THE NETHERLANDS — Holland is the world’s premier cycling country, boasting a road network that caters specifically for the needs of cyclists. The country’s flatness helps assure a relaxed cycling tour. Within relatively short distances, there are lots of things to see and experience, such as cultural heritage, nature, water and dunes. Besides all of this, there are varied cycling routes across parks and theme parks. Here are some ideas and tips for discovering Holland on two wheels.
Holland’s cycling facts and figures
- 84% of Dutch people own at least one cycle.
- In all there are 18 million cycles in Holland, more than the number of inhabitants, unique in the world!
- 40% of all cycles are purchased for recreational purposes.
- Holland has 29,000 km of cycle paths.
- 4,700 km of roads have special cycling lanes.
- around 760,000 cycles were stolen in 2011. One out of every 20 cycle owners loses at least one cycle in this way. Among young people the figure is even higher (1 out of every 7). You are three time more likely to have your cycle stolen if you live in an urban area.
- Children learn how to cycle and take part in traffic at a young age. Teaching your kids how to ride a bike is part of their upbringing in Holland. A 4-year-old is ready for a real bike. It can take a few weeks or sometimes a year before a child is able to cycle without stabiliser wheels.
- Germany purchased the most cycles from Holland in 2011 (around 438,550). France comes 2nd with 200,000 and Belgium 3rd with 192,910 cycles purchased from Holland.
- Almost 1.5 million cycles were exported last year, with an export value of approximately €574 million.
Cycling promotes sustainability
Besides engaging in sports and spending time outdoors, you give sustainably a helping hand every time you get on your bike. Sustainability has been attracting increasing attention in recent years, not least because of global warming. The Dutch government encourages the working population to use the bike by offering free or leased cycles, and also by building more cycle parks where you can park your bike safely.
Cyclist has rights and duties in traffic
Holland ranks among the world’s top 5 countries in terms of road safety. In part this is thanks to traffic rules that apply to all road users, including cyclists. For example, cyclists have the right of way in the following situations:
- cyclists coming from the right have right of way at a junction of equivalent roads;
- in built-up areas cyclists have the right of way on roundabouts over vehicles that are leaving the roundabout.
Cyclists are allowed to park on pavements and curbs, unless a sign prohibits it. Where there is no compulsory cycle or moped path, cyclists must use the road.
Bikes in all shapes and sizes
You’ll find bikes of all shapes and sizes in Holland. You can find one to fit every situation or wish. Here are some frequently occurring types:
- City bikes: built mainly to ride in a straight line in excellent comfort. You’ll encounter a lot of these. The standard equipment in this category can differ enormously.
- Hybrid bikes: highly suitable for recreational use over short and long distances. They are recognisable by a straight front fork with springs and are built with comfort in mind. They handle bumpy roads with ease.
- Crossover bikes: these blend the features of a racing bike and those of a mountain bike. They typically have large wheels and at least 27 gears.
- Holiday/trekking bikes: a combination of different types of bikes and intended for long distances. They are ideally suited to cycling holidays, because they can carry a lot of baggage. The price is fairly high because of the more expensive parts.
- Mountain bikes, also called MTB or ATB (All Terrain Bicycle). These bikes are designed for off-road tracks and mountain paths, but also perform excellently on ‘normal’ roads.
- Racing bike: these are for sport. The absence of lights makes them unsuitable for use in the dark. They are not cheap.
- Recumbent bikes: they’re an eye-catcher in the street scene, because you don’t see them very often. Their low height makes them more difficult to spot and gives the rider less overview of the traffic. Recumbent bikes are slightly more expensive than ordinary bikes, usually because they are handcrafted.
- Folding bikes: these are a good idea for small distances, and particularly handy for train commuters who want to ride from the station to their work (or home).
- Tandems: intended primarily for cycle enthusiasts, and there always need to be two of you. The length of a tandem reduces its manoeuvrability. Good interaction between the riders is essential, and this turns every journey into a special experience.
- Cargo bikes: contrary to what the name suggests, these are typically used by mothers to transport their young children. The bikes have 2 or 3 wheels and a large cargo box at the front.
- The bar bike in Amsterdam: a mobile bar that you must power. The beer bike is used principally for parties like company outings, stag parties and incentives. It is particularly popular among locals and people on a day out.
Cycling around the Bulb Region
The world-famous Keukenhof, a huge flower garden, is located in the Bulb Region. Around the Keukenhof you’ll find colourful fields of flowers. If you explore the region by bike, you can see everything close up. Bikes can be rented in the Keukenhof park.
Map out your own route in North Holland
North Holland is a province with a lot of water and meadows, even on Amsterdam’s doorstep. Various rivers crisscross the province and waterways run through traditional villages. You can decide your own cycling route to take in water, museums, hospitality establishments or windmills.
The city of Rotterdam takes its name from the Rotte lake district, a unique recreational area. The lakes are a system of widened sections of the Rotte river. The lakes were created after the reclamation of the surrounding polders. Due to soil-setting and bogging, the Rotte and the Rotte lakes are far higher than the polders.
In this area of around 900 ha you’ll find polders with wooded areas, various recreational possibilities and windmills. It is very suitable for cycling. In the winter the lake area sometimes turns into a beautiful skating landscape.
By Dutch standards, the woods in the Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park are large. The Sallandse heuvelrug is a moraine, created in the penultimate glaciation about 150.000 years ago. It is now the habitat of the last Dutch population of black grouse. You’ll also find the nightjar and several lizard species including the viviparous lizard. Large quantities of crowberries are grown on the moraine.
This attractive nature area has been made suitable for exploration on bike. In the Salland countryside you will also find country houses, farms, unique estates and manors.
Drentsche Aa National Park – Northeast Holland
The Drentsche Aa is a small river that winds its way through the province of the Drenthe. The area where the Drentsche Aa is located was made a National Landscape (of roughly 34,000 ha) in 2011 after getting the title of National Park in 2006. The park is characterised by its small rivers and ‘field villages’, so it is not a traditional national park. These villages are typically built on a sand mound in the proximity of a stream valley. In days gone by this protected the houses from flooding and gave farmers access to clean water. By bike you can take a close-up look at this unique landscape.
More information: routeyou.com/route/view/207471/fietsroute-drentse-aa-route.nl
It’s easy finding your way around by bike
There is an extensive cycling network throughout Holland. Clear signs specifically for cyclists allow you to pick your own route and alter it as you go. The infrastructure was built with cyclists in mind and consists of flat and safe cycle paths. The local tourist offices, hotels and hospitality establishments provide maps with cycling routes. Online you’ll find several free cycling routes at fietsen.123.nl. The site contains 19 cycling routes, in English. Here are some examples:
- Various routes in and around Amsterdam: Discover the capital the ‘green’ way, without traffic jams, and join in the fun with the countless cycling locals.
- A cycling route in the region of Alkmaar, the city renowned for its cheese market. The cycling route takes you along a canal dug in the 18th century, a 17th-century windmill and the undulating dunes in North Holland province.
- Through the woods of Lage Vuursche (central Holland), taking in a castle and typical Dutch pancake restaurants.
- Kennemerduin Cycle Route around the town of Noordwijkerhout near the North Sea Coast. Kennemerduinen is a national park.
Stay overnight in accommodation especially for cyclists
Taking a cycling holiday in Holland gives you an ample choice of overnight accommodation, specially equipped for cycling holidaymakers. Here are some attractive tips:
- Hikers’ cabins: these wooden cabins with simple facilities are mostly to be found at camping sites. There are approximately 700 of the cabins at 220 places. More information: trekkershutten.nl/en/
- Bed & Breakfast Vrienden op de Fiets: these are not commercial B&B establishments, but private addresses where you can get overnight accommodation with breakfast. Each address has its own particular look and feel. In total there are 3,500 addresses, all affiliated to the foundation of the same name. More information: vriendenopdefiets.nl/index.php/en
- Natural Campsites: people looking for tranquillity in green surroundings can go to around 140 nature camping sites. They are open to hikers and also take cyclists. More information: natuurkampeerterreinen.nl/en/index.html
- B&B De Prins: there are various addresses where you can spend the night at a quiet location and safely park your cycle indoors. More information: bbdekleineprins.nl
- Name: a small camping site at a unique green and peaceful spot in the middle of the grandstand, the highly urbanised western part of Holland, especially for trekking cyclists with tents. More information:
- KGC (Karaktervolle Groene Campings): these are 30 small campsites at various places in Holland. They are small and peaceful, making them ideal for people who travelling from place to place and want a good night’s sleep. More information: kgc.nl/en/
Take part in a cycling event
In a country where getting around by bike is the norm, you will naturally find a host of cycling events. Some are aimed purely at the fun of taking part in sports and outdoor recreation. Others are organised to raise money for good causes. Some of the most important cycling events are listed below:
- Hof van Twente Herfstfiets4daagse: this annual 4-day event offers routes varying from 35 to 70 km through deciduous woodland in autumnal colours in the northeast of Holland.
- Ride for the Roses: in September you can cycle 25 or 50 km along water-rich areas and through a number of attractive places in the West of Holland. You can cycle on your own or with the team. The proceeds go to a good cause, KWF, the Dutch Cancer Society.
- Drentse fiets4daagse: according to cyclists, Drenthe (in the northeast of Holland) is the best province for cycling and enjoying nature. The routes in this 4-day event are 30, 40 and 100 km per day. The event is held in July each year.
- Zuiderzee Classic: this is another cycling event in September to raise money for a good cause, namely for the Maag Lever Darm Stichting (MLDS), an independent foundation dedicated to preventing and curing stomach, intestine and liver diseases and to improving quality of life of patients. You can choose from water-rich and scenic routes of 60, 120 or 220 km through the nature of Flevoland province (central Holland). (http://www.holland.com/us/tourism.htm)