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5 Tips for Biking Culture in the Netherlands

Date:09 October 2021
Luc and company cycling around Zernike Campus
Luc and company cycling around Zernike Campus

The most common form of transport in the Netherlands is the bicycle, there are more bikes than there are people! (On average, there are 1.4 bikes per person in Groningen). While living in the Netherlands you’ll soon find out that your bicycle can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. So, I thought I’d give you some tips on biking culture in the Netherlands that are sure to help you form a healthy relationship with your trusty 2-wheeled steed.


1.  Know the rules of the road, or the road might rule you

There are 37,000 kms of cycle paths in the Netherlands and when they intersect with car traffic, things can get complicated. To ensure that you don’t find yourself wrapped around the bumper of someone’s car, here are some basic tips. At almost every intersection in the Netherlands, you will need to yield to traffic coming from the right of you, unless the traffic lights tell you otherwise. You might notice white ‘shark teeth’ on the road when you approach an intersection. These small white triangles indicate whether you need to yield to the traffic around you or not. If the top of the triangle is pointing towards you – be sure to slow down, look left and right and continue. Insider scoop: in the Netherlands there are plenty of electric scooters in the bike paths, which can be dangerous to cyclists as we cannot hear them coming. Always keep a lookout and be aware of your surroundings when biking  as you might encounter a Dutch person transporting the entire contents of their house on a bike. And you’d probably benefit from getting out of their way.  If you’d like to take a look at some crazy things you can expect on the roads - take a look at this link.

World stop (at the shark teeth).... look.... carry on
World stop (at the shark teeth).... look.... carry on

2.  Indicate the direction you want to go in

A great rule of thumb is to use your thumb! Often, cycle lanes will be busy, especially when you’re returning home from an exam at Zernike campus with hundreds of other students. Indicating the direction you are turning is super important to avoid major crashes. Quite simply, if you want to turn left, you’ll stick out your left hand, and the same goes for the right (well… stick out your right hand). Pro-tip: be sure to check the traffic around you before you stick out your hand directly into someone’s face.

 3.  Avoid a fine and save a dime!

Just like drunk driving or using your phone in the car is frowned upon in most countries; there are a few things that you can’t do while biking… unless you’re prepared to pay a big fine. Do not use your phone while biking… seriously, not even to change the song you are listening to. This is one of the most strictly enforced rules and often leads to an immediate 90 euro fine. Although your bike might be the light of your life when it comes to getting you around town, remember that you are legally obligated to have a working front and back light in order to use the road at night. If not, you can expect a 60 euro fine! The English saying, “two’s company, three’s a crowd,” is something that oddly applies to cycling in the Netherlands. It is prohibited to cycle next to more than one other person in the bike lane, biking behind each other is usually the safest option. Lastly, it is also illegal, and really dangerous to cycle under the influence.


4.  Oh where, oh where has my bicycle gone? Oh… I forgot to lock it.

Bicycle theft is the most common form of petty crime in the Netherlands. Bicycles are a very desirable commodity and can be stolen very quickly. So always lock your bike. The best way to lock a bike is to make use of both a wheel lock, and a chain that you can use to lock your bike to a pole. If you are planning on leaving your bike for a longer period of time, make use of the free bike parks around the city. You can leave your bike at the main train station for a maximum of 12 days. There is literally nothing more devastating (in terms of biking) than searching for your bike only to realise that your trusty steed is gone forever. 


5.  Live your best bike life

Finally, my best tip to give to you is to enjoy your time on the back of your bike! Whether that means taking a nice trip around the countryside, or playing some amazing music while cycling to your lectures – biking is honestly one of the best ways to stay healthy and get around. There’s a reason Groningen was named the best biking city in the Netherlands as well as the country’s healthiest! If you live in and around Groningen there are some amazing cycle routes to follow – you can find 5 of my favourite routes in this blog.I often find that your bicycle can say a lot about the type of person you are - from a SwapFiets to a vintage race bike. For some fun points about your bike personality type, take a look here


I hope these few tips will help you embrace the biggest part of Dutch culture (aside from cheese, tulips and clogs). In no time at all, you’ll be sure to make your bike your best friend.

About the author

Hi there! I am Luc, a South African student of International and European Law. In my spare time you will find me consuming Netflix, playing guitar and singing, cycling around, spending time with friends and whispering “what a cutie” to every dog and cat that happens to walk past me in Groningen!


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