Xenophobe's® Guides: Bicycles

Xenophobe's® Guides: The Dutch and bicycles

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All you need to know about the Dutch and their love of the fiets.

Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour.

There are 16 million bicycles in the Netherlands - that’s virtually one for everyone living there. Punks, grannies, students and company directors trundle through the cities and swoop in fleets out into the countryside. The Dutch parliament employs its own resident bicycle repair man, and even the Dutch first family has a good grip on the handlebars.

The classic Dutch Bicycle is a solid, black machine which you ride in a sit-up-and-beg position – more Miss Marple than Tour de France. It will have a frame that appears to be made of cast iron, on to which are fastened working parts of an astonishing variety of vintages. Once, the only part that could be guaranteed not to work (if it was there at all) was the front light. But police crackdowns on lightless cycles have led to a begrudging change in attitude. However, whether it’s on or off hardly matters because the first rule of the Dutch Highway Code is that even when riding without a light, in the middle of the night in the wrong direction up a oneway street, the cyclist is always right.

Xenophobe's® Guides: Bicycles

To the Dutch mind the bicycle is more an extension of the body than a separate means of transport. People behave on bicycles as they would do if they were walking. Lovers cycle hand-in-hand. If it rains, cyclists put up their umbrellas and pedal on. They will exercise the dog by riding about with the frisky animal tripping alongside on the end of its lead.

Bicycles may be built for one, but to the Dutch this seems an unnecessary restriction. Parents fit little seats one to the crossbar and one to the back carrier – to transport their offspring. Courting couples share a bike too, usually with the woman riding side-saddle on the carrier. One of the early lessons of adolescence is learning how far a girl’s legs stick out. First dates invariably involve bruised knees.

For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Dutch. 

Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the Dutch by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.

Photo credit: ubrayj02

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1 Comment To This Article

  • carrico posted:

    on 5th October 2013, 16:03:22 - Reply

    Another beautiful Vondelpark memory: A young dad pedaling along, one hand on the handle bar, the other behind his back, where it cradles the head of his sleeping son.