powered by Holland at Home
According to a study conducted by the European Union in 2002, the Dutch cycle an average of 2.5 kilometres per person, per day. No wonder they’re such a fit and healthy nation! Compare that with Spain or the United States for example, where the daily average is no more than 0.1 kilometres per person. Of course, this is partly to do with the natural landscape – if you live in a remote part of the Rockies or the Alpujarras, then you’re far less likely to jump on your bike to get from A to B. The Dutch, however, with their famously flat terrain, have always favoured their trusty bike for travel to and from school, work or the local supermarket and prefer to reserve their car for longer journeys instead. And bikes are treated like prized possessions, brightly festooned with a wide range of seemingly indispensible accessories including the ubiquitous ‘fietstas’ (cycle bag), an array of bike locks and an impressive selection of baby seats. The only other country in the world, where there is such a similar love of pedal power, is Denmark, but even here the Danes average ‘just’ 1.6 km per person, per day. There’s no doubt about it, the Netherlands clearly stands head and shoulders above all other nations when it comes to cycling!
And despite the large number of cyclists in the Netherlands, the country still boasts the lowest number of bicycle accidents per kilometre, per year. Statistics seem to indicate that the more you cycle on average, the less likely you are to actually experience an accident. In the Netherlands, this phenomenon is encouraged by an all pervasive ‘cycling culture’. Motorists are accustomed to cyclists on the road, whilst regular cyclists also learn to respond better to the traffic surrounding them. In addition, the infrastructure in the Netherlands is entirely geared towards cyclists, with separate cycle lanes and special traffic lights catering for those on two wheels.
What amazes visitors to the Netherlands though, is that the majority of cyclists don’t wear helmets and it’s extremely common to see small children riding bikes without any form of head protection. That’s because the bicycle helmet is not mandatory in Holland, as it is in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Yet, surprisingly the 2008 figures from the Rijkswaterstaat (the body responsible for Dutch infrastructure), reveal that Dutch cyclists who do wear a helmet are in fact more likely to be involved in a cycling accident. Researchers believe that this is because Dutch cyclists only tend to wear a helmet on racing or mountain bikes, which they don’t generally use for a simple trip to the local shops!