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.

Somewhere new

After watching junior win his handball match (24-20) this morning and doing a few chores, Mr Esther and I went for a bike ride this afternoon. We biked somewhere I had never biked to before. Well, the beginning part of the route was familiar but then we went left somewhere where I normally turn right and after a while came to this very pretty botanical garden that Mr E had seen before but I hadn’t…

We had a cup of tea, my first chai tea latte in a very long time…

… and then biked back again…

A little grey but quite warm, good weather for a bike ride! I wonder how many more weekends like this we will have before it really gets chilly.

The not complaining post

Just a short but sweet post today, not in the mood anymore for the complaining I was going to do about tendentious (e.g. about the British royal family) and/or navel-gazing (e.g. Dutch news) journalism or hating doing chores around the house (I swear, if I win the lottery, I will invest in a housekeeper) or the zero motivation I have for my job. Instead, I decided to finish another Suits video yesterday evening and today that I started weeks ago but then left alone for a while. I set the video to Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe, just because I like the song so much and images of Harvey (Gabriel Macht) and Donna (Sarah Rafferty) popped up in my head when I listened to it again about a month ago when I was finishing my favourite Suits scenes re-watch. This is the end result which I think is not my best, nor my worst..

This afternoon, Mr Esther and I went on a little bike ride. It’s chilly but the sun was shining, so it was nice to be out like that.

Sunday evening now and I hate that the weekend is almost over. Picking up my son from a friend’s house in 30 minutes, then time for a relaxing hot shower and a feelgood movie to counteract the I-don’t-want-to-work-tomorrow blues…

The weekend has begun

Another bike ride this afternoon after work as the weather is starting to improve again.

It felt like winter here the past week with hail and snow showers, I just hope that we can now really start welcoming the spring again. It’s good to feel the sun on my face and I’m glad the weekend is here.

Another beautiful bike ride

We’re having gorgeous spring weather for a few days before it gets chilly and wet again over the weekend (if the forecast is to be believed). Mr. Esther and I went for another bike ride this evening after work. Our clocks changed to summer time last weekend, which means it’s light longer in the evening and this past evening was very beautiful!

Also made a few gifs from a few short videos I made (you can see our shadows as we bike)…

I have a day off tomorrow, if the weather stays this good I might do a longer ride on my own.