Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Dutch Bicycle

The Dutch had fallen in love with bicycles more than a century ago and the love continues growing today. Most are comfort bikes used for daily transportation, shopping and just getting around. There are no helmet laws and bicycle traffic lanes are a standard part of street planning. Seventy percent of daily journeys are in the seven kilometres range. There are laws requiring houses to have a bicycle shed and there are bike racks in front of all shops. Bicycle parking lots are large and common and there are even parking barges on the canals.

The first Dutch bicycle manufacturer began in 1869 and this was followed with some fifty factories and hundreds of brands. Over the decades, many failed or were absorbed by more successful companies. The three major ones that remain today are Simplex founded in 1887, Gazelle from 1892 and Betavus since 1904.

Among the current statistic on bicycles in Amsterdam is that 490,000 free wheeling feisters cycle two million kilometres every day. Amsterdam has 220,000 cars and 550,000 bicycles. There are 400 kilometres of bike paths within the city and there are free bike ferries to the northern parts of the harbour.

Throughout the country, there are countless of bicycle shops selling new and used bikes. Many are also repair shops with most of them very busy. We found such a shop on the main street of Harlingen, not far from the harbour, as we were looking for full sized gently used bikes. There was a good selection to choose from and we bought two female models from Bevatus, referred to as a granny bikes. The trend in the Netherlands is that most men now ride the more convenient low instep female bikes, abandoning the classic male bike with high crossbar. Our two Batavus bikes have now become part of the standard equipment on Zonder Zorg.

In this picture is the local bicycle club in Rotterdam around 1920. There are a few drop handle bars showing, but the rest are standard bikes. In the centre of the picture, with a bushy moustache is my grandfather and the boy to the far right is my father. Several of the men are my uncles.

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