Bicyculture

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

Just like I never knew that I loved hiking until I spent ample time in the South American Andes, I had no idea how much I enjoyed cycling.

And while in the Netherlands, I really had no choice but to ride. Cycling in the Netherlands is such an ingrained part of their culture and infrastructure that it is the most logical way to get anywhere. Streets are made with wide lanes just for cyclists and they even have their own traffic lights. I’m guessing it explains why by my estimation, clothing sizes 0-4 are probably the first to go in this country (skinny beeyotches).

Cycling in the Netherlands

Traditional Dutch bike

Everyone is riding bikes – men in suits, ladies in short skits, grandmas carrying groceries, youngins pushing themselves along on three wheels before they even know how to peddle. At last reported count, there were nearly half a million bikes in Amsterdam, more than half the population, and definitely far more then the number of cars. Overcrowded and polluted North American cities could definitely learn a thing or two here.

Lots of bikes - Haarlem

That’s a lot of bikes.

Cyclist - Amsterdam

Cyclist - Maastricht

Being the novice cyclist that I am, I brought a little havoc to the streets – I was sworn at several times, slipped off my peddles and landed in very unfortunate (read: painful) ways, and hit many a curb thanks to being cut-off by my similarly amateur companion (thanks Pete).

Pete the cyclist

Pete, showing off.

But I loved it. And my firmer butt thanks me for it.

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38 Comments

  1. What amazing pics. The best thing about using cycles is that it increases the fitness of everyone and also reduces pollution. A very good alternative to cars.
    Have a fabulous week ahead Dalene:)

  2. LOL, Pete almost looks photoshopped into that picture.
    I find it interesting that almost everybody seems to ride the traditional Dutch bike. Do you see many of the road bikes that are popular in North America? Or does everybody in the Netherlands ride Pee-Wee Herman style?

    1. They almost exclusively use the Dutch bikes – we saw very little else. I loved them! They are really easy to ride, and I love the old school look to them!

  3. I love these photos. I’ve only been to Amsterdam, but our tour guide told us to be careful and not stand in the bike lanes, or we’d get run over. She was right. Bike there are like cars in Canada, except better for the environment.

    1. It can be dangerous as a pedestrian there for sure…no easy ambling down the streets, must be aware at all times! I wish though that more cities (in all of North America) were like Amsterdam though in that regard. SO much better for the environment, not to mention, people’s health!

    1. The most hilarious thing is to see the biking late at night (err, early in the morning I guess!) when everyone has had a few drinks. Dangerous! (But funny!)

  4. Nice panning on the photos, especially Pete showing off. My sister lived in Eindhoven for 2 years, and bikes were their main mode of transportation.

    Surprisingly, Seattle has a pretty large biking commuter community – at least to the point where most of the major streets have bike lanes. You have to be able to handle the hills here, though.

    1. Yes, I have to say I enjoyed biking in the “flat country”. Hills might be a problem. πŸ™‚ Good on Seattle, I hear that Portland is good that way too?

      1. Yes – Portland even more so. In fact, there is a big outdoor eating/drinking thing in Portland where there are a lot food truck food courts and old gas stations turned into restaurants, and you will see the places packed with the customer’s bicycles.

  5. I rediscovered cycling on my recent trip to SE Asia. It’s such a great way to see a place and you get super fit at the same time. Nice photos.

  6. Love these actions shots!! This is so fun, and a perfect break to landscapes and the classic poses in front of monuments. πŸ™‚

  7. Thanks for brightening my day with these pictures. I love cycling and recent health problems and surgery have kept me off my bike for several months. Now I feel inspired to bring my family to the Netherlands (I’ve been, but not since college) since we all love to pedal. And hey, who can say no to windmills *and* a firmer behind? That’s what I call a win-win.

    1. I feel your pain – I’m still recovering from a torn achilles tendon so my fitness level is pretty crap right now. All that cycling in the Netherlands did help! I wish other cities (we’re in London right now), were more like Amsterdam.

  8. I love biking around cities too. I like feeling the wind in my face and the speed compared to walking (although I do like walking too)! Great shots- love the first one

    1. Isn’t this ridiculous – one of my first thoughts when biking was “Wow, look at how fast we got there!” Well, duh! It’s been THAT long since I did any real cycling. πŸ™‚

  9. Wow! Bloody lovely photos. Now I’ve got a lusting for rubber, two-rounded cylindrical steel rims of beauty and that open road that leads to anywhere.

    Someone fetch a bucket. I need cooling off.

  10. I loved cycling around Amsterdam, and next time I return to the Netherlands, I’d like to tour part of the country on a bike – hopping from windmill to windmill, b&b to b&b — flat ground all the way!

    Your photo’s are excellent. Really really eye-catching. Great job.

  11. Where I live, here in New York City, our well-intentioned but misguided Mayor Bloomberg has recently had bicycle lanes built into thoroughfares like Broadway, to the consternation of motorists and the bewilderment of almost everone else. These lanes are not widely used, while similar lanes built along our waterfronts get a good amount of traffic – across the street from me I watch the cyclists and inline skaters with envy…

    By contrast, when I spent two weeks in Utrecht in 1994, I remember it being perfectly natural, just as you describe, to hop on a bike and get around quite easily. I did get stopped once by a policewoman for going the wrong way on a one-way. She let me go when I explained to her that I was American (in most countries, I gather “American” = friendly but not too bright). But I loved the streets that only allowed bicycles!

    Keep on biking!

    1. Karl – do you think it’s just because they are new and maybe they will get used over time? That it’s not ingrained in New Yorkers to be bikers just yet? Hopefully it becomes a good thing that those bike lanes are there!

      Haha, we’ve gotten off for many things playing the “dumb tourist”. I think that is quite accepted over here. πŸ™‚

  12. “clothing sizes 0-4 are probably the first to go in this country (skinny beeyotches)”

    thats like all of Europe!! or like really anywhere outside of North America they are all skinny beeyotches!!! haha I hate it so much!

    When I was just in San Francisco I rode a bike for the first time in years I loved it but hated it at the same time (mostly because of the frigging hills of course!) I was bruised and beaten by the end of it and my butt hurt soooo much! haha

    glad you enjoyed it, I love the photos with the out of focus backgrounds too, did you do that by moving the camera with the cyclist?

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