Biking in the Netherlands
It may sound unbelievable, but there are more bicycles in the Netherlands than there are people. A stunning 22.7 million bikes can be found across the country versus 17 million people who live here.
There is a good reason for this: a bike (fiets) is the ideal way of getting around town. It is fairly cheap, reliable and easy to park. You will want to put ‘buying a bike’ at the top of your priorities when settling in The Hague. Do not be intimidated by traffic: The Hague is well-known for its large amount of biking paths and great biking conditions, even downtown. Just make sure to pay attention to the tram rails so you do not get stuck.
Dutch people generally will not wear a helmet, unless riding long distance on sports bikes. There are helmets for sale if you prefer one while getting used to your bike: it is always a good idea to prioritize safety. You can also buy additions to your bike, such as a bike basket or so-called saddlebags for groceries. If you have small children, make sure to install a children’s seat in the front or back if you want to take them on your bike. Or buy a bakfiets, a cargo bike with a large box-like area designed to store and move your kids or any other precious cargo easily through busy, narrow city streets.
Learn how to bike
Do you not know how to bike, or do you have very little experience? Ask someone to teach you. They will probably be glad to show you how to master a bicycle. There are also a few places in The Hague where you can take bike lessons.
Children and biking
Children are often quick to pick up biking skills. Most schools are also involved with making sure children know their way around a bike, especially if your child was not born and raised in the Netherlands. Your children will get a biking exam around the ages of 11 or 12 at their school, where their skills and responses to traffic will be tested. If your child needs a little extra support, make sure to take them out for an occasional bike ride so you can lead by example. Be confident but cautious; if you follow the rules, you should have no problem getting around.
Quick biking advice
- Follow the same rules as motor vehicle drivers and adhere to traffic lights and signs.
- Always use the cycle lane! You are not allowed to bike on the pavements. If a cycle lane is absent, cyclists must use the road.
- Use hand signals when you make a turn.
- Scooters, mopeds and other bikers will pass you by on the left side.
- Use your bell; it is the best way to warn pedestrians that are not paying attention.
- Always have working lights on your bike.
- Cycling two abreast is permitted as long as there is sufficient space. Cycling in a group (and taking up the whole street) is not allowed.
A large white light will go on the front of your bike, and a red one on the back. You can buy detachable bike lights for just a few euros. Be aware that they may get stolen if you do not remove them when you park your bike somewhere.
Parking your bike
- Use two locks. One attached to your bike and one thick metal chain.
- Secure your bike to a bike stand, a tree or other solid permanent objects
- Do not put the chain through your tire when locking up. Someone might just take off your tire and walk away with your bike.
- Park in the right spot. Check if there are ‘Geen fietsen plaatsen’ (No parking your bike) signs or symbols. If so, you might be able to park your bike at a guarded lock-up.
- Keep a spare copy of your keys at home
Is your bicycle missing? If you park your bike at the wrong spot, your bike may get removed by the municipality. In The Hague, you can pick up your bike at the Kranestraat (around the Grote Marktstraat) or the Bicycle Depot Haaglanden (Junostraat 24, The Hague). If you live in Delft or Leidschendam-Voorburg, you may find your bike at The Bicycle Depot Haaglanden as well. You will need to pay the removal costs when you pick up your bike (only by bank pass).
- Read more on the removing of bicycles at the Municipality of The Hague (the same rules apply for Delft and Leidschendam-Voorburg).
Buying a bike
You can purchase a new bicycle for about 250 to 500 euros, or a used bike for about 50 to 150 euros. Most locals will advise you to go for a used bike, as this is more practical and affordable for city life. There are many small bike shops across the city where you can find an excellent bike. Make sure to pick a solid bicycle but be aware that the most expensive-looking ones will be the first to get stolen. It helps if you make it stand out with bright colours or decorations; it will be so distinct looking that it will discourage thieves. You can get insurance for your bike, but this is mostly recommended for brand new bikes. Make sure to compare the different insurance policies.
Renting a bike
If you do not have your own bike, there are many rental places throughout the city. If you have been travelling by train, you may want to get an OV-fiets. An OV-fiets is a rental bike that is available at (major) railway stations. If you have an OV-chipkaart, you can rent a bike for 3.85 euros a day to get you to your destination. Make sure to return your bike at the same location, or pay an extra fee of 10 euros when you turn it in at a different station.
You can also use Swapfiets: for a fixed price a month you get a bicycle and maintenance insurance. A Swapfiets bicycle can be ordered online. Select the city where you want a Swapfiets bicycle and follow the steps. After placing your order, Swapfiets makes an appointment to deliver your bicycle. You can also pick up your bicycle in some cities. Upon receipt, Swapfiets adjusts the bicycle for you personally so that you can use it immediately.
Simply go to your local bicycle shop or the rental shops at the train stations. You may even borrow a bike while yours is being repaired.
Bikes and public transport
You are not allowed to take your bike into buses or trams. If you want to take your bike into the train, make sure you are aware of the rules and regulations.