Ask any expat arriving in the Netherlands, and the first thing they will notice on the roads are red pathways on each side dividing the road into 3 sections. That, is the ever efficient bicycle lane which acts as the primary form of transport in the Netherlands.
Having a bicycle is an absolute must
It is quite inspiring to see the majority of Dutch people in good shape and relatively slim despite the assortment of popular meals and snacks that are often heavy in fat and carbohydrates.
The reason lies in the active lifestyle the Dutch carry out in their everyday lives. Having a bicycle is an absolute must for a whole host of reasons- and is the major form of transport even on the rainy days that consistently occur every few days at the minimum.
The bicycle will be possibly your first purchase or rental as soon as you arrive in the Netherlands, and can range from €70 for a used bike all the way up to €500 for a brand new one. When deciding on a bicycle, you must enter with the intention of purchasing your mode of transport- as it is treated extremely important in getting where you need to go.
Renting a car is not recommended, as tax and parking fares are high and the roads not fit for driving in comparison to larger countries such as the United States or Canada. Owning a bicycle is faster and easier- and provides an ultimate form of freedom that is absolutely fun and free!
The bicycle business in the Netherlands is a major money maker- with stores having an assortment of bicycles ready for lease or purchase- and even offer service for repairs around the clock.
It even gets too busy that you find yourself having to return some other day with customers coming in and out until closing time. The stores also have almost every accessory you can dream of in a bicycle.
From baskets to place your items, to bells and seat saddles- they have got it all. The lock is absolutely the most important accessory, as there is a high rate of stolen bikes around the Netherlands.
If not chained correctly with a strong lock- you may find yourself stepping out of your home to find your bike vanished. With such a massive amount of bicycles roaming the streets every day, it is only expected that such small scale crimes will occur considering the massive money making business the bicycle industry is. With experience on where to place your bike, along with the right types of locks- the rate drops significantly.
As the bicycle is the most popular form of transport, there are rules that must be abided by cyclists on the bicycle lane.
Hand signals must be given when turning right or left- and there are traffic lights similar to road lights that direct the movement of all cyclists. This is necessary as there are not only cars to watch out for- but trams that come and go along the roads.
The road system must run smoothly and efficiently to keep the traffic flowing and ensuring safety all times. It is fascinating to see how everyone follows the rules to a tee, and makes sure to give way for older cyclists and mothers carrying their children.
It is also quite a no nonsense experience either- as many expats find themselves receiving dirty looks and irritated responses when they (hopefully unknowingly) find themselves going the opposite direction or breaking rules.
Nonetheless, with time and understanding of the roads- mistakes will be kept to a bare minimum and you can enjoy the most advanced bicycle roads in the world!
- Freelance writer