Cycling in the Netherlands
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2009)|
Cycling in the Netherlands is a common and popular method of transport and recreation, accounting for 27% all trips nationwide, and up to 59% of all trips in its cities. Tourists also like to cycle around the countryside or the city. The country is well equipped with cycle-paths and other segregated cycle facilities. The network reaches all parts of the nation and into the bordering nations of Belgium and Germany. The cycling surface quality is good and the routing tends to be direct with gentle turns making it possible to cycle at speed for considerable distances. Cycleways come with their own sets of rules and systems - including traffic signals/lights, tunnels and lanes.
Netherlands and cycling 
No single reason accounts for why cycling is so popular in the Netherlands; rather the combination of many 'bicycle friendly' factors reinforce each other:
- There is a continuous network of cycle paths, clearly signposted, well maintained and well lit, with road/cycle path junctions that often give priority to cyclists. This makes cycling itself convenient, pleasant, and safe.
- The Netherlands is a relatively densely populated and very flat country, which means that journeys tend to be well within the capabilities of the average cyclist. Cycling is very cheap and has low overheads.
- The needs of cyclists are taken into account in all stages of urban planning. Urban areas are frequently organised as woonerfs (living streets), which prioritise cyclists and pedestrians over motorised traffic.
Most children between the age of 10 and 16 cycle to school, and they develop an early appreciation of the freedom that cycling gives.
Secondary school children quite commonly cycle over 15 km (9.3 mi) in each direction to school. This is perhaps why Dutch utility cyclists are fast, and has helped the Dutch have a presence in competitive cycle racing which is surprisingly large given the small population of the country.
Utility bicycles which are low in maintenance and suited to load carrying are very popular. However, all other types of cycles are accommodated on the cycle paths, from racing bikes with tri-bars through streamlined velomobiles. The cycle path network supports use at such speeds. There is also a good network of bicycle shops throughout the country.
The Netherlands employs a standards-based approach to road design, where conflicts between different modes of transport are eliminated wherever possible and reduced in severity as much as possible where elimination is not possible. The result of this is that cycling is made both objectively and subjectively safe. Towns have been designed with limited access by cars and limited (decreasing over time) car parking. The resulting heavy traffic and very limited car parking makes car use unattractive in towns.
"Strict liability", supported in law in the Netherlands, leads to driver's insurance being deemed to be responsible in a collision between a car and a cyclist. Dutch drivers are trained for the interaction with cyclists, for example by checking and re-checking their right-hand side before making a turn to the right.
These factors together far outweigh the negative factors of wet and windy weather, strong headwinds due to the flat terrain, and frequent bicycle thefts. Nearly a third of all journeys made in the Netherlands are made by bicycle. Even the over 65 age group make nearly a quarter of their journeys by bicycle. Within some cities, over half of all journeys are made by bicycle.
By 2012 cycling had grown tremendously in popularity. In Amsterdam alone, 490,000 freewheeling fietsers take to the road to cycle 2 million kilometres every day according to statistics of the city council. Despite 35,000 kilometers of bicycle paths, the 18 million bicycles (1.3 per citizen old enough to ride) are clogging the busiest areas. A quarter of all deadly accidents in the Netherlands involve cyclists, the Cycling Association said.
Many roads have one or two separate cycleways along them, or cycle lanes marked on the road. Cycling on the main carriageway is not permitted on roads where adjacent segregated cycle facilities exist so, where they exist, the use of such facilities is legally compulsory. On other roads and streets, bicycle and motor vehicles share the same road-space, but these are usually roads with a low speed limit.
Tunnels and bridges may or may not be accessible for cycling; if pedal cycles are prohibited, there is usually a separate facility. For example, the Western Scheldt Tunnel is not accessible for pedestrians, cyclists or moped riders. They have to use the ferry at another location, or take the bus through the tunnel. Unlike the vast majority of bus services in the Netherlands, three services that cross this tunnel carry bicycles and mopeds. There is a fee for this service and reservation is recommended.
Pedestrians use the pavement where one is available, otherwise they use the same position on the road as the cyclists: on the cycleway or lane if available, otherwise on the road (but in the latter case pedestrians preferably walk on the left, while cyclists go on the right). Roads and tunnels accessible for cyclists are also accessible for pedestrians. Most pedestrian paths are available to cyclists who dismount and walk the bike.
Cycle lanes 
Cycle lanes in the Netherlands, as they are in most countries, are situated at the nearside of the road (the right-hand side in the Netherlands). They are marked by either a dashed line or a solid line. Lanes marked by a dashed line may be used by motorists provided that they do not impede cyclists. Those marked with a solid line may not be used by motorists. These solid lines are interrupted on crossings to allow motorists to enter or leave the road. Obviously, parking is not allowed on either type of lane.
Cycle lanes are usually made in red or black concrete. The red color has no legal meaning; the legal status of the lane is determined by the solid or dashed line by which it is separated from the other lane(s).
National guidelines advise a minimum width of 1.25 m for cycle lanes.
When a cycle lane is present on a road, cyclists are obliged to use it. Since 15 december 1999 mopeds are not allowed on cycle lanes.
Cycle paths (parallel to a roadway) 
When enough space is available, larger roads are fitted with parallel Cycle paths (also known as cycle tracks) that are physically separated (e.g. by means of a verge, hedge, or parking lane). Their use is in most cases obligatory for cyclists. Mopeds are sometimes allowed (and obliged) to use them; in other cases they must use the roadway. The color of the pavement may vary; black and red concrete are the most common types. Motorists are not allowed on cycle paths, and the entrance of cars is often made physically impossible using obstacles. Especially the single-directional variant is usually too narrow for cars.
Bidirectional cycleways are common in towns as well as in the countryside. They are divided into two lanes, similar to roads, by a dashed line. Occasionally bidirectional cycleways exist on both sides of the roadway; this reduces the number of times cyclists have to cross the road.
Free-running cycle paths 
Many cycle paths are not associated with a roadway. They exist for many different purposes. Short sections of cycle path can provide a shortcut between streets. This has been extensively used in residential quarters with a "soft" green core that is only accessible to cyclists and pedestrians. Especially in city centers, entire streets are sometimes converted to cycle paths to provide more room for cyclists and discourage the use of motorized vehicles. Free-running cycle paths also exist for recreational purposes, in parks and in the countryside. Free-running cycle paths are usually bidirectional.
On busy and important routes, cycling facilities in the countryside are similar to those in the cities. Segregated cycle paths are made where possible, and cycle lanes otherwise. If the available space is too limited even for a cycle lane, for example when a road passes through a village, speed-reducing measures are usually taken to ensure that the difference in speed between cyclists and motorists is tolerable.
Highways and "provincial roads" (main roads for which a province is responsible), are usually fitted with separate cycle paths. Motorways, on the other hand, rarely have cycling facilities associated with them. If a cycle path is bundled with a motorway it usually lies at a relatively large distance from the road, outside the traffic barriers and noise barriers.
Apart from these utility paths and lanes, many recreational paths are available in the countryside. Their pavement varies from gravel through concrete. Crushed seashells are a popular variant.
Traffic signals 
Because of their constant use, cycleways are complete with their own system. Traffic signals are present at junctions, one set for motorised vehicles and a visually smaller set for cyclists. Sometimes this is similar to a pelican crossing, where the cyclists wait to cross the junction. These lights come in two forms - firstly the miniature version of the vehicle lights and secondly a regular sized signal with bicycle shaped cutouts. Priority is also marked on the road, showing whether the cyclist or the vehicle has priority.
In many locations more direct cycle routes exist which bypass traffic signals, allowing cyclists to make more efficient journeys than motorists.
Some roundabouts have cyclist lanes around them, with signposts directing the cyclist to a destination. Traffic on roundabouts in the Netherlands usually has priority over entering traffic, and when a cycle lane is bundled with it this priority also applies to the cyclists.
Other roundabouts have separate cycle paths around them. Signs indicate whether the cycle path or the crossing road has priority. Many authorities give priority to the crossing roads, as this is thought to be safer. For fairness, others retain the priority that the cyclists would have had if they had not been using a separate cycle path (which they are obliged to use).
A very busy roundabout in Eindhoven uses tunnels and an interior roundabout for cyclists to keep the two traffic streams completely apart.
The Hovenring is an architectural first for bicycle infrastructure. It is an elevated circular suspension bridge/cycle track built on the edge of Eindhoven, Veldhoven, and Meerhoven in the Noord-Brabants province over a large traditional car intersection. The term hovenring, literally translates to Ring of the Hovens. It is the first suspended bicycle roundabout in the world. 
Crossing rivers and motorways 
To cross motorways and other busy roads, bridges and tunnels dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians are used.
To cross large waterways, cycle paths are often bundled with roads (for example the Hollandse Brug) and railroads (for example the Nijmegen railway bridge). Long tunnels are rarely open to cyclists. When roads and railroads are too far away, ferries often provide an alternative. In many cases ferries operate exclusively or primarily for cyclists and to a lesser extent for pedestrians.
Smaller waterways more often have dedicated bridges for cyclists.
Signposts take on the form of road signs, with directions stating the distances to nearby cities and towns. Signposts come in two different forms: the common directional signpost which is a miniature version of the vehicle signs and a mushroom-shaped direction post. The second form can often be found in the countryside. Sometimes it can be hard to notice in long grass.
In contrast to the signposts for traffic in general, which feature white lettering on a blue background, the signposts for cyclists have red or green lettering on a white background. Red is used for the usual route and green for an alternative, perhaps more scenic, route. The mushroom-style signpost can also have black lettering on a white background (as it is obvious that it is not meant for motorists). A newer style of "mushroom" has red lettering.
When a general (white on blue) signpost is not applicable for cyclists because it relies on a motorway, this is indicated with a small car sign behind the name of the destination. In such cases, a separate signpost for cyclists is usually nearby.
By policy in the Netherlands, cycle parking is provided next to every shop. Bicycle stands are common around the Netherlands, an alternative to chaining the bike to a post. In most, the front wheel of the bicycle rests on the stand and most parkers lock the bicycle with a built-in lock, or attach a chain from the bike to the stand.
There are many bicycle parking lots (like car parks but uniquely for bike use), some of which hold thousands of bicycles. Every railway station has a cycle park attached and most also offer watched cycle parking for a nominal fee. These also exist in other places in most cities. For example, there are 20 watched cycle parks in the city of Groningen (population ~180,000).
Most cities enforce the parking of bicycles in their lots by regularly removing any bicycles that are not in the bike stands. Locks are cut loose and the owner may reclaim their bicycle for a charge—usually around €25. Cyclist journeys are made convenient by such means, and it prevents sidewalks being littered with bikes.
Inter-city cycling 
Bikes are readily available for rent across the country and most large towns have bike shops with all the necessary equipment and repair services. All cities possess multiple bike stands, mainly at the supermarkets and other commonly used shops. Bikes should also come with a lock so as to keep the bike from being stolen. An average cyclist can typically expect to cover about 20 kilometers, on average, in an hour by bike throughout most areas of the Netherlands. All Dutch cities, as well as the neighbouring countries, can be accessed by bicycle.
Maps are widely available and come in two forms:
- Route Maps
- National Maps
Route maps 
A Route Map is a national map which shows route information rather than general topography. Only the routes are marked and related information are shown. They are often used for holidays and are sold at most tourist shops.
National maps 
National Maps cover the whole country, with markings and symbols about the cycleways of the Netherlands. They are very useful not only for cycling in unfamiliar towns and cities but also for cross-country use. These are sometimes expensive and hold many pages but are also widely available across tourist shops.
Cycle highways 
The terms cycle highway or fast cycling route (fietssnelweg and snelfietsroute respectively) are used for bikeways intended for long-distance utilitarian cycling. Although it has no official definition, the term 'cycle highway' is used by various government levels to denote infrastructure projects or proposals. Some characteristics of cycle highways often mentioned by national and local governments and traffic experts are the absence of level crossings with motorised traffic, superior pavement quality and the absence of traffic lights. Cycling interest groups and national and local governments advocate cycle highways in connection with traffic jam reduction. Because cyclists can achieve higher average speeds on cycle highways than on usual cycling infrastructure, cycle highways would better compete with the car for commuters.
Among the cycle highways currently (2012) constructed are cycling links between Rotterdam and Delft, and between Nijmegen and Arnhem. Most cycle highway projects are not entirely purpose-built, but consist of upgrading existing infrastructure, sometimes adding missing links.
Transporting bicycles 
Though it is possible to transport cycles by train, aircraft and ferry, buses do not carry them
Bicycles may be carried on trains under certain conditions. Folding bicycles can be taken more easily than other types of bicycles. Regular bicycles must be placed in designated areas. Taking a folded bicycle inside a train is free, for unfolded bicycles and regular ones, a special ticket is required (€6 per bicycle), which lasts for one day. In all trains it is prohibited to carry normal size and (partly) unfolded bikes during peak hours but this does not apply in July or August when bikes are carried at any time.
Ferries operate across rivers and canals as well as to the islands in the North (Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog). Some ferries, such as those to Texel Vlieland and Terschelling, Ameland, and Schiermonnikoog  incur a charge for transporting bicycles, while others (such as those across the IJ, Amsterdam) carry them for free.
By air 
It is possible to take bicycles by air, but once again you have to follow procedures and will have to pack the bicycle and possibly dismantle it. There may also be extra fees as the bicycle will count as luggage. Again, travelling with a foldable bike is easier.
See also 
- Yes magazine: How to Make Biking Mainstream: Lessons from the Dutch
- Hennop, Jan (November 10, 2012). "Joyride no more as Dutch face cycle jam". Sydney Morning Herald. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
- Article 5, Reglement verkeersregels en verkeerstekens 1990
- Westerscheldetunnel bus service on the bus company's website.
- (Dutch)Jan de Vries (11 January 2012). "Fietsrotonde Hovenring Eindhoven afgesloten: kabels op knappen". Omroep Brabant. Omroep Brabant. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
- John Tarantino. "Bike The Netherlands". The Environmental Blog. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
- Fietssnelweg 35
- TESO Information on the ferry service to Texel],
- Rederij Doeksen Information on the ferry service to Vlieland and Terschelling
- Wagenborg passagiersdiensten Rates for the ferry service to Ameland
- Wagenborg passagiersdiensten Rates for the ferry service to Schiermonnikoog
- www.noord.amsterdam.nl Information on Amsterdam ferries on a municipal website
- The Dutch Cycling Embassy - a portal to Dutch expertise on cycling.
- BicycleDutch - expert examples of Dutch cycling infrastructure.
- A view from the cycle path - expertise from an English cycling advocate resident in the Netherlands.
- Cycling in the Netherlands
- Making Cycling Irresistible a review of cycling policy in the Netherlands.
- Cycling safely in Amsterdam Brochure from the Dutch traffic department.