Dutch Language Blog

How to Ride a Bike in the Netherlands Posted by on Dec 3, 2015 in Culture

The Netherlands and the Dutch are usually tied to three very iconic images: tulips, windmills and bikes. These three icons are tightly woven to the image of the Netherlands and it isn’t a mere stereotype.

Bikes in the Netherlands (image by Andy Nash at Flickr.com)

Bikes in the Netherlands (image by Andy Nash at Flickr.com)

Bikes are one of these three icons that stand out because it is something essential to Dutch life. A visitor to any Dutch city can appreciate the necessity of bikes by simply observing the sheer number of them outside train stations, on the streets during rush hour and near schools of all levels. I am always amazed when I see people riding bikes, holding an umbrella and messaging all at the same time without even flinching.

But how do the Dutch become so good at riding bikes? Is it part of the Dutch genome?

In the Netherlands, children start very young. Toddlers who are barely learning to balance as they walk are also given bikes with no pedals. It seems childhood in the Netherlands is all about learning to balance on your two feet and your two wheels. Once children master the art of balancing on the bike, they receive a bike on their own to move around and thus begins their freedom in two wheels.

(As a side note, I would like to point out that I have yet to see a child using training wheels.)

But freedom does not come with responsibility and this is very clear in the way this biking country makes sure their young can safely ride their bikes. Every April, neighborhoods near all basisscholen are filled with students riding their bikes in the company of school teachers. Once these students turn 12, they are required to take verkeersexamen or a traffic exam. This is with the idea that once these students go to middelbare school, they can safely fietsen. The following video gives an explanation of the verkeersexamen.

What are your thoughts on the fietscultuur in the Netherlands?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!


  1. Peter Simon:

    A real nice one, Karoly, especially the video, that’s real cool.

    You’ve forgotten about the clogs as iconic images, but no problem, none of these are as ubiquitous as the bike. Actually, of the others, one can only see the windmills sometimes. But the bikes – they’re really important for life here. And that’s real good for all.

  2. Taylor Chambers:

    We, my wife, Karen, and I lived 18 years in Antwerp, just a few kilometers from the border with The Netherlands. Bicycles are as much a part of the Flemish culture as frites and Stella Artois, or de Konick. We bought two wonderful Dutch brand bikes, Gazelles! Circumstances brought us back. To the USA but instead of retiurning to California, we settled in Pittsburg. We,try to keep up,on life in the Lowlands and we truly miss the quality of life there. Our bikes, two Gazelles and one Decathalon, are in the garage and ready for the formidable hills of our new area. All success in The Netherlands and we envy your life style there. Taylor Chambers