Bicycles


Holland is one of the flattest countries on the planet, making it ideal for bicycling. The Dutch have far more bicycles than automobiles. Everywhere you go in Holland you'll see people getting around by bike. In Holland bikes are given a status accorded few modes of transportation. Bike paths exist next to every major road through the countryside into the center of the big cities. You can explore all of Holland by bike if you choose. For the Dutch it is not just a recreational sport, it is a primary means of transport to work, school, even the market. Bikes typically have either a basket up front, or dual panniers on the rear. These come in handy not just for school books or groceries but are often used for children, animals, plants, you name it!

Unfortunately the most common crime in Holland (where few things are considered criminal) is bike theft. It occurs on such a regular basis and hits most people (esp. in cities) that no one bothers to file a police report or insurance claim. They just go to the part of town where the thieves (often junkies needing a fix) sell them back to those who had their bikes stolen, for just 25. Thus few Dutch bother to buy new expensive bikes, preferring to get around on oma (grandmother) bikes. These solid, heavy duty bicycles are slow and ugly roadsters, usually painted black.

The Dutch have bikes for different occasions like an old bike for the market or to go to the station, and a good bike to go to work and a race or mountain bike for hobbyists. Some people use a carrier tricycle (very big and ideal for moving stuff). Nowadays smaller trikes are used to transport children. A few people like the reclining bicycle, where you're practically lying down. Sometimes these models look like rockets, sporting streamlined shells, to decrease wind resistance and to protect from rain.

Most Dutch bikes carry two locks, but this is still no guarantee that the bike won't get stolen. Always lock your bike to a unmovable object like traffic sign, a street lamp or a railing of a bridge. Otherwise it will be gone when you return! To encourage people to use their bicycles to commute, the new Dutch tax system gives people that ride a bike to work (min. 10 km/3 days a week) a tax deduction of 300 a year. In Holland, bicycles are allowed to turn right through a red light, while all other traffic is fined 90 for the same action. In Amsterdam don't expect a bicycle to stop for anything!

The Dutch are once again attempting to provide bicycles (now theftproof) for the use of residents and tourists in Amsterdam. These bicycles will require a payment to use and will refund money when returned to a designated place. Bicycles can be rented in most cities, but beware of huge deposits, because if the bike is stolen you can loose hundreds of dollars.

Note: The bicycle (fiets) is an essential part of Dutch society, and in Amsterdam it rules the road. It's the most efficient way to get around the city, and it's great exercise too!





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