Everyone bikes in the Netherlands - yes, really. Even the outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been spotted cycling to work on many occasions. To most Dutchies, hopping on a bicycle is second nature. No wonder so many are entirely comfortable with biking long stretches without even having to hold onto the handlebars. Even if you don’t think you’ll be able to master this particular skill anytime soon, you should still get yourself a trusty bike during your time abroad. We’ll tell you everything you need to know in this guide to cycling in the Netherlands.
A common Dutch fun fact is that there are more bikes in the Netherlands than people. How is this even possible, you may wonder? Well, Dutch citizens are known to own several bikes, replace stolen ones or completely forget where they parked theirs after a night out.
Of course, a country that is home to so many bikes isn’t going to cheap out on creating a great cycling experience. After the 1970s, millions of bike paths were created, in order to incentivize people to bike to get around, rather than to clog the tiny Dutch cobblestone streets with their cars. Soon, an infrastructure was created where cyclists were the royalty of the road, and cars had to be on their best guest behavior.
After making sure that cyclists not only had paths to get around on, the Netherlands also provided tons of parking opportunities, with big cities often having massive underground expanses of bike racks. Considering this, it’s really no surprise that the Dutch have achieved this win for themselves – to be the world’s leading example of a cycling nation.
With so many people cycling everywhere, you’re probably not surprised to hear that there’s a whole system of traffic rules in place. This is especially important to adhere to during rush hour, a.k.a the times when people are commuting to and from work.
But what are the rules? Here are the things to keep in mind when biking:
You’d expect this list to also contain things like ‘don’t bike while listening to music’, ‘wear a helmet’ or ‘don’t carry anyone on the back of your bike’. Surprisingly, this is not the case. On the contrary, you can do all of those things if you want to.
That being said, we encourage you to be realistic about what jeopardizes your safety while cycling. For example, if you absolutely can’t stand the idea of biking to your 9 a.m. lecture without music, then consider wearing a helmet just in case. And, if the bike paths still seem overwhelming, then suggest to your friend that the two of you can walk, rather than offering to take them on the back of your wobbly bike.
While you should look out for yourself while cycling, the security of your actual bicycle also matters. Bike theft is an extremely common occurrence in the Netherlands – in fact: the Netherlands sees the most bikes stolen in Europe, with about one theft per minute.
It’s very difficult to prevent bike theft completely, but there are several things you can do to significantly reduce the risks. The first rule of thumb is to spend more money on your locks than the bike itself. In other words, buy a secondhand bike and make sure you have at least two, good-quality locks to secure it with. Always attach your bike to a solid object as well, so it can’t just be carried away.
Also, if you have the ability to park your bike inside, try to do so. This could be a designated bike parking in your student accommodation, a basement storage or your student room itself if you feel up to carrying it up the steep Dutch stairs.
As you picked the Netherlands as your country of study, you, too, should get in on the fun. Biking is not only a great commitment to your physical and mental health, but it’s also the easiest way to quickly feel like a local. There’s nothing quite like getting drenched while biking to your morning lecture – it’s the Dutch rite of passage if you will.
Unsure if you want to commit to buying a bike, though? Maybe you’re not sure how often you’ll be using it. In that case, consider leasing! We’ve partnered with trustworthy companies to make sure that international students always have a working bike to get them from A to B. Don't worry about it ever breaking. We’ll replace it in no time. Even if it gets stolen, it’ll be much less costly to get another from us in comparison to having to buy a whole new bike.
If this sounds like something that you’d be interested in, find out more here.
If you want more information on where to find a bike, and the types of bikes that exist, check out our previous blog post.
This was our guide to cycling in the Netherlands. We hope that you can’t wait to hop on a bike of your own and see what all the fuss is about.