Bicycling in Holland: What’s the Big Deal?
Way of Life
Bicycling in the Netherlands is a way of life. The Dutch have an affinity for their two-wheeler
like no other European country. The Netherlands is considered a cyclist’s paradise. The country
offers easy cycling terrain with many cycling paths separate from the main traffic as well as many
designated biking facilities. The Dutch have developed a special biking infrastructure, which is
A potential problem to this bicycle haven is that it can get a bit crowded on the cycling lanes,
where so many people often ride with different attitudes, skill levels, and at varying speeds.
The large use of bicycles does however lead to the wide availability of diverse facilities, like
many dedicated bike paths, repair shops, rental points and guarded parking.
Cycling paths or lanes are very much in use to separate bicycle traffic from motorized traffic.
This separate network features its own traffic lights and direction pointers (red lettering on
white backgrounds). The main motivation and function of this approach is the protection of the
cyclist from motorized traffic. It can result, however, in the frustrating situation of having
to constantly yield right of way and experiencing increased waiting time at traffic lights.
Traffic and Bicycle Rules
Dutch traffic laws for bicycles form a separate category, and therefore, some special
regulations apply, which may be different from those for motorized traffic or
those in other countries. In short, the traffic law distinguishes between ‘slow traffic’
(bicycles, mopeds) and ‘fast traffic’ (motorcycles and cars).
A blue circular sign with a white bicycle symbol indicates bike paths and bike roads.
As of December 15th, 1999 the regulations about “brommers” (mopeds) have been changed.
Mopeds now have to use the main roads rather than the bike roads. However, if explicitly
indicated by the blue traffic sign carrying both a bicycle and moped symbol, they can be
allowed on bike roads. See the table below for an overview of traffic and bicycle rules.
|Traffic Rules||Bicycle Rules|
|Cycling side by side (max. 2 persons) is allowed provided there is sufficient space.||Safe and adequate handle bars|
|Cyclists are not allowed on sidewalks and pedestrian areas||A clear and functional bell|
|Lights are mandatory after dark||Reflecting pedals|
|Cyclists are not allowed on motorways||Adequate lighting at the front and the back of the cycle after dark|
|Children under 10 traveling on someone else’s bike must be seated in a safety seat||A reflector on rear mudguard and one between the spokes|
|To change direction, clearly indicate this with your arm||Recommended arm reflectors or light armbands for nighttime|
Holland’s Cycle Paths
There is a network of cycle paths of 20,000 kilometers with cycle bridges, cycle tunnels and
cycle ferries. In addition, there are plenty of varied landscapes of windmills, dunes, dikes,
woods and beaches to see along the network. These paths often have connecting functions and
can therefore be used as part of larger cycle tours.
Even though the routes are sign-posted, you will want to purchase a good map, available for every province in Holland. Before you start your journey, stop off at one of the regional VVV offices (local tourist board) or ANWB offices (national tourist board) for a detailed map of the cycle route, including important information and sights along the way. Check this list of VVV offices in select cities throughout ten provinces of the Netherlands with links to city tourism web sites.
Most of the cycling paths are for shorter distances (usually circle tours) or are for long
distance cycling, often 160 kilometers or longer. Below is a select list of common cycle tours
both for short and long distance cycling.
- Amsterdam City Route
Amsterdam’s famous Herengracht canal street
Discover Amsterdam like the locals and cycle through the sights and attractions of this
culture-rich city. Take the guided city tour
through Amsterdam’s inner city of canal-lined streets, bridges, and diverse architectural facades
with handy maps for each stage of the route. See architecture dating back to 1550 of only two remaining
wooden houses and the famous Herengracht canal street with its typical double-housed mansions of
elegant facades. This guided tour gives a full historical explanation of over twenty points of
interest in Amsterdam. Explore The Hague by bike, which also offers wonderful cycle tours lasting about an hour.
- Flower Bulb Route
Vivid tulip fields of Keukenhof Gardens
This is an excellent route for springtime cycling. Don’t miss the province of North Holland
where the flowers in the bulb fields between Haarlem and Sassenheim (near Leiden) are in bloom.
Along this route you will pass the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens of tulip fields with vivid reds, yellows, and purples. The 35-kilometer Flower Bulb Route can be purchased from the VVV (Tourist Information Office) in Lisse. Follow the link under countryside routes, for a general description
with regional maps and synopsis of sights along the path.
- National Park Hoge Veluwe
is pristine wilderness and wildlife as well as a bird sanctuary and hunting lodge. Visitors to
the park can use one of the 1,000 ‘white bikes’ free of charge and cycle through 26 miles of paved
paths, including an outdoor sculpture garden and fine arts museum with a wonderful Van Gogh
collection. There are two bike routes that have been mapped out that will help you reach all
the points of interest within the park quite easily.
- The Vecht and Lake Route
If you are a water sports enthusiast, consider this route, which takes you along the
Vecht River and past the various Plassen (lakes) in this area. Starting in Hilversum,
this route passes through forests, spectacular country estates with decorative fences,
water lilly-filled marshes, impressive castles and churches, and lakes filled with avid
canoers and rowers. Follow the link under countryside routes, for a general description with regional maps and synopsis of sights along the path.
- Windmill Route
Cycle past Holland’s trademark windmills
Cycle through the quintessential Dutch landscape, the Kinderdijk, a collection of wooden
houses and the famous eighteen windmills in a row, all dating from 1740. There are two
sign-posted routes in this area, known as the Zaanse Schans, approximately 35 kilometers,
taking you through the windmill-filled, province of Zuid-Holland. The windmills are open to
visitors from April through September, Tuesday through Saturday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
On Saturdays, in July and August, the mills are turning and open to the public.
Long Distance (LF Routes)
Stichting Landelijk Fietsplatform (Dutch National Cycling Organization) describes the complete
network of more than 6,000 kilometers of cycling routes throughout Holland in comprehensive
guides. The guides describe the landscapes and points of interest along the LF routes, full
sets of color maps indicating all LF routes, and additional information about ferries and
accommodations. Look for the rectangular signs with green wording and the letters LF. A select
few routes are listed below.
- North Sea Route
One of the more popular long distance routes is Route LF1, North Sea (Noordzee) route.
Approximately 270 kilometers (the part in Holland), it runs from Den Helder to medieval Middelburg.
This route extends into Boulogne-sur-Mer (France) increasing its length to 470 kilometers. Cycle
the coastline route of windswept dunes, dykes, quaint fishing villages, seagull colonies and
seaside resorts. Part of the route takes you on a road constructed in the ninth century. Follow
the link under long distance routes, for a general description with regional maps and synopsis of sights along North Sea route, including how to purchase the
- Wadden Sea Route
Combine the above LF1 route with the Wadden Sea route (LF10) and explore the Wadden Islands
by bicycle. This runs between Callantsoog on the North Sea coast and Nieuweschans on the
German border. This route passes all the harbors from which ferries leave for the Wadden
Islands. You can island hop and visit any of the Wadden Islands.
- Central Netherlands Route
This route extends from Den Haag to Enschede (approx. 250 km). This LF4 route passes through
some of the most varied Dutch landscapes, starting at Den Haag by the North Sea route.
The route takes you past the miniature city of Madurodam in the Scheviningen Forest,
along branches of the Old Rhine, towns renown for their cheese markets, Utrecht
(city with Roman origins), National Park Hoge Veluwe, and Vorden village of eight castles.
Follow the link under long distance routes,
for a general description with regional maps and synopsis of sights along North Sea route, including how to purchase the LF guides.
Cycling in the Netherlands is not only an activity but also an important mode of transportation.
When I visit this eclectic and cyclist friendly country, I try to invest the time so that I can
experience this most enjoyable and invigorating way of life. You will discover the Netherlands in a
unique and off the beaten path way, such that your memories of the Dutch and their lovely windmills
and canals will beckon you to return time and time again.