Biking in the Netherlands

More than half a million people bicycle to work or school each day in Amsterdam. If it’s good for the locals, then it just might be a good idea for visitors as well. Rosemary McClure, staff writer for the LA Times, starts her article Taking Holland for a spin by saying, “Not Lance Armstrong? No problem. Even novice cyclers find that biking brings out the best in the Netherlands.” The level terrain makes for an easy ride; and the sites, sounds, and smells are enough to make you forget about the health benefits of biking.

“A bicycle bell tinkled and I looked up and saw a Dutchman in a knit cap coming toward me. As he pedaled by, a fuzzy white head popped up from his bike basket. It was a terrier, chin up, ears perked forward, head tilted curiously to one side. Easy-riding Rover, I thought. The dog was probably enjoying the moment as much as I was.

Its master and I were bicycling through the countryside about 25 miles southwest of Amsterdam, watching Holland’s famous flower fields flash by. The terrain was flat, the air crisp and clear, the scenery a splash of dazzling yellow and green. Acres of bright daffodils stretched in every direction. I felt as though I had found bicycle nirvana.

Perhaps I had. With 13 million bicycles, the Netherlands — or Holland, its regional name — has twice as many bikes as cars and nearly as many bicycles as people. An 11,000-mile system of bike paths, many of which are separate from highways, crisscrosses a nation so small and flat that it’s easy to use bicycles to transport people, groceries, even terriers.”