The Dutch Biking Experience
If you manage to spend one month in Holland without feeling the itch to go on a bicycle, I would like to hear about it!! I still remember arriving in the country with my 7 months old son, 3 years old little girl and 9 years old special needs daughter and the frustration of not being able to go past around the block for outings…until I spotted a mum on a “bakfiets” (these big 2 or 3 wheelers with a box at the front for kids, dogs, shopping etc…) 6 years ago they were still quite rare, now they come in great diversity of shapes, makes and colours!
Anyway, this bakfiets was to provide me with years of sanity and free fitness! Basically, the Dutch have a bike to suit everyone’s individual needs and biking, no matter what type, is by far the best way to get around Hilversum’s one way system…in fact if you are in a car when everyone else seem to be on their bikes riding side by side in rows or 2 (which is perfectly legal on a cycling track…no matter how narrow the road is and how much traffic there is…) or 3 (not legal but a teenager’s favourite!), cyclists will probably get there before you! As a driver, always give way to cyclists even at roundabouts when it feels like you are stopping on odd spots. Keep your 4 wheelers off the red 2 and 3 wheelers tracks at all times! And if as a pedestrian you venture on a red cycling track, beware as they will not expect it and might not be able to stop for you! Scooters with a blue number plate are also perfectly entitled to use the cycling tracks! Anyway, with 16 million inhabitants and 20 million bikes, Holland is most definitely the biking capital of the world…fietsers (bikers) are kings of the road and for Dutch kids, learning how to ride a bike is as important as learning how to walk with cycling proficiency tests taking place at infant school.
The Dutch bike no matter what the weather, most dads ride - what can appear like female bikes to foreigners eyes, and of course no Dutch person wears a helmet so we, expats are easy to spot on a bike! I am not the only converted expat who finds riding everywhere addictive as the endless cycling tracks covering the country offer a sense of safety and give a great feeling of freedom. However you should be aware of a few Dutch bicycle rules:
-You can be fined for cycling without lights at night.
-You can be fined if you are caught cycling on a pedestrian zone.
-You can be fined or your bike can be removed if you park it outside the designated area, so watch out for signs like
“Geen fiets platsen” or “fietsen worden werwijderd”.
- Unless you have a foldable bike, if you wish to take your conventional bike with you on a train journey, you need to purchase a ticket for it and can only do so outside rush hours (so from 9 am until 16.30 or after 18.00)
But as long as yon abide by those few rules, you can join the biking kingdom!
It is not because bike shops are to be found everywhere that bikes are necessarily cheap to purchase, the average standard bike probably costs around 500 euros but to fit everyone’s budget, most shops have a range of good second hand bikes on offer but remember that some Dutch bikes have the brakes on the pedals and no gears!!
For advice, you can look up http://www.dutchbikeshop.co.uk/what-you-need-to-know-when-buying-a-secondhand-dutch-bike