Virtual Tour 12: Getting from A to B on a Bicycle in the Netherlands

Regular readers know that I lived in the Netherlands for about two years. I miss it. The Netherlands really is a cyclist-friendly country. There are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly a form of strict liability is the law in the Netherlands for bicycle-motor vehicle accidents. If a car collides with a cyclist, the driver’s insurer is liable for damages to the cyclist’s property and for their medical bills. If the cyclist was in error, the motorist’s insurance must still pay for half of the damages.

Second is the bicycle-friendly infrastructure. There is a continuous network of cycle paths, clearly signposted, well maintained and well lit, with road/cycle path junctions that often give priority to cyclists.

The third is bike-friendly public policy and planning. Conflicts between different modes of transport are eliminated or reduced in severity as much as possible. Cycling is thus made both objectively and subjectively safe. Towns have been designed with limited access by cars and decreasing over time car parking. This makes car use unattractive in towns.

What does this look like in real life?

This is a typical cycle path in a city. The city cycle paths are always brown.

This is a multi-lane cycle path.

Urban intersections have bike boxes so that cyclists have room to wait in front of vehicles at traffic lights.

There are separate traffic lights for bicycles and vehicles. The light for bicycles will turn green before the light for other traffic. This gives cyclists time to ride clear of the intersection before the other traffic starts moving.

The sign at this light reads “More green for cyclists when busy.”

You see this sign a lot. “Uitgezonderd” means “except”. This sign indicates no entry for all vehicles except bicycles. Very often in cities, the most direct route from A to B is accessible by bicycle only. Motorized traffic must follow a more circuitous route. Just one of the ways that the Dutch make cycling the most convenient mode of transport in towns and cities.

This sign means that cyclists must use the available bike path and not cycle on the road.

This sign means cyclists can turn right on a red light.

These “sharks teeth” markings indicate who has the right of way. If the teeth point toward you then you must give way to whatever is coming from your right or left. At this junction, cyclists have the right of way.

Towns and cities are linked by cycle paths. The partially hidden Fietspad sign means that this path is for bicycles only.

Here is another bike path.

There is 29,000 km / 18,000 mi of bike paths in the Netherlands. All are signposted. And since the Dutch are nothing if not meticulous, they didn’t stop at just one signpost system. They have four that I know of.

The first type of signpost is much like what you would see on normal roads. Signs point in the direction of cities and towns, listing the distance to each. A more distant major destination is listed on the bottom of each ‘finger’, and the closer, minor destination is shown on the top. Once a destination is listed, every subsequent sign along the route will list that destination until you reach it.

The signposts for cyclists feature red or green lettering on a white background. The options shown in green are less-direct alternatives that offer scenic routes through the Dutch countryside.

The second type of signpost for cyclists sits low to the ground and is mushroom-shaped. These signs are located in more rural areas where the bike paths intersect away from roads. Each of the four sides has direction and distance information for destinations nearby. The sign below with the red lettering on a white background is a newer one. The older style has the same shape but features black lettering on a white background.

The third system of providing directions for cyclists is the Bicycle Node Network (Fietsknooppuntennetwerk). Each junction on the cycling path network has been given a unique one or two-digit number. You need a map showing all the ‘knooppunten‘ or nodes. These maps also list the distance between nodes so you can work out how far away your destination is.

Planning a route from the starting node to the ending node is a simple matter of making a list of all the intermediate nodes that you want to cycle through.

Each junction or node is marked with a sign showing the node number and a map of the immediate area.

Signs like this show you which way to go to the next closest nodes.

The fourth system is a network of long-distance or LF (Lange afstands Fietsnetwerk) routes. There are currently 30 LF routes covering some 4,500 km in total.

The LF routes are marked in both directions with rectangular white signs with green lettering. In this case, the sign pointing in the opposite direction reads “LF 1a”.

I will be posting photographs taken during rides to various places around Den Haag. Now you know how I found my way.

5 response to "Virtual Tour 12: Getting from A to B on a Bicycle in the Netherlands"

  1. By: BobinVT Posted: May 31, 2020

    Looks wonderful. Would love to visit there someday. It’s the country of my ancestors, by the way.

    • By: Alchemyrider Posted: May 31, 2020

      I miss the Netherlands.

      Het is een heel mooi land

  2. By: Tony Cullimore Posted: May 31, 2020

    And the rest of us can only dream! Thanks for your explanations of the rules, signs etc. Even our new suburbs are not being built with cycling in mind – although there have been a couple of shared trails to nowhere appearing alongside new highway developments. Plus, on those new bits of highway, a wide hard shoulder which can be ridden – if you like the sound of passing vehicles.

  3. By: The Navigator Posted: June 2, 2020

    Yes, thank you for the excellent lesson in Dutch cycling infrastructure and culture. What a pleasure it would be to ride there.

Leave a Reply