Upon first arriving in the Netherlands, I noticed two things right away—the impressive number of cows and bicycles. As I write this, cows are still in hibernation and are not out and about. I think they poke their heads out when they see that the tulips have returned.

But bicycles are out year round. In all sorts of weather, and I mean, rain, ice and snow, people are riding their bikes.

There are more bicycles in the Netherlands than people—about 18 million of these two wheelers.

In America, when a child gets a bike it is more for fun and recreation. Men and women ride bikes, but it is mainly a form of exercise.

Here, bicycles are not only a way of life, but they are a necessity. There are no school buses in this country, so children either walk or bike to school. Adults will use their bikes to get to work or do errands. Don’t get me wrong, Dutch people have cars and they use them. But parking is a major issue and it is easier to ride your bike to the train station and hop on the train to the city. They have special bike spaces at bus and train stations so you can park your bike while you are at work. It is also great for the environment and for the roads. There are bike lanes EVERYWHERE and the Dutch know how to maneuver through the crazy city traffic and also around sheep and ducks.

In a Dutch person’s life they will normally go through five bicycles, as they start when they are pretty young. These bikes are really well made, are heavy and strong and are not cheap. The average cost of a new adult bike is around 700 euros (about $970.00).

These bikes have front baskets or boxes, front and back child seats, lights, bells, and most people have saddle bags (just like the old West). You can fill those bags with lots of groceries.

As time goes on, I will post more about the bike culture. It is a daily event for me to watch the Dutch on bikes—from children going to school in the rain to an elderly woman flying by me with bags filled with shopping. She rides as if she has done this her whole life, and she probably has.

Recommended reading: The memory of running by Ron McLarty

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  • Stan  On March 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Great photo Jane. Which one is yours?

  • Aledys Ver  On April 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I remember when I first arrived in the NL that everyone meeting me for the first time would invariably ask: “so, have you learned to ride around in your bike, yet?” Despite knowing that the Dutch go just about everywhere by bike, I really didn’t understand why would that be an important question to ask a newcomer… OF course that changed with time!
    Not long ago, at the hairdresser’s, I was engaged in conversation about living abroad, etc., by the girl cutting my hair. She knows I come from Argentina and she always asks questions about my home country, adapting to life here in the NL, my Dutch speaking skills (auch!). When I heard that she had a British boyfriend, I decided to ask her, “well, would you consider moving to Britain one day?” I was astonished to get a very strong negative answer! (after all, Britain is just there, across the channel and *I* come from the other side of the “big” ocean, don’t I) When I asked her why, she very resolutely told me, “well, over there you can’t ride your bike everywhere!” 😀 Was that a good reason, or what!! 😀

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