Biking in The Netherlands

A few days ago, Servetus wrote a post about a German government minister biking to his official installation as a minister and I found myself initially thinking, “Cool! But so what?” I then immediately chastised and corrected myself as I realized I live in a very bike-friendly country where riding a bike to, well, any occasion is very normal. Our prime minister lives in Den Haag and bikes to his work place (which I think may be about a 10 minute commute for him) very often.

He likes to eat an apple while he does so…

He even bikes to the king’s palace……

And yes, without a helmet, which is one of the things I most hear foreigners comment on when they see pictures of Dutch people on their bikes. Practically no one wears a helmet when biking in The Netherlands; I don’t think I know anyone who uses them and we certainly don’t own any here at my house. It was once suggested some years ago that maybe it would be a good idea but everyone just laughed it off. Biking here is not the same as in other countries (we have more bikes here than people!) and that had me thinking of the first and only urban planning YouTube channel that I got hooked on for a bit a few months ago. Mr Esther was fascinated as well.

The videos on the YouTube channel Not Just Bikes are made by a Canadian living in Amsterdam and he is fascinated by urban planning, urban transport infrastructure and by the Dutch bicycle infrastructure we have in place. It’s a compelling outsider’s view on how we live here in The Netherlands and he compares it to where he’s lived in Canada and the US. I never think much about urban planning and have never even considered watching videos on that but somehow I accidentally stumbled on this first video I’m sharing here. I’m not even sure anymore why I clicked on it but I did and got hooked on watching others as well. This video is about how in Amsterdam (and in The Netherlands) there are policies to disentangle routes for different modes of transport, i.e. we’ll have routes through a city just for bicycles where cars can’t be and vice versa.

I went down a rabbit hole on this guy’s YouTube channel after that. The cool thing is that not only did I see my country through a foreigner’s eyes, I also learned a lot about urban life in US and Canada. He comments on how high walkability is here and how that makes all the difference…

I never really thought about how normal walkability is here as opposed to many places abroad and it suddenly made so much sense to me.

As a parent, the most striking video for me was the one he made about not wanting to raise his kids in US or Canadian suburbia. The premise baffled me because I was always under the impression that raising kids in these suburbs must be great.


From this video I learned that kids walking and cycling to school and other activities all on their own is not as normal in the US and Canada as it is here. I mean, I have friends and family abroad with children but I never really thought of that before… until I remembered once, many years ago, my brother, his partner and my niece visiting from London.

My kids were maybe 6 – 8 years old and we were in my back garden when my kids decided they wanted to go to this playground and have my niece come with them. The playground was about a 3 minute walk away, in a very residential, traffic-calmed area, where pedestrians have right of way everywhere and my kids went there on their own with friends all the time. So, it was normal for us to say ‘sure, go ahead!’. My then sister-in-law, who was not Dutch and had never lived here, immediately panicked, fearing it was unsafe and we had to reassure her and show her that for kids here it’s a very normal thing to do, all on their own. Needless to say, my kids and my niece came back again an hour or two later, all elated and in once piece.

After watching that video I realized more than ever that kids are much more independent here in their own travel and movements from a young age than they seem to be in the US and Canada. He even speaks of a court case against a dad in Vancouver who let his kids go somewhere unsupervised and was ordered to not let that happen again, on penalty of having his kids taken away from him. In the end he won, but… wow. That really hit home with me. The video also brought home to me the soccer-mom concept in the US, which is very different from what I think a soccer-mom is here. Being a soccer-mom here is a choice, in the US and Canada there is no choice, you always have to drive until the kids are old enough to drive on their own.

Speaking of traffic calming earlier, this video explains how that works here…

Or how our traffic lights system is very efficient. I’ve noticed that before while driving abroad, how we’ll sometimes spend more time ‘needlessly’ waiting at traffic lights than we are used to in The Netherlands.

Another cool biking video was the one he made about Dutch bikes being different. It’s another thing I have noticed as well while abroad, although, for instance in Germany, I do see some more Dutch-style upright bikes. In most other countries bicycles are used primarily for sport and exercise, in The Netherlands they are used to get from A to B. He says somewhere that people on bikes here are dressed for their destination (i.e. in their work clothes like our Dutch prime minister in his suit, or sports clothes, or even fancier clothes when going out for an evening) and not dressed for the ride itself, which is very true…

Another interesting one was about him not being a “cyclist” but just a guy on a bike who wants to get from A to B. It shows how people on bikes are regarded differently and more negatively abroad than they are in The Netherlands. Here every car driver is also a bike rider, so there is no such overt resentment against cyclists.

I know I’ve gone off on a bicycle tangent here but I have to say, I have never been as interested in urban planning videos as I have been in these. There’s something very compelling about them. They make me realize that living in The Netherlands really isn’t so bad after all and that our biking and walkability culture is something we should treasure.

Pictures of the day

After two days of feeling completely fatigued and out of it (I now fully understand the meaning of the phrase “bone-tired”!), my energy has returned and I’m feeling like myself again. So, the house has been de-Christmasfied today, with the floor lamp back in the place where the Christmas tree was…

I had barely unpacked a box that came in the mail today when the cat jumped into it…

Listened to Bowie all day and then late this afternoon on Twitter this gorgeous picture of David and Iman was posted by Iman

And Sidney Poitier has been on my mind a lot since I heard the news of his passing last night, aged 94. I think I may re-watch Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner again this evening in his honour. I haven’t seen that movie in years but remember really liking it.

May you rest in peace, dear Sir!

Going through the motions

First day back to work in 2022 and it’s still really quiet. Nothing much happening yet at the university as it’s still the Christmas holiday and therefore also not much work. I’m sitting here in my usual spot at the dining table (we are all still in lockdown here), looking out and relishing the quiet while everyone else in the house is sleeping in. It’s even quiet outside, with the cars all frosty and the sun veiled behind a light, cloudy sky.

Fatigue kicked in yesterday, I think from that Moderna booster shot I had on Tuesday. Came home from my volunteer work at around 4.30 pm, went to bed and napped for two hours. I knew it would be quiet at work today, so I also slept in a bit this morning but here I am, at my work laptop, still feeling very tired and going through the motions of work. I’ve gone through e-mails and chats (there weren’t that many), have checked new service calls (none) and have read the latest newsletters (not that much news). I have a meeting at 1 pm and I think I will just take the afternoon off after that and go to sleep…

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the quiet, staring out the window, typing this and yes, also going through these pictures again. I know everyone has been sharing them everywhere these past two days but I can’t resist posting them here as well. May 2022 bring many more such lovely images!

Enough daydreaming now – back to figuring out what to pick up next at work. I’ve got to say that this slow start in the quiet suits me well, especially because I absolutely do not want to be doing this job at all. Fingers crossed that time will fly until my new job starts!

Best wishes for 2022!

It’s the last day of 2021 and instead of getting nostalgic (or depressed) over what has or hasn’t been this past year, Mr Esther, mini me and I went out for the afternoon (Junior is working till 7.30 pm). Still in lockdown in this country so other than essential shops, everything else is closed. Not much we could do but we did go to the beach for a nice beach walk. This time we went to Hoek van Holland, which is just north of Rotterdam. Sun sets here at around 4.30 pm, so we were soon walking during the ‘golden hour’. It was also quite windy and fascinating to see the wind blowing sand over the sand…

We walked in the dunes and as we got back to the car we even saw the ferry from England arrive…

So, here we are, the last few hours of 2021 have come and we have just finished our sushi dinner (yumm!). Mini me is going to a friend’s house to celebrate the New Year and her friend’s 18th birthday there. Junior will have a quick bite to eat when he comes home and will celebrate the New Year with a friend as well, at his friend’s home. Due to Covid restrictions no big parties or anything possible, so it’s just Mr Esther and I here at home tonight. We are already prepared with the traditional Dutch New Years’ Eve food: oliebollen and appelflappen…

In some parts of the world 2022 has already begun, for us it will be happening in about four hours. No matter where you are in the world, I wish all of you the very best for 2022!

Also, let me use this spot to thank you all for reading here, whether you do so actively or just through lurking. I appreciate each and every one of you. All my love for the new year!