Sunday, 12 November 2017

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe: Part 7 - Cycling culture

It's often said that cycling is in the Dutch DNA, or it's part of the country's culture. OK, I haven't lived and worked there, so do I think this is true?

I'm going to stick my neck out and say yes, but I won't say why until the end of this post (so no cheating). As regulars know, I'm always taking photos of physical infrastructure and sometimes (at least in the UK), they don't always show people using it. That wasn't a problem in the Netherlands!

Away from the centre of Amsterdam, we have a logically arranged piece of highway where each mode has its own space. Parking is accommodated and acts as additional protection.

Another cycle track in Amsterdam. Again, logical space and protection from a loading bay. Some planters provide a little bit of a buffer between people walking and cycling.

A junction in Amsterdam where people are protected. The cycling is casual because the people don't feel under any pressure.

Sports clothing and helmets are the unusual sight here in the countryside near Amsterdam. The lane is only useful for drivers with business there and so very quiet.

A mobility scooter user on the cycle track because it is comfortable and safe. This is the off-slip from a motorway where people walking and cycling get their own green to cross.

Here in Terhole, another person using a mobility scooter on the road. There is no cycling infrastructure here, but he feels safe enough to carry a two-year old on his lap.

A cliché here in Hulst, but again, no cycling infrastructure. Something must be going on for this lady to feel safe.

Here in Kinderdijk, some of the poorest provision I saw. While this sort of advisory lane can be seen to help in some places, the volume of traffic is too high as tourists head to the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Despite the road layout, there are still plenty of people cycling and they don't fit the young fit male demographic.

Back in Amsterdam, people go about their business with their shopping bags hanging from their handlebars without a care in the world. Plenty of parking squeezed in, but the canal lanes are filtered from through traffic.

Within the city of Amsterdam, hire bikes are being used by people seeing the sights - here crossing a bridge which acts as a modal filter.

Cycling next to a main road in Amsterdam. As can be seen everywhere, the cycles are functional and sitting upright commands a view of what is going on. Ordinary clothes for an unhurried (and unharried) ride.

Protection in space and time with very clear direction to get through this intersection.

Vondelpark in Amsterdam with a main shared route. People relaxing or travelling, all in safety.

Cargocycles are a familiar city site because in a city reworked to enable cycling, they are a quick and efficient way to move children.

A view from the bridge in the previous photo. Nobody is particularly hurrying, what an absolutely lovely place to be.

This is the same bridge with some cycling taking place outside of rush hour. Again, nice and casual.

A slightly wider canal street in Amsterdam, but cycling is the main transport mode with one-way motor access.

When a city is made cycle-friendly, all sorts of adapted cycles appear. Here, a refrigerated Foodlogica trike replaces a small van.

At the end of the #53 Red Line on the Amsterdam Metro, Gaasperplas Station provides plenty of cycle parking with a cycle track connecting up the surrounding residential area.

Out on the coast at Zandvoort, the promenade is traditionally wide for walking, but there's also a stepped cycle track which allows others to enjoy the scenery. I wonder why this lady is looking so happy?

Harder work for this guy pulling a trailer as he leads his kids along the coast in perfect safety.

Even the roadies prefer the track to the road beyond the adjacent car park (the many food wagons might also tempt them).

A safe and wide space beyond the city of Amsterdam positively enables sociable cycling, even on a longer distance cycle track. What's the rush anyway.

Here in Harderwijk, this family are completely protected from traffic on the main road. If you wanted to get beyond the tangle of roads in the background, then there's an underpass for that.

I took this final photograph at about 6.30pm on a Sunday near Perkpolder in Zeeland. I can't quite find the right location as it has changed since Google Streetview last went through. From what I can piece together from Google, I think it's an old ferry terminal area which is being redeveloped. The early provision of this cycle track in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday evening still enables this chap to get about.

So, what's this Dutch culture which gets so many people cycling - are the people just bike mad? Well as you will have seen in other posts, there are some massive roads and there is plenty of parking, so cars are important to the Dutch!

The fact that I can just visit the Netherlands and cycle around in safety is the clue as I can assure you, there is no cultural pill or induction session, you just turn up and go. The infrastructure enables people to cycle. 

Protection is generally provided where it is required and elsewhere, traffic levels are reduced so people still feel safe. There are gaps and there are some poor layouts to be sure, but the good provision helps make them palatable and as I saw in several places, things are always being upgraded - the culture is in the planning and engineering, not the end user.


  1. In the picture labeled "Here in Harderwijk, this family are completely protected from traffic on the main road"… it's pretty the adult + kids are tourists: Dutch riders don't wear helmets.

    1. I expect you are right. I saw a tiny number of people with helmets in the two weeks we were there.