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If you’ve ever visited one of the larger Dutch cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague or Utrecht, then you’ll no doubt have noticed the swarms of hurried parents navigating the tiny streets with their children crammed unceremoniously into the box of their ‘bakfiets’ (cargo bike). Whilst the cargo bike was originally a favoured mode of transport for bakers and grocers, who needed an economical method of transporting their wares, today this distinctive bike is predominantly popular with young, trendy, urban Dutch.
The reasons for the cargo bike’s enduring popularity with Dutch city dwellers throughout the last decade are abundantly clear: you can easily negotiate even the narrowest of streets, you need never pay for parking, you can take a lot with you (including your children or pets), the bakfiets is cheap to use, it’s great for your physical fitness and it’s extremely environmentally friendly.
As the cargo bike has so many obvious advantages, you might wonder why the Dutch don’t choose it over the car, which would immediately solve the persistent issue of the nation’s infamous traffic jams. This is probably due to the fact that the cargo bike is less suitable for long distances, especially as it requires a lot of physical strength to keep it moving. Steering the thing, especially through sharp turns, is not exactly a walk in the park either!
These days there are many different types of cargo bikes available in the Netherlands, all of which fall into either the two or three wheel (tricycle) category. Two wheeled cargo bikes are usually narrower, making them easier to steer and park. Their biggest drawback, however, is that they are far less stable and benefit from significantly less storage space. Tricycles on the other hand, tend to be wider and boast plenty of cargo space, but as a result, are heavier, less easy to park and can be unsteady on uneven ground. Both types of cargo bike sport a luggage rack, to which you can attach a typical Dutch cycle bag if you have a lot to carry. The best-known cargo bike brands in the Netherlands include Babboe, Bakfiets.nl, Johnny Loco, WorkCycles, Nihola and Tuk Tuk.
In Holland the same rules apply to riding a cargo bike as a standard bike. You are allowed to ride your cargo bike on cycle paths unless it measures more than 75 cm wide, in which case you must use the road instead. You are permitted to carry as many children as will fit in your cargo space, however, children under the age of eight must be placed in a special child seat that provides suitable support for their hands, feet and back.
If you’re considering buying a cargo bike or importing a typical Dutch bakfiets from Holland, then why not give one a test drive on your next visit to the Netherlands? You can hire a cargo bike in most large cities from Dutch bike rental companies such as V.O.F. De Bakfiets and MacBike.
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?