In the Netherlands, the average age that kids learn to cycle is around five years, with many three-year-olds already knowing how to ride their bicycle! These kids go to school on their very own bicycle, often gifted as a birthday or graduation present. Also our royal family cycles; just like other kids princesses Amalia, Ariana and Alexia use their bikes to go to (public) school.
Not matter how much it rains, snows, hails or how strong the wind is, or any other type of weather for that matter, the Dutch go through it all. On their bicycles. How did the Netherlands become the cycling country of Europe and maybe even of the world?
In the 19th century, when the two-wheeler became more and more popular, Great Britain, Germany and Belgium led the way as cycling countries. Only when the bicycle became popular with ladies and gentlemen (until that time cycling was for young people and daredevils), did the Dutch start cycling more. At the time, the ANWB (Royal Dutch Touring Club) advertised the bicycle as a safe means of transportation for neat people. And when the ANWB started with the construction of cycle paths throughout the Netherlands, more and more people used the bicycle. To women, it proved to be a way of independence.
It was in the 1920s and 30s that the Netherlands made name as a cycling country. In that period every household had a two-wheeler in front of the house. These were mostly neat men’s bicycles and neat women's bicycles, also known as the Dutch Bikes. The bike’s popularity in the Netherlands is also clear from the way the future husband of Princess Juliana was introduced in 1936. It is said that the German prince Bernhard had to appear as Dutch as possible and arrived, together with Juliana, on a tandem at his first press moment.
During the Second World War, the bicycle gained mythical status because bicycles were seized by the German occupiers. After the war the saying was: "Give me back my bike". It became a symbol for the post-war Netherlands. But until the 1970s the car increased in popularity and bicycles were used less. It was in the age of flower power that the bicycle made a comeback.
And what kind of a comeback. If we have a look around, we see that our prime-minister Mark Rutte cycles to work daily. Women’s organizations in Amsterdam organize cycling lessons for women with a migrant background as part of their emancipation program. And the recent technical developments of the bicycle makes cycling accessible for everyone; the e-bike makes cycling easier for seniors. This means that the two-wheeler has now become a means of transport for Dutch people from all walks of life.
Now there are approximately 23.5 million bicycles and 1 million e-bikes in the Netherlands, excluding the ones thrown in the canals or locked onto something without a tyre, handlebar, saddle or owner. The 17 million people living in the Netherlands, regardless of age, social status or background, share 22,000 miles (35.000 km) of cycle paths.
In the Netherlands the bicycle is for everyone.
If you're interested in cycling in the Netherlands, let Tulip Day Tours know and we can organize something for you!!