October 2005 - Cycling in the Netherlands

Holland and bikes are synonymous, but unless you have visited you really do not have the concept at how many bikes and cyclists are in the Netherlands. The number of bikes in south Netherlands is absolutely crazy! During a normal morning bike commute one probably sees at least a hundred cyclists in about 15 minutes of riding. And, about 50 per cent of the men and women on these bikes are in high-end business attire (suits/skirts). The University of Maastricht actually has a program where they will pay for part of you bike to promote cycling. In fact, the Netherlands has separate bike lanes (coloured in red to distinguish them) in between the road and the sidewalks. The bike lanes have their own traffic lights- the infrastructure is incredible (but explains the high tax dollars people pay). At the University (of Maastricht) hospital there is a four-level car parking garage, but the first level is entirely for bikes. A lab-tech that Trent works with bikes to work everyday rain, snow or shine- over 30 km each way from Belgium!

Most crappy commuter bikes can be purchased for about 75 to 100 euros and include front and back lights, room for saddle bags, and typically have three gears. At nearly every major train station in the Netherlands there are also a bike shops that rents bikes, for around 5 euro a day. These train stations will also park bikes (for a fee) for the day. We commonly see working people cycling up in the morning, running their bike into their parking spot at the bike shop, and then running out straight onto the train and they are off to work- seems like a nice system.

In general, we find most people so much more fit than the average North American. Most parents pick their kids up on the bikes from school and then ride home with up to two kids loaded onto their bike. We ran in this neighbouring village called Heer last weekend and in an 80 min run we probably saw 250+ different cyclists out enjoying the countryside. These cyclists included anything from professional racers to big groups of 50+ year olds just cruising along with their friends. Many of these people also enjoy doing cycle cruising tours. The day before the biggest annual professional bike race in the Netherlands, Amstel Gold Race in Maastricht, there is a series of cycling tours at distances of 50km, 100km, 125km 150km, 200km and 250km (like 10+ hours of riding for some people). All I know is that it’s February and the race is in April and the 125 km distance is already sold out!
























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