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Rural Bike Infrastructure in the Netherlands 23

Amsterdam bicycle traffic signal

Bicycle traffic signal in Amsterdam – Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

It is 1:00PM and the train is stopped at a station in a northern Belgian town. The train will be leaving one minute later than its scheduled departure time so that the passengers can have a minute of silence to pay their respects and condolences to the 22 children who died just a few days prior in a terrible bus tragedy.

As the train rolls across the Belgian countryside, I suddenly notice a drastic change in scenery. Out of nowhere, I begin to see red-asphalt bike lanes appearing everywhere, and people in regular clothes riding their bikes.

No helmets, no lycra, no sporty gear.

Instead of lonely country roads standing on their own, I now see bike paths alongside them, and people on bikes are actually using those paths. Then there is the vast farm-land with cows in the pastures with bike lanes passing nearby. Cows and bike paths, an interesting combination.

The Netherlands provides its citizens a continuous network of connected bicycle paths throughout the entire country – in rural and urban settings, and everything in between. A person could ride around the entire country, from city to city, from urban to rural to urban, using bicycle paths the entire way.

As the scenery turns from rural to urban, I see train stations packed full of bicycles. Some of these bicycle parking lots stretch longer than 100 metres, while others stack bicycles up several levels high.

Netherlands bicycle parking

Netherlands bicycle parking – Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

Netherlands bicycle parking

Netherlands bicycle parking – Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

Along the way I also notice underpasses built specifically for bicycles that run beneath the train tracks. This is one small measure that helps ensure bicycles are the most convenient mode of transportation in the Netherlands:

Netherlands bicycle underpass

Netherlands bicycle underpass – Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

Netherlands bicycle underpass

Netherlands bicycle underpass – Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

Where tunnels don’t exist, bicyclists are provided with their own dedicated surface level crossings:

Netherlands bicycle train crossing

Netherlands bicycle train crossing – Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

As the train arrives at Amsterdam Central station and I subsequently leave the train station, I see bicycles everywhere. There are elderly men, young women, children, and everything in between – riding throughout the city.

Cargo bikes with small children merrily traveling with their parents, children under 10 years old riding on their own bikes alongside their mum and dad. Dozens of families picking up their kids at school on their bicycles and socializing with their friends and children on their journey home.

Amsterdam certainly is the cream of the crop for bicycle transportation.

Now if only I could convince people in my home country that a trip across the city can indeed be enjoyable and absent from traffic congestion. Good bicycle infrastructure is the first step to making our cities more enjoyable cities to live and visit.

Stay tuned for more articles in the coming days detailing my Amsterdam experience.

James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

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  • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

    Dude, I am so totally jealous of you right now.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Dude, wait until you see the juicy stuff. This first post is just scratching the surface ;)

  • http://lovingthebike.com/ Darryl is Loving the Bike

    Dude, I am so totally jealous of you right now.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Dude, wait until you see the juicy stuff. This first post is just scratching the surface ;)

  • http://twitter.com/BehoovingMoving Steven Fleming

    Last year I had to go from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. Instead of taking the train, I blew off 7 hours and rode my brompton, fully loaded with luggage, along National Bike Route 1, that zigzags through rural areas, at times narrowing to a wheel width strip of tar, and taking in a barge crossing. I arrived a little sunburned, but happy right to my core.
    Bike paths in the country unshackle country life from car dependence.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Wow, that would be an amazing trek. I hope to do that some day too…

  • http://twitter.com/BehoovingMoving Steven Fleming

    Last year I had to go from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. Instead of taking the train, I blew off 7 hours and rode my brompton, fully loaded with luggage, along National Bike Route 1, that zigzags through rural areas, at times narrowing to a wheel width strip of tar, and taking in a barge crossing. I arrived a little sunburned, but happy right to my core.
    Bike paths in the country unshackle country life for car dependence.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Wow, that would be an amazing trek. I hope to do that some day too…

  • Tyson N

    I’m afraid this series will make me quit my job and become a bicycle vagabond in Holland for 6 months. I may be forced to stop following you!

  • Tyson N

    I’m afraid this series will make me quit my job and become a bicycle vagabond in Holland for 6 months. I may be forced to stop following you!

  • http://bicyclestc.blogspot.com/ Ryan

    I wish we had the rural bike infrastructure here! If we did I’d be more then happy to live in a smaller rural town.

  • http://bicyclesofniagara.tumblr.com/ Ryan

    I wish we had the rural bike infrastructure here! If we did I’d be more then happy to live in a smaller rural town.

  • http://www.fullfat.ca Octavian

    Good stuff. Comparing those pics with my commute this morning, I can see why people don’t ride their bikes in Canada. If you build it, they will come.

  • http://www.fullfat.ca/ Octavian

    Good stuff. Comparing those pics with my commute this morning, I can see why people don’t ride their bikes in Canada. If you build it, they will come.

  • Kevin Z Green

    Drool.

  • Kevin Z Green

    Drool.

  • http://twitter.com/SchwinnComfort Schwinn Comfort Bike

    Netherlands is called country of cyclist. The inspirational country for other to reducing gas emission

  • http://twitter.com/SchwinnComfort Schwinn Comfort Bike

    Netherlands is called country of cyclist. The inspirational country for other to reducing gas emission

  • http://www.atlashandlinguk.co.uk/Truck_and_Trolley_Castors--category--30.html trolley castors

    This was a good infrastructure project for bikers. This is true that some bikers can cause traffic that why this is good to have their own lane.

  • http://www.atlashandlinguk.co.uk/Truck_and_Trolley_Castors--category--30.html trolley castors

    This was a good infrastructure project for bikers. This is true that some bikers can cause traffic that why this is good to have their own lane.

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