A Story from The Netherlands: Why People Cycle Everywhere and What We Can Learn from Them?

By Amy Ikhayanti.

The Netherlands, a country of 18 million people, is also a home of 22.5 million bikes [1]. This number doesn’t come as a surprise, considering that the Dutch cycle to everywhere: to school, to grocery store, to another city for a meeting, or even the short distance to the apartment’s communal garbage area. People also use bikes to transport children and goods: from small packages, suitcases, groceries bags, or even a TV. Once you’re used to be a two-wheeler, a bike can become an irreplaceable mode of transport.

Photo 1: Cyclists in The Netherlands
Source: Bike Citizens 

The story of cycling in The Netherlands doesn’t stop there. An integrated public transport and bike system allows commuters and travellers to carry their bikes to the trains, both on normal and peak hours. It doesn’t come free, though. A day ticket for carrying your bike into the train is 6.10[2]. However, you shouldn’t worry if you need a bike as part of your commute. A folding bike is free of additional train charge, but you have to make sure that you fold your bike properly once you’re inside the carriage. Or, if you are reluctant to bring your own bike, you can rent OV-fiets[3] from the train stations for only 3.85 per day[4].

When a cyclist arrives at the city centre, he or she doesn’t have to worry about finding a parking space, somewhere in the centre’s underground parking garage. Many Dutch city centres provide a basement parking for cars to meet the needs of car users, while maintaining car-free area on its shopping streets and squares. A cyclist can always find a parking space right in front of the shop, hop-off the bike and leave as soon as needed without being bothered by parking tickets. 

Going back home on a dark night, you don’t have to worry about the traffic either. There are extensive bike paths all around the city. Where there isn’t any, a cyclist should not worry about the vehicle traffic because bikes get priorities over cars. Nevertheless, you should remember to put on your front and back lights (helmet not mandatory). Otherwise, you may get fined 55[5] by the police!

Changing our setting to Melbourne - what can we learn from The Netherlands to promote cycling as a transport mode?

Photo 2: Cyclists in Melbourne
Source: Sportsbet

Both Melbourne and The Netherlands have a bike-friendly public transport system, along with its own bike share. Melbourne also has an extensive bike path throughout the CBD. However, it is not enough only to have a very good cycling infrastructure at one place. It is also important to have a robust cycling network to the surrounding areas to encourage movements to and from the CBD. It requires not only cooperation with the surrounding Councils, but also a bigger strategy to manage the whole structure, in the metropolitan area and also the whole state.

At the same time, it is also important to promote the advantage of cycling over driving cars. The Netherlands applies a higher tax for gasoline and parking tickets compared to Australia. At the same time, they invest heavily in bicycle infrastructure, from bicycle garages next to the stations to bike paths and bridges [6]. In other words, it’s necessary to create a conducive environment that encourages people to cycle.

Nevertheless, it’s also important to remember that Melbourne (Metropolitan Area) is much larger in size compared to Dutch cities. Considering that many people commute to the CBD for work and study, riding a bike as the only mode of transportation for residents of the outer suburbs can be challenging. As such, a campaign to familiarise public with the use of multi-modal transport system with public transport and bike is crucial.

Looking back, Melbourne has possessed some of the supportive attributes to encourage cycling as a mode of transport. Knowing that, we are perhaps on the right track, anyway.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/world/europe/bicycling-utrecht-dutch-love-bikes-worlds-largest-bike-parking-garages.html
[2] https://www.ns.nl/producten/losse-kaartjes/p/dagkaart-fiets
[3] Fiets is the Dutch word for bikes
[4] http://www.ns.nl/en/door-to-door/ov-fiets
[5] http://www.flitsers.nl/boete/fietsen-zonder-licht
[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/world/europe/bicycling-utrecht-dutch-love-bikes-worlds-largest-bike-parking-garages.html


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