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Photos of Cycling in the Netherlands / Holland

It can be difficult to appreciate the scale of Dutch cycling. More journeys are made by bike by the 16 million inhabitants of this country than are made by all English speaking countries put together. On average, each person in the country rides a bike between five and six times every week. On work days, there are more than a million journeys per hour by bike every hour of the day. When you have such a high degree of cycle usage, good quality infrastructure is not just a luxury, but a necessity.

The cycle friendly infrastructure which you find in this country has been redesigned time and time again until it has reached the current form. This is a very safe place to cycle, but also a very convenient place to cycle. Cyclists have priority over motorised vehicles, can often make much more direct journeys and quite frequently have smoother surfaces on which to travel.

More people cycle than drive in the Netherlands. This hasn't happened by accident, and it isn't due solely to the country being relatively flat. Rather, the Dutch have for many years had a policy of increasing the importance of cycling as a proportion of journeys. This is a bicycle culture which has been deliberately grown and maintained by producing conditions which encourage cycling.

Note that the conditions shown here are not remote "islands" of good design. The country is covered by a tight grid of well designed cycling infrastructure and it is as suitable for long journeys at high speeds as for short trips to the shops or to schools.

We organise Study Tours which show the excellent provision for cyclists in the Netherlands to interested parties, be they campaigners, council officers, planners, engineers, journalists or just interested cyclists. Please see our web page for more details.


Photos

These photos come from many locations across the Netherlands. They've been selected to show particular aspects of the design. It's important to realise that none are isolated examples of good practice. There is a network of such cycle friendly infrastructure across the entire country.

When you've finished with these photos, consider taking a look at the blog as there are many more photos there, with explanations

All photos on this page are copyright David Hembrow. If you would like these photos or those on other webpages for any purpose, please contact us for permission. Higher resolution versions of these photos and other photos with similar themes can be supplied.

Children on the way to school on a coastal cycle path near The Hague (Den Haag).

This photo was taken in 2002. The 3 metre wide path shown has now been upgraded to four metres and a smoother surface.

This is a very small section of the LF1 cycle route which runs all the way up the west coast of the Netherlands. This is just one of many Landelijke Fietsroutes.

We have many blog posts explaining more about school travel by bike.

Bicycles parked at school in the Netherlands. Cycling to school.

Bicycles at a school in Kloosterveen, Assen. Virtually all children arrive at school by bicycle in the Netherlands. Watch this video to see just how many bikes arrive at this school every single morning.

This is not exceptional. All schools in the Netherlands have most children arriving in this way. The children also go on school trips by bicycle.

On the morning that the photo and video was taken, the temperature was -2 C (28 F).

If you are interested in seeing how children are provided with genuinely safe routes to school in the Netherlands, the accompanying blog posts are particularly worth watching.

Unicycles for school commuting in the Netherlands. Cycling to school.

A bus giving way to children riding to school by unicycle. Kloosterveen, Assen, the same school as in the photo above. In how many other places in the world could children safely commute to school by unicycle ? A wide variety of cycles are used by children here: hand-cycles for disabled children, unicycles, tricycles as well as normal bicycles.

The unicyclists are actually on the pavement in this photo. The red path next to the pavement is the cycle path. The bus is on a special bus road. There is no road for cars in this location so close to the school.

Children have an enormous amount of freedom in the Netherlands. They are the people that we campaign for.

Children on a school trip / outing by bike.

Dutch children returning from a school trip by bicycle in Assen, the Netherlands. It is perfectly normal here for children to go on outings from school by bicycle. Watch this video to see this group of children as they ride along.

This photo may appear to show people cycling on what might appear to be a normal road. However, looks can be deceiving. Even without cycle-paths, you are segregated from traffic in the Netherlands. This 30 km/h (18 mph) residential street is a non-through route for motor vehicles and benefits from segregation of modes without cycle paths and unravelling of motor routes from bicycle routes.

Cyclists are not used as traffic calming in the Netherlands.

See more posts about school trips by bicycle in the Netherlands.

Dutch school children on bicycles

Here in Eindhoven we see another group of children about to cross the road. Note the width of the cycle path and crossing and that they can cross this wide road in one go, not needing to stop in the middle.

There is a youtube video of this junction.

Secondary school cycle parking

This secondary school in Assen has 725 students and 850 cycle parking spaces. It is expected that students will arrive by bike, and they all do. In the winter, cycling rates sometimes drop as "low" as 95%. Some students ride more than 40 km each day to get to school and home again.

Due to the number of bicycles which arrive each day, the amount of space taken by them can be quite large. That's the reason for the high density cycle parking with bikes hanging from their handlebars.

A blog post shows cycling home from this school at a temperature of -8 C.

Smooth cycle path separated from road

Children in the Netherlands are rated by UNICEF as the happiest in the world. This is in large part due to the enormous freedom of movement which comes from an infrastructure in which conditions are such that they can travel around on their own safely.

Cycle paths are smooth, continuous, wide ( 4 metres is the standard width for new bidirectional paths ) and well separated from the road even in residential areas, such as in this photo in Assen. There is a parallel road to the left of the picture.

Rubbish bin for cyclists

Rubbish bin next to a cycle path on a school route for cyclists on the move to throw rubbish into. These exist on all school routes.

This section of cycle path heads for an underpass which avoids a main road junction.

The cycle path is four metres wide.

There is a blog post about these rubbish bins for cyclists.

Cycling keeps you fit

Cycling keeps you fit throughout your life.

The demographics of cycling in the Netherlands are more varied than in any other country. Even the over 65s make 24% of their journeys by bicycle in the Netherlands.

This cycle path alongside a canal is four metres wide.

Since the photo was taken, it has been resurfaced. There are several blog posts about this cycle-path.

Crossing a road by bicycle

This photo taken at a road junction in Assen shows two teenage girls cycling together, a pre teenage boy and an adult man, all of them making different journeys. Given the time that the photo was taken, the boy is probably returning to primary school after having had lunch at home.

All types and ages of people cycle independently in the Netherlands

The pedestrian facilities are separate from the three metre wide cycle path. The glass screen and trees separate us from a major dual carriageway road. The combination of the quiet road surface, 70 km/h speed limit and the noise barrier make the road virtually inaudible at this point.

Watch a video which shows this junction in use.

Read more about crossing the road in the Netherlands.

Cycling in the city

Cycling around the Koopmansplein in Assen.

This is the centre of the city and one of the busiest streets for bicycles. Motorised vehicles are allowed here for access only. There are a couple because of the marbles competition which is being held today.

Watch the video to see the cycle parking around the square.

A view of how this area used to look can be seen on our review of the book "Assen Verandert" ("Assen Changes").

Cycle parking in the city

Cycle parking in Assen.

This photo was taken in December when the temperature was -4 C ( 24 F ).

This only shows a very small part of the cycle parking. A youtube video shows more.

A view of how this area used to look can be seen on our review of the book "Assen Verandert" ("Assen Changes").

A city centre designed for people, not vehicles

This photo shows the city centre of Assen.

This city centre is for the use of people cycling and walking, not for motor vehicles. It wasn't always that way. Read how this came about.

Note the child sitting in front of its mother on one of the bikes.

This is not "Shared Space". The street is not shared with motor vehicles and that precisely why it is a good place to cycle. Please read more and watch our video about Nearly Car Free streets.

Click for a view of how this street used to look.

Cycling near industrial estate

Cyclists also need to be able to access industrial estates and similar areas outside of the centre. Good cycling facilities are provided here just as they are provided everywhere else..

Note that there is a single stage crossing for a road with 5 lanes.

The cycle path is four metres wide.

At many road junctions, cycle paths have priority

At many junctions between cycle paths and roads, cyclists have priority, including this one.

This older cycle path is 3 metres wide.

Note how the cycle path surface continues through the road, rather than the other way around. It is very much the case here that the road crosses the cycle path rather than the cycle path crossing the road.

The speed limit on this road is 30 km/h. It is a minor road through a residential area. However, because of a high number of cyclists and because this is an important and direct cycle-route, there is a separate cycle-path.

Read about the unravelling of bicycle and motor vehicle routes.

Cyclists have more direct routes

Cyclists journeys are made more convenient by provision of routes which are more direct than those for drivers. In this case, the underpass goes beneath two roads and the railway line in Assen and avoids a set of traffic lights. It reduces some journeys length by around a kilometre.

There is a youtube video showing this underpass.

This tunnel provides a four metre wide path for cyclists and an additional 2 metre path for pedestrians (their entrance is separate).

There are many underpasses and tunnels for bikes in the Netherlands.

Bridge taking road over cycle path

This bridge was built to take the dual carriageway ring-road in Assen over two cycle paths. This allows cyclists to cross the road on the level instead of going through a tunnel, and means that they don't have to stop at traffic lights..

The glass barriers on the side of the bridge reduce noise from cars travelling over it.

Progress here is swift. This area went from the existing flat road junction where cyclists used to have to wait for traffic lights, to a completely finished bridge and new cycle route in just a few months.

This area has not been finished yet. The road carrying on directly from this cycle path at the other side of the bridge is to be redeveloped into a 5 metre wide "Bicycle Road" which leads cyclists the 2.5 km distance straight to the centre with no interruptions. This is shown in the next image.

Drivers on the bridge who are heading for the city have a detour and several sets of traffic lights to get through before they reach their destination.

There are several posts about this bridge on the blog.

Bicycle Road in Assen, Netherlands

This bicycle road is the other side of the bridge in the last photo. It provides one of the main arterial routes for bicycles to the centre of Assen and from this direction is the most direct route to the centre of the city. Drivers who live on this road are allowed to use it for access to their homes, but it is not a through road for cars - only for bikes.

Cars which are driven on this road are considered to be "Guests of bicycles". It is not permitted to drive fast or to park a car on this road.

The rough surface in the middle of the road separates cyclists travelling in each direction, but makes driving uncomfortable as the wheels on one side of the car will be on a rough surface.

The road is 5 m wide, and provides two 2 m cycle paths and a 1 m rougher barrier in the middle, which it is also possible to cycle on. When this photo was taken, construction of the road had not yet finished, but the popularity of the route was already established.

Most driving routes to the centre of the city involve at least one set of traffic lights. This route has no traffic lights to stop for. Together with the shorter distance, this helps to ensure that cycle journeys are more efficient than driving journeys.

There are several posts about this road on the blog.

New housing estate - excellent cycle paths

New housing estates are built with excellent cycle paths both for access to housing, as in this photo, and for access to the next town, as in the next photo.

This path is the standard 4 metre width.

There are several posts on the blog about this new housing development.

New housing estate - excellent cycle paths

New housing estates are built with excellent cycle paths.

Note how at the road junctions the road gives way to these paths, and that the cycle paths are not only more direct but also smoother than the roads.

These paths are not just within the housing estates but continue out of the estate. In this case, you can follow the direction of the camera in a straight line by bike, but drivers have a detour in the opposite direction instead.

There is a youtube video of this cycle path showing the route as far as the edge of the city (it stops after about 4 km travelled at the bridge shown above).

This path is four metres wide.

There are several posts on the blog about this new housing development.

Railway station cycle parking

All Dutch railway stations seem to have thousands of bikes parked at them. This is Assen station. There is a youtube video of this cycle parking.

For more detailed information, there are several posts about this railway station cycle park on the blog.

Railway station cycle parking

Groningen railway station's €10M "Stadsbalkon" cycle park. At the time this photo was taken, this accommodated 4150 bicycles, making a total of 6000 normal spaces a the railway station and about 1500 guarded spaces in a different building.

Since this photo was taken, the cycle parking at the station has been expanded to around 10000 places in total.

There are videos and other photos on the blog.

Bus Road / Bicycle Path

This photo shows a main cycle route into Assen. It is alongside a canal and a bus road. The road also allows access by drivers to their homes alongside, but does not allow them to drive out of both ends. The bus is allowed through by a moving bollard (bright yellow)

Watch the video to see that the crossing for cycles has a loop to detect approaching cycles (as well as a button "just in case"), has relatively short timing allowing cyclists to cross quickly and goes past cycle parking for a bus stop.

The main driving route to the city is less direct than the route for bikes and buses.

Note that while we show a crossing here that cyclists have to stop for, this is the only place that cyclists lose priority in about 5 km to the centre of the city. Drivers have many more sets of lights, roundabouts etc. to stop at than just the one.

Fathers cycling with their children

Two fathers cycling with children on their bicycles pass on an Assen cycle path. Cycling is a family activity here. It is quite common to see fathers having rides just for pleasure with small children, or taking them to events by bike.

Note that the path is straight, wide, smooth and has no junctions for over a kilometre. It has lights, a separate pavement for pedestrians and is a very pleasant and safe place to cycle. This is merely a secondary route into the city, which is why it is just a 3 metre wide cycle path (+2 metre pedestrian path). However, it is still a very efficient route, taking the cyclist directly to the city centre while avoiding traffic.

Read more about how city centres can be designed to be child friendly.

Tunnel to avoid crossing main road

There are many tunnels to avoid main roads in Assen. This one allows cyclists to ride directly from a housing area on one side of the road to a major employment area on the other without having to take a detour and stop for traffic lights as you would if you were to try to drive this route.

This tunnel was built several years ago. Current standards would not allow it in this form as the blind corner means you cannot see cyclists coming in the opposite direction, and the bend reduces social safety as you can't see who or what is in the tunnel. Newly designed tunnels are straight.

Generally speaking, tunnels are more useful for cyclists than bridges. Read an explanation of why this is so.

Temporary bridge to avoid inconvenience to cyclists

The old bridge has been removed in this location and drivers can no longer cross the canal. A temporary bridge has been installed to allow cyclists to continue to cross. It is important for cyclists to be able to make direct journeys, and they usually can even if there are roadworks in the way.

Note the effort that has gone into making sure that the way onto the temporary bridge is not bumpy. The bridge itself is three metres wide and smooth.

The temporary sign shows that two directions are currently close for drivers, but "Uitgezonderd fietsers" underneath means that cyclists are excepted from these closures. Cyclists can nearly always continue to take a direct and safe route even if there are major road works.

There is a post on the blog about the major works which required this temporary bridge to be built.

There are more examples of how road works are managed for cyclists in the blog.

Also there is a post showing how extensive temporary cycle parking can be.

Cyclists are excepted from a lot of traffic restrictions

Cyclists are excepted from a lot of traffic restrictions. In this case, several one way restrictions within a few hundred metres of each other in a residential area of Assen.

One way restrictions very rarely apply to cyclists in the Netherlands. Rather, they are used to prevent drivers using roads for through access while still allowing cyclists to do so. This is one of several methods used to unravel cycling routes from driving routes. Also read about one way streets as well as the concept of segregation of modes without cycle paths.

Cycle route shorter than driving route

Cycle routes here are often shorter than equivalent driving routes.

  • The blue (driving) signs show Groningen 14, Assen 16, Zuidlaren 9.
  • The red (cycling) signs show Groningen 12, Assen 15, Zuidlaren 8.
  • Both two signposts are by the same road junction. Many blog posts give examples of things which make cyclists' journeys more direct.

    Low speed limits

    The speed limit through villages and residential areas is always 30 km/h - equivalent to about 18 mph.

    Speed limits on country roads in general have recently been reduced.

    But note that lowering speed limits is not enough on its own to transform conditions for cycling.

    More photos

    In a similar vein to these photos, we have a set of comparison photos showing similar situations in the Netherlands the UK and how the road layouts differ.

    There are also more photos on our cycle-campaigning blog, on our cycling holiday blog and also the holiday section of our website.

    If you book any of our holidays you will experience both the city and rural facilities for yourself, but the study tour is designed especially for those interested in infrastructure.

    Other information

    We have a page of English language articles about the Dutch cycling infrastructure, which also includes a video showing the state of Dutch cycling 20 years ago and their intentions at that time.

    See also our review of the book "Assen Verandert" ("Assen Changes"). This excellent book shows views of improvements that have been made to this city over time.

    Also see our blog as there are many more photos there, with explanations

    About Us

    Judy and David Hembrow are experienced English cyclists who now live in The Netherlands. We spent many years visiting this country for holidays and believe we've found one of the best parts of the country to live in.

    We run Cycling Study Tours and Cycling Holidays from our new home in Assen. Assen is the capital of the "Cycling Province" of the Netherlands.

    We're also available to organise rides of any duration and group size to suit individuals, families or organisations. These can be a variation on the rides we already organise or something different. If you are interested, get in touch.