually get the rusty ones, because the shiny ones get stolen. After the third brand new bike has been stolen in two months time you will settle for a rusty one :)

  50. bart says:

    Another thing why we don’t have fancy enpensive bikes is, because it’s in contradiction to clothes, cars or whatever, a nicer, more expensive bike isn’t cooler or doesn’t give you more status or anything. It’s often ‘cooler’ to have a nicely painted rusty crappy bike, than a fancy one, because those are for 50+ aged people.

  51. Karin says:

    Great blog, good read about our bikes and biking habbits! I often get frustrated by tourists on bikes and so I’ve written a list of tips for tourists that come to Amsterdam. All about how not to get run over or frustrate the Dutchies on their bikes :-) http://www.inside-amsterdam.com/inside-tips-facts/bikes-and-biking-around-amsterdam

  52. Harold says:

    Now this list of quirks and oddities is blatantly over the top, ofcourse. (it is satire, after all?)
    I bet you were an expat in Amsterdam? Because certainly *alot* of these quirks are not valid for substantial parts of the dutch population.
    I was born and I live in Amsterdam and I do reckonize some things on your list, but these are specific “Amsterdams”.
    Your observations are loosely based on one or two experiences? Have you ever realized that the majority of your findings are a unique situation? Or a coincidence?

    At some point I understand it; you want to make an long list to impress others and to show off how much you have seen of the country. But dont make up some foolish situations, magnify it and judge that applicable to the whole dutch population. You havent seen it all, by far..!

    And dont turn Amsterdam into a Theme-Park, packed with oddities and weird people.
    Because…you cannot tell…and you never will.

    • Daniela says:

      I’m sure the author is well aware that none of this is applicable to the whole Dutch population Harold, but thanks for stating the obvious and spoiling the fun

  53. Daniela says:

    I rode a car in London and Rome before I moved to Holland and started riding a bike. While I always was a considered and calm driver,I became an arrogant and angry cyclist. it just does something to you

  54. Cheryl says:

    Wow. I JUST found this blog. I’m descended on my mother’s side from a boatload of Drenthian villagers who moved to the American Midwest, led by Pastor Van Raaltje (sp?) in 1846. I learned all my ideas of Dutch stereotypes from my mom, who left Holland Michigan in the 1950′s for a larger life at the University of Illinois. All the “Dutchness” seems to have concentrated over the decades due to geographic isolation and virulent American strains of protestant evangelicalism, leading at last to this apotheosis of what the blogger describes as “directness:” over the open casket of her father at the funeral, my mother was told by her beloved dutch auntie, “…and if you don’t change your ways you’ll wind up in Hell just like he is now.”

    My mother has confessed to me, through mingled laughter and tears, that Dutch people will “be right all the way to the hospital,” by which she means that a Dutch person convinced of his or her own moral standing will not back down no matter how dangerous or trivial the situation, such as claiming right-of-way in traffic even in the face of an oncoming semi. She had four or five “Dutch Uncles” which is what we Americans call a person who will lovingly direct and micro-manage your life to an infuriating degree, based on his or her superior knowledge of what God would want for you. She believes that this expression is not an exaggeration or a stereotype but absolutely accurate.

    She believes that the tradition of inviting someone to enjoy a movie or a meal on the condition that each pay their own way is accurately described as “going Dutch” or “Dutch treat” because this is a strongly marked cultural phenomenon among her immediate Dutch ancestors and close family and they don’t think of it as Dutch; they think of it as “right” and “normal” and why would anyone do anything else? Don’t some people realize that to pay for someone else’s privilege is to weaken them morally and actively disrespect them?

    And to bring us back to the original thread, my Mom remembers riding her bike not just all over town, but up and down state highways between towns. This was not a specifically Dutch thing, however; mid-twentieth century all healthy, middle-class, non-inner-urban children were able to do this…it was a normal thing for kids to do. My mom rode her bike home from picking up her first new pair of eyeglasses. My mom once rode her bike home BEHIND A TORNADO. Also, as an American adult with no car, when I was younger I rode my bike all over town, too, getting around between several part-time jobs and my social life. I did this well into my twenties because I was SAVING MONEY. Maybe I was being Dutch. My first car, when I bought one, was a $200 clunker that ran; I had to fix it often but when I sold it I sold it for more than I paid for it. Looking back, that now seems very Dutch of me, even if I didn’t know it.

    BTW, the first millionaire in history was an American of Dutch ancestry. Vanderbilt’s parents were descended from the original Dutch population that settled New York, and they still spoke Dutch. One time, the dad had to go home and shamefully confessed that he had invested unwisely, had mortgaged the family home, and had lost all the money. Without a word, Vanderbilt’s mother opened the clock. She pulled out enough gold to pay off the whole debt…which she had earned quietly on her own, loan-sharking on the side. Which points out a lesser-known Dutch cultural trait, related to the tight-fistedness: female autonomy within the marriage. Compared to Americans of English or other types of northern European ancestry, Dutch Americans were more likely to have women owning and managing their own property and wealth, which (as in this example) created more opportunities to build wealth, teach wealth-building skills to the next generation, etc. I think Vanderbilt departed from Dutch culture in that if he had owned bicycles, some of them would be fancy, to show off his wealth and attract investors! But the ones he used himself or bought for his employees would’ve been cheap, safe, practical, and impossible to steal….because he would’ve bought every bike and bike manufacturer in the whole country and charged you to ride them.

  55. eva says:

    For my 8th grade end of the year camping trip we went to the beach, on our bikes, it was just assumend that everybody owned a bike and was used to ride it for three hours. I grew up in a small town so all the kids had nice good bikes. Now i’m in college in Amsterdam, i use one of those mentiont crappy bike’s and my good expencive bike is in my grandma’s garage who also lives in Amsterdam, i don’t use it as much anymore obviously.

  56. Soly says:

    First of all: I love your blog, I real guide into Dutch culture! I moved to Amsterdam because of a Dutch boyfriend and struggled big times with the whole biking thing! Dutchies have no patience for newbies on bikes! Although you mention the impressive ability of the Dutch to joggle between bags, beer crates, groceries I have witnessed some pretty impressive falls. Lately I stumbled upon this video of this really cool invention called fietsklik that allows you to “safely” carry all these thing with limited risk of fall. Here is the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYhpmdSiStY

  57. cloggy says:

    My first bike got stolen when I was five years old, went to the policestation and of course the police didn’t do a … thing. Except the advice to simply steal one back ! But to do it so they (said police) wouldn’t see me ! Luckily for me they (said police) had a stolen bike cellar where they stored impounded bikes for 3 months. They gave me an impounded bike that was nominated for recycling and so I found my new free bike store ! (option no longer available)

    YES bikes get stolen ALL the time. But there is another reason not to drive a new or nice bike.
    Ever heard about “fiets fout, fiets weg” ? They will impound your bike if parked outside a bike stall, unless you ride an old scrap heap ! their philosophy is simple. If you ride a 10 euro bike, you will not pick it up and pay 60 euro fine. so it will be sold at a second hand store (no kidding) And yes the worst part is that the lock on your (ex)bike was more expansive ! Oh uhm forgot to mention that they leave the old scrap heaps (forever) just to lure you in to the trap ! (again no kidding they admitted to that)

    Tourists, we appreciate you coming to our little stressed out country, but please keep in mind that we use our rusty piece of sadness to get to work and we have only 10 or 20 minutes to get there !
    So we use the bikelane as a super sonic highway which cannot coexist with people who are sightseeing on the same bikelane. It’s not you, it’s us.

    Helmets. If you fall and hurt yourself you will pay more attention next time. Experience is the best teacher.

    Great blog !

  58. BB says:

    Haha, I find your blog hilarious! I’m a Dutch girl from Groningen and I can recognize nearly everything you say but I do have to point out that: We do not ride the rusty bikes because we like them so much or just because they’re cheap. We buy them cheap because any reasonable looking bike will get stolen, doesn’t matter whether it’s locked or not. I made the mistake of taking a proper bike with me when I moved to the “Big” city, it’s now gone and I bought one for 20 euro’s because in that case, if it’s stolen again it doesn’t hurt as much as the beautiful bike you just paid 200 euro’s for. Oh and I saw people comment about helmets, why do you need helmets? If you can ride your bike properly on the lanes you are more likely to kill that somthing else is likely to kill you.

  59. silvana says:

    i have a stationsfiets, a not to fancy looking oma bike with old worn bycycle bags, no gears, a good normal lock, and a heavy duty (and expensive) chain lock to chain the bike to a lantern pole. Hopefully my bike won’t get stolen this way.
    A smart thief wont go trough al the hassle for just a cheap bike.
    In

  60. Markus says:

    The year I lived and worked in the Netherlands was on of the best experiences in my life. Standing on a red light in the morning with 10-20 other byciclists including well dressed managers is cool. I wish other countries would do more to get more people to use their bikes for daily commutes.

  61. Yvonne says:

    This is an great example of how others look at cycling. Haha.
    http://www.ski-epic.com/amsterdam_bicycles/

  62. cas says:

    you might also want to ad that if a bike rides on the car lane and has to perform a neckbreaking trick not to get hit. he will sure as hell say that its the cardrivers fault because of unmissable details like tegenwind after a mile or 3 the feeling of cycling trough puding will lose its “authentic feel’ and will just get you reeaaallyyy pissed of.. and our inevitable bike trade system which is actually one of the reasons that you never want to buy a brand new bike when you live in the city and dont have to travel impossible distances to get from A to B. It works like this: once you leave your bike alone it becomes public property (i dont know if this is a word in the english language, sorry if it isnt) this means that everyone can just take it and nobody will or can do anything about it. Among our students this is a verry popular way of transportation because they cant miss a buck and as long as nobody starts complaining to much it just works fantastic..

  63. vincent says:

    this post actualy made some sense

    +1

  64. Vliegende Hollander says:

    I think the world is secretly jealous of the TRUE bicycle culture. When I arrived there for my 2.5yr stay, first thing my then brother-in-law did was suggest a place where we could ‘acquire’ a bike, which we promptly did under the cover of night, but was told that if I was visiting his place again by bike, to park the bike a block away…that old horse saw me through rain, hail, snow, ice, hauled me back and forth across the country, and was still great when I left…other countries could learn a lot from NL bicycle culture!

  65. Just a person. says:

    I would like to one day visit The Netherlands and bicycle through there but if it is a scary thing to do and I risk getting mowed over I think I’ll stick to walking. Plus the idea of having something stolen really would upset me even if it was dirt cheap. It’s just the principle.

  66. Dutch as can be says:

    Fietsen is such an integrated part of our way of life, that we actually expect kids from the age of about 6 to be able to ride a bike – without training wheels of course. If one doesn’t at that age – which happens more and more with the growing of the allochtone population – he or she actually finds himself/herself in quite a difficult spot when confronted with practical traffic lessons at school (as opposed to the theoretical ones they have in the classrooms). I for one am a volunteer ‘traffic parent’ (verkeersouder) at my kid’s school, and we are responsible for the practical traffic lessons. In our communication towards the parents we always emphasize that we do not give biking-lessons, but lessons in how to move/be in traffic safely. We also tell them that all children have to bring a bike to school, that is in good working order and proper size for them, preferably their own bike. In every group/class one or two simply don’t have a bike and/or don’t know how to ride it. Those kids usually don’t know how to by the time they leave the school (app. age 12), because the parents simply don’t invest in teaching them.
    For a real Dutch mom like myself, that is unthinkable. My son rode his bike without the training wheels when he just turned 4, my daughter was even younger. By the way, they both were very keen on learning to ride a bike. It gives them a sense of freedom, even though they are not allowed to get very far alone, since I still find them too young to ride in busy traffic alone (8 and 6 now). But they do get to ride with us, under our supervision, but managing their own bikes.

    Yeah, I must agree on this one, fietsen really is typically Dutch.

  67. Erica Dakin says:

    I told my husband that he wasn’t a proper honorary Dutchman if he couldn’t learn how to ride a bike ‘zonder handen’. You have to be able to ride for a decent distance, and turn corners, without holding on to the steering wheel, or you fail your Dutchness test.

  68. Haps Hash says:

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/09/21/bicycling-dutch-way/kFRT0ABSPtUnXMIUj5zONM/story.html
    A cyclist’s mecca, with lessons for Boston
    By innovating ways for cars and bikes to share the road, the Dutch have set the safety standard.

  69. Zender says:

    I’m Dutch, Amsterdam citizen and cyclist (of course).
    Here some information for tourists, written from an Amsterdam cyclist point of view. I know, a little late..

    When you walk : please don’t cross the busiest intersections diagonally.

    When you walk : please don’t step off the side-walk without looking

    When you walk when being stoned : please don’t step off the side-walk without looking

    When you walk and step off the side-walk without looking : please pay attention to the bike bell. It has an alarm function. Step back when you hear it.

    When you walk and step off the side-walk without looking : please pay attention to the bike bell the first time. Or the second time. Or the third time. Or the yell from very close. It means you are in a place where you don’t have priority.

    When you walk and a Dutch cyclist stops because you’re standing in front of a zebra crossing : please don’t be polite and say “after you”. Dutch cyclists hate to stop before zebra crossings. They hate to waste their precious muscle built speed. So when they do stop for you : please go.

    When you ride a hired bike : please don’t play with your bike-bell all the time. It’s like riding a car on the freeway honking your horn all the time.

    When you ride a hired bike : think of yourself more as a car than as a pedestrian. You share the same traffic rules with cars. For instance you don’t bike on the side-walk. Most side-walk bikers are tourists. Don’t be afraid to cycle on the street. Dutch car divers are used to cyclists.

    When you ride a hired bike : don’t cycle on the left side of the road.

    When you ride a hired bike next to someone and you’re taking too much space, someone behind you might want to pass. Please don’t make room by moving to the left. Always move to the right.

    When you ride a hired bike : please don’t think your Dutch with the Dutch now. Even when your hired bike is not yellow or red, Dutch people recognize you as a tourist by the way you cycle and the way you sit on your bike. Like Dutch people abroad are being recognized as tourists when sitting on a camel.

    When you ride a hired bike : please realise that you’re in the middle of a very busy traffic of citizens. You cannot look around like when you’re walking. The centre of Amsterdam is not so big, most of the time it’s a far better idea to just walk.

    When you ride a hired bike : please don’t hire a low-rider, it looks utterly silly. And you cannot pass cars. We just don’t have the space for it.

    Don’t ever -ever- hire a beer-bike.
    :-)

  70. Pingback: No. 56: Turning 50 in style (aka seeing Sarah) | Stuff Dutch People Like

  71. DutchieSanDiego says:

    I’m a Dutchie who has been living in California for ten years now. I miss bike riding terribly! Now I need a car for everything! When I lived in Los Angeles I considered a bike briefly, because of the horrible traffic. I decided against it as it seemed like suicide to me. 4 lane roads in the city, no bike lanes, and no one anticipates bikers. In NL bikers rule the roads, but here in the US it’s all about the automobile. Public transit sucks too. On the other hand, I have been in some nasty bike accidents in NL due to bad weather or riding too fast. When I go back to NL and see ppl with a baby in a sling, bags of groceries on the steering wheel going full speed on a old bike, I fear for the baby’s life! Oh, and I agree with others who said the reason dutchies have old bikes is because junkies steal your bike all the time ( in the bigger cities). I can’t count the number of bikes that were stolen from me over the years.

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