Pedal to the metal

In 1978 legendary pop group ‘Queen’ wrote a song about it; Bicycles.
Everybody knows we Dutch love ‘m and so we have bicycles in all sorts and sizes. But the title of ‘typical Dutch bicycle’, in my opinion, has to go to the ‘bakfiets’ (see picture below).
It’s a bit of a rarity these days but the ‘bakfiets’ (or carrier cycle) was heavily used in the 1930’s as a poor man’s delivery Van by bakers and grocers.


The real pedal to the metal

Thinking about this topic made me realise that there is only one way to stay true to the title and that is to actually go cycling. So I hopped on my bicycle, which is known as the common ‘City Bike’ and started peddling.
You should know that I don’t ride my bike much, so better hold on tight because it could be a bumpy ride. Oh and while cycling, I’m not wearing one of those silly looking cycling hats. I’d rather have a hole in my head than to look like a dork.

When visiting the Netherlands you will see that the ‘City Bike’ is feeling right at home in our Dutch habitat. They seem to flock everywhere. Luckily for you bike spotters, the ‘City Bike’ isn’t the only type of bike you will encounter. On a sunny afternoon, chances are you will also spot the ‘Racing Bike’, the ‘Mountain Bike’ and even, if you’re lucky, the ‘Reclining Bike’.

The last couple of years a new species can be seen on our Dutch roads; The ‘Electrical Bike’. Since they grow in numbers, chances are high that you might spot one or two. Anyway grasshoppers, it is important for you to bring the latest edition of te ‘bicycle catalogue’ in order not to miss out on any rare encounters. Better yet, get the BIW (Bikes In Wildlife) app. Spot the bike, take a picture and let the app identify your catch. This app is available in both Google Play and the App Store.

Dutch bicycle infrastructure

Peddling along it becomes more and more obvious that our infrastructure is tailor-made for cyclists. Not really surprising when you realise that there are more bicycles in the Netherlands then there are inhabitants. Oh look, there’s a ‘Tandem bike’.

Now where was I? Ah yes, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s when the infrastructure for bicycles started to evolve. Why so late?
Two reasons actually:

  • By 1971 accidents involving bicycles reached a peak which lead to a series of newspaper articles by journalist Vic Langenhoff. His first article was called ‘Stop de Kindermoord’ (Stop the Child Murder) which lead to a campaign organisation with the same name.
  • kindermoord01
    ©image:dutch national archive

  • But the biggest reason must have been the 1973 Middle-East oil crisis, resulting in tempered enthusiasm of driving cars and thus lifting the use of bicycles exponentially.

Together with the infrastructure, the Netherlands also created special laws to protect cyclists. These laws are known as ‘artikel 185 van de Nederlandse Wegenverkeerswet 1994’.
Special feature: Children under the age of 14 are at all times protected by law; regardless the situation!

Some fun facts:
  • Since November-12-2014 a Van Gogh inspired ‘glow-in-the-dark’ bicycle path became reality. This path was invented by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde and can be admired at Nuenen, a little town in the south of the Netherlands.
  • The Chinese are developing a Smart bike called ‘Dubike’. This bike will be filled with electronic gadgets and fitness technology but is not another e-bike. In fact it will have no electronic support at all.
  • In 2008 the word ‘weesfietsen’ (orphan bicycles) was added to our dictionary. Orphan bikes are bikes that are abandoned by their owner and most likely left behind at train stations.
  • Annually around 800.000 bikes are stolen in the Netherlands. That’s about 91 bikes every hour. Thank God mine’s still here.
  • The BIW app I was talking about doesn’t exist. You didn’t actually look for it did you?

Reading back this post made me question how much Dunglish I may have used.
Not that it matters, just wondering.

See you next time.


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