The interest in cycling in the Netherlands has exploded in recent times and it is no wonder why…
In 2013 The Netherlands was voted as the most bike friendly country in Europe according to the European Cyclists Federation (ECF) and only just being pipped by Denmark in 20151. The ECF appraises EU countries through their cycling barometer - a scoring system which seeks to evaluate the countries commitment to cycling on 5 fronts;
1. Modal share – how many people use bicycles as their main mode of transport,
2. Safety - how safe it is to cycle within the country
3. Market share – how many bicycles are being sold each year
4. Cycling tourism – how many cycling trips tourists take
5. Cycling advocacy- the scale of cycling advocacy groups within the country
Suffice it to say it’s a fairly in depth analysis, but the stats and facts on cycling in the Netherlands are astonishing;
· There are more bicycles than residents in the Netherlands
· In major cities such as Amsterdam with a population of 847,176 it’s estimated that around 70% of daily journeys are on a bicycle. It’s estimated that there are 800,000 bikes in Amsterdam and around 260,000 cars.
· Cyclists have right of way at roundabouts, further where you say come across a one Way Street without much space, again the cyclist has right of way.
· The university city of Groningen has a central train station has underground parking for 10,000 bikes. The parking also works in much the same way as an underground car park at one of Victoria’s larger malls – electronically showing how many spaces are available. In Amsterdam there are 250,000 bike racks.
· It is quite common for bikes to not be locked up and in fact if they are locked up in the wrong place you could find your bike impounded and required to pay a fee to get it back.
· You are not required to wear a helmet – the safety infrastructure is considered to be safe enough to forego what we here in Victoria would consider a necessity given our current infrastructure and cyclist awareness.
Seeing as cycling is so popular and supported it’s not hard to see why the Netherlands are high on the bucket list for avid cyclists. The commitment to cycling doesn’t end at infrastructure either, if you decide to go to the Netherlands and want to get some riding in whilst there, the resources available are amazing. There is the national long distance cycle network (LF routes) which is a series of routes designed for those who wish to undertake a cycling holiday in the Netherlands. The routes on the network are designed to take you all across Holland – fully signposted and there is an online platform available. Pursuant to this, the online route planner also offers information on points of interest, down to picnic bench locations. And it doesn’t stop there – it also lists places that are Fietsers Welkom! (Cyclists Welcome) – cycle friendly places to eat, drink and even stay.
There are 32 main LF routes varying from the 20km Thorn to Roermond route to the 1300km Tour of Holland route, so you most probably won’t have the time to get across all of them, in which case you could opt to follow one of the themed routes such as the Nederland’s Kustroute route (the coastal route) which at 570kms follows the North Sea and Waddenzee coast. If you’re a bit more adventurous you might take on the Ronde van Nederland route (Tour of the Netherlands) and if you survive expect to receive a certificate from Nederland Fietsland2 (you need to register and take a photo of yourself at 6 locations).
1European Cyclists Federation, 2016, www.ecf.com
2Nederland Fietsland 2016, www.hollandcyclingroutes.com