Biking in the Netherlands
a guide for tourists

Traveling by bike is totally embedded in Dutch society. Small children bike with their parents to the primary school. Older children bike on their own to high school, students bike to university and many commuters travel by bike to their work as well. There are even more bikes than inhabitants in the Netherlands! The Dutch can’t live without their bikes and this  sometimes results in crazy events. Think of the National Championship for biking with a headwind, which only takes place with a wind force of 7 on the Beaufort scale. But what does this have to do with tourism? This article shows you the endless possibilities for cycling as a tourist in the Netherlands. Moreover, it demonstrates how you can survive a holiday in the Netherlands as an inexperienced cyclist!

First of all, the cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands is astonishing. Transport by bike is safe and reliable due to the countless of bike paths. In cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht, average travel times by bike are often shorter than by car! Even better, parking is free, close to your destination and sometimes even guarded. In addition, for a small charge you can take your bike on the train. Part of the cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands are the so-called bike highways. These highways are bike paths without traffic lights and intersections. One example of such bike highway is the Amsterdam to Zaandam way, perfect for tourists in Amsterdam who want to visit the ‘Zaanse Schans’ in Zaandam, a famous tourist attraction with unique windmills!

In almost every Dutch city, there are numerous bike rental shops. Also, guided bike tours are offered by locals and this is an ideal way of discovering a Dutch city. You’ll see places you could never have found by yourself, and it’s way more sustainable than discovering a city by a sightseeing bus or a touring boat. A typical Dutch holiday is a so-called cycling holiday. They are offered in all types and lengths and you travel from destination to destination by bike! It’s possible to bike from city to city, and travel back by public transport. But also tours around one of the lakes near Amsterdam, the Markermeer or IJsselmeer, are definitely recommended. Bike holidays in the Netherlands are approachable for everyone due to its flat landscapes. Furthermore, cycling across the dikes and facing windmills is a pleasure for everyone’s eye!

Is cycling in the Netherlands for tourists then just a great sustainable opportunity without any risks? Not exactly, cycling in the Netherlands can be chaotic, especially in cities like Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam. The combination of commuters, students, children and tourists can be a dangerous cocktail on the Dutch bike paths. Sometimes it seems like anarchy, but there are some important rules. Hand signals for example are crucial in the communication with other road users. When you turn right, you point your hand to the right and vice versa. Further, move to the right when you hear a bike bell, someone wants to overtake you. Wearing a helmet is not mandatory, but bike lighting (rear and front) is obligated.

All in all, there are endless possibilities to use a bike during your holiday in the Netherlands. Of course, this is also applicable in many other countries and you should use these possibilities. Take a look at the website of EuroVelo, which offers you cycle networks throughout Europe. And just like the Dutch, embrace the bicycle and it becomes an indispensable vehicle during you holiday!  

 by Bart