CYCLING DUTCH STYLE – the Aussies check it out

Paul van Bellen (right) and his team road-test butterfly bars, Gazelle bikes, a cycleway and a genuine Dutch headwind.

This is a great project. Paul van Bellen is leading a group of 30 ‘thinking cyclists’ from Australia on a 500km ride through the Netherlands, on the way studying the infrastructure and culture of ‘the world’s #1 cycling country’.

Paul imports Dutch-made Gazelle bikes to Australia. Gazelle specialize in the upright, indestructible stadfietsen (city bikes) which are the favoured mode of transport all over the country.

He invited people to come with him on this trip, not just for the adventure and the exercise, but for talks and demonstrations from local experts and a tour of the Gazelle factory.

I took the train out of Amsterdam and joined them in Enkhuizen for a 60-odd km ride back into the capital.

The old city gate of Hoorn. Nothing like this in Australia - we ought to build one in Wollongong.

A number of members of the group have a professional interest in cycling infrastructure. Sam is a Greens member of a local Melbourne council. Lyn is a landscape designer for Newcastle City. Jan is writing about women and cycling for a book.

All were most impressed with what has been done in the Netherlands to encourage cycling, with its consequent benefits of relieving traffic congestion, noise and air pollution and improving public health.

‘Where are all the obese people in this country?’ someone asked.

‘Isn’t it fantastic to see all the kids riding to school,’ was another common observation. In Australia most parents won’t let their kids ride the bikes – it’s considered too dangerous, and maybe rightly so.

If you can get around Holland on folding bikes, you know the cycling can't be too hard.

The 20km between Enkhuizen and Hoorn flashed by as we rolled along the cycleways at a leisurely pace, following the numbers on roadside signs that marked the recommended bike routes.

Most of the group had hired Gazelle touring bikes for the trip, some had liked them so much they’d bought them and a few had the electric versions.

It didn’t really matter what the bike was like. Cycling in Holland is usually so easy that anything with wheels and pedals will get you around.

Until just out of Hoorn we struck the vicious headwind, blowing directly from Amsterdam. There was nowhere to hide.

Some of the group, those with strong legs, stronger wills and/or those electric bikes, struggled on towards Amsterdam, but Paul had a better suggestion. ‘We ought to check out the train/bike combination, don’t you think?’ I for one thought it was a great idea.

Every Aussie train needs a compartment like this.

The train from Hoorn to Purmerend saved us 25km of howling gale.

We paid a modest fare (and a 6 euro day pass for the bike), waited a paltry nine minutes for the next train, and soon were taking photos of the train’s priority bike compartment and swapping horror stories of trying to get bikes around on Australian country trains.

From Purmerend the ride into Amsterdam was relaxed and comfortable, and we could marvel at the bike paths through leafy parks and beside quiet canals, just a couple of clicks outside the centre of a major city.

Thanks, Paul, for inviting me along and thanks everyone for the chats and the laughs. Enjoy your day off in Amsterdam.


To follow the trip on the Cycling Dutch Style blog, click here.

9 Comments

Filed under Cycle touring, Holland

9 responses to “CYCLING DUTCH STYLE – the Aussies check it out

  1. Those bikes look great. We are so badly off in Sydney as far as public transport and bike friendly routes are concerned. Would even consider riding myself if we had the sort of infrastructure Holland has.

    • That’s sad but true, Joan, but I do think things are improving, and initiatives like this can only help.

      • It would be good to see completely separate cycle lanes here and with traffic lights for the cyclists, as there are in Amsterdam, or at least there were in 1984, when I was last there. Too long ago – think I’ll have to go over next time I’m in the UK.

      • Oh yes, Joan, those separated cycle paths and bike traffic lights are all over the Netherlands now, making life safer and happier for everyone.

  2. Pingback: Richard Tulloch joins Cycling Dutch Style! | Cycling Dutch Style

  3. Ina Fine

    Oh how I wished I could fit my bike in as easy as that when I take the train from Central Coast to Sydney.
    You never know, maybe one day……

  4. Jan

    Maybe the difference in climate in Aus has something to do with fewer cyclists on the road – especially in Queensland. I also think Aussie drivers have a lot to learn when it comes to sharing the road with cyclists. That said, we have a friend whose mother is in her eighties, has always been very elegant and regularly cycles her tricycle to the local shops and back – beautiful hat on head and helmet in the basket on the back in case she is pulled up by the boys in blue!

    • There are plenty of older riders here too, Jan. Someone in the Australian group commented on what a lot of older couples out for a recreational ride they’d seen.

      And that despite all the difficulties with the Dutch climate – too much rain and wind, and snow and ice in the winter. Cycling should never have caught on here – and yet it has!

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