See the pages for the Netherlands of the Trento Bike Pages.

Bicycling in the Netherlands

Originally posted on VeloNet as Bicycling in the Netherlands, 9/94. Original submitted by James Mackay ( on Sept 23, 1994. This paper was presented at the ProBike Conference in Portland Oregon. For more information, contact James Mackay, Denver Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner at or (303) 640-BIKE.
James Mackay is the Denver Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner. Previously, he was the Bicycle Facilities Engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. He has served on the boards of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and Illinois Prairie Path, and started North Carolina Rail Trails and the Illinois State Chapter of the Rails to Trails Conservancy. James is a member of the Colorado Bicycling Advisory Board and the American Society of Civil Engineers Human-Powered Transportation Committee.

Provisions for bicycling in Netherlands presents an inspiring "alternate reality" to what is found in the United States. While not a complete utopia, bicyclists' needs are routinely accommodated in a culture that recognizes human-powered transportation as a legitimate mode. Nationally, 29% of all trips are made by bike. (A personal income tax structure which starts at 30%, and taxes resulting in gasoline costing the equivalent of $4 a gallon help make this a reality as well.) Land densities are high resulting in 60% of all trips being less than 3 miles. Unfortunately, bicyclists account for 22% of all traffic fatalities.

Bicycling is commonplace, with bicycle parking racks commonly provided at all destinations, including employment sites, government offices, and individual stores. National policy calls for more bicycle parking at rail stations, with greater bicycle access to trains, and more bicycle rentals at the stations. Local governments are invited to design car-free residential areas. Bicycle maps and route information is available at all of the motorclub offices.

Dutch bicycles are rather low-tech, but very specifically designed for transportation usage with factory installed lights powered by wires running through the frame, reflectors and reflective tires, racks, fenders, enclosed chainguards, hub (not rim) brakes, rearwheel skirtguards, built-in locks, and related items. (Compare this to our U.S. high-tech suspension mountain bike mania, resulting in 90% of cyclists riding at night not having lights.) Even with built-in rear wheel locks, widespread provision of bicycle parking, bike lockers, and indoor bike storage at train stations, libraries, and other major destinations, theft remains a major problem with nearly a million bicycles stolen annually.

Traffic engineers there ride bicycles, so it is common to see bicycle traffic signals, with some intersections having "bicycle-exclusive" signal phases. Pushbuttons for bikes and peds light up when pressed, confirming that the signal will be changing for you. Special bike-only pavement markings allow cyclists in bike lanes to pull up in front of motorists at signals so that bikes from both directions will be able to start first - this is particularly useful for left turns. In order to resolve the U.S. air quality, and automobile traffic woes, a mandatory tour of the Dutch culture and its consistent provisions for bicycling should be a requirement for our traffic engineers. (Flagrant offenders could be sent back for further "re-education".)

Some of our most anti-bicycle engineers here in the U.S. have belt buckles which never see the light of day. Please take them along with you when you bike tour the Netherlands.

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