I went on a bike tour of the Netherlands last week, and it was awesome. This was a family trip so it was very low-key – the pace was pretty flock-like; we did ~25 mi/day and it took 5-7 hours including stops. At night we slept on a boat. The weather was not the best (mosly 40s, VERY windy, some rain), but it only seriously rained one day so it wasn’t bad. I would have liked to do more riding but I still got to see a lot. We started in Amsterdam and made a loop to the southwest – Utrecht, Gouda, Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague, Leiden, Haarlem, and back to Amsterdam.
Obviously a week doesn’t make me any kind of authority, but here are some random observations/thoughts:
Everything you’ve ever heard is basically true. It is godawful discouraging to come back to the US after experiencing that.
There are indeed bikes everywhere – especially in the cities (definitely not just Amsterdam), but also out in the middle of nowhere.
The bike lanes, etc. are certainly nice, but it’s really not being menaced by drivers that is the bigger issue. I did not have one bad encounter with a driver. Being in a group of 25 pretty obvious tourists might have gotten us some extra slack, but it’s really just completely different than what I’m used to. Amazing what making drivers responsible for their vehicles can do.
I knew they didn’t really believe in wearing helmets, but they *really* don’t believe in them, you might as well call it 0% – it’s certainly not 1%.
The exception is people riding road bikes recreationally – they basically all wear helmets (and full kits). But that is out in the country, there are very few road bikes in the city.
One thing I didn’t expect is “mopeds” (which refers to any scooter <50cc there) are allowed on almost all bike lanes/trails/etc. There are a lot of them, they just mix with the bikes, and it’s a lot less of an issue than I might have expected. I’d say there are 10-20% as many scooters as bicycles.
Another thing I didn’t expect is cars are allowed almost everywhere, even on very narrow streets and roads that you might think are bike/ped only. I mean, like 6-8ft wide roads, and they’re often bidirectional too. I’d imagine they find our 4ft law pretty comical, it just wouldn’t be possible. But, the drivers completely defer to the bicycles and pass safely and slowly. Not having gigantic SUVs (mostly) probably helps too. Some of the less experienced cyclists found this disconcerting but I had no issues with any drivers.
That’s probably enough for now – everyone should go experience it for themselves. I definitely want to go back, in fact I’m basically ready to pack up and move.
I have a bunch of pics, I still have to upload them though.
I didn’t see any electric scooters (that is pretty funny) but I did see quite a few e-bikes including this crazy two person side-by-side recumbent thing. I didn’t get a pic – it was coming the other way and took up most of the bike path.
It’s certainly been a good week and it was an amazing experience. I wish I could afford to charter a plane and take everyone on the board over there to go ride.
I really can’t get over the city streets. On a lot of them there really aren’t any clear divisions of pedestrians, bikes, and cars – they just all coexist in the same space.