Traveler's Test

A beginner’s guide to cycling in the Netherlands

A beginner’s guide to cycling in the Netherlands

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Riding a bike in the Netherlands is both the easiest and the most difficult thing in the world. Bike culture in the Low Countries has its unique etiquette and unwritten rules, which you either accept or get damned in Dutch (because in the Netherlands you don’t get sworn at, you get damned).

1. Riding at a speed less than 50 km/h is almost rude to the other bikers. Indulge in your leisurely strolls elsewhere – in the Netherlands you have got to be fast and furious on the bike.

2. You always go first, at every intersection. Everyone who is not riding a bike is obligated to always give way to everyone who is on a bike. That’s right, if you run over a pedestrian on the bike lane, he is the one getting fined, not you.

3. There is no such thing as rain. Great Britain may be the queen of bad weather, but anyone who has ever spent a bit more time in the Netherlands knows too well that you can corrode here. In most parts of the country, it rains about 33 times per day, so you need to learn how to ignore the showers. They do not exist. You have a few options – to ride your bike with a raincoat (you d be the only one, unless it is positively pouring), to bike with an umbrella in one hand (requires a certain level of mastery and you will be mocked at) or to simply stop noticing the rain.

4. Your bicycle will be stolen. Multiple times. Only when you can calmly accept this reality are you ready to ride in the Netherlands. Then you can even go up a level – steal a bike of your own (joking, of course).

5. Your bike will be equipped with knickknacks. Plastic flowers and a huge wooden crate, instead of a bike basket, would do as well. Bicycle-abominations are not only permitted, but actually encouraged.

6. Pedestrians – your worst enemy. They must be booed, damned and hunted down until chased away from the bike lane. It is usually tourists that make the mistake of strolling down the bike lane and usually they only make it once.

7. Watch out for the bicycle tow truck. You can’t just leave your bike anywhere. Actually, you could, but the bicycle tow truck might sniff it out and take it away. A bicycle tow truck is not like your old boring tow truck. Instead of a wheel-lift, there are two middle-aged men that lift your bike from the ground and into a van. That’s why you need to use the abundant bicycle parking areas and racks. In all honesty, even people who have been living in the Netherlands for years, have seen the bike tow truck either rarely or never, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t park where you are supposed to.