Back in the United States we lived in a typical subdivision and I drove a minivan. Such is life when you have three small children still in car seats in America. We cruised on our daily errands, to and from preschool, up to drive-through fast food joint windows, and we stopped at more gas stations to fill the tank than I care to remember. For now those days are behind us; our new preferred method of travel is bicycling with kids in the Netherlands.
The Dutch love of bicycles
The Dutch are known to be bike enthusiasts. Bicycling is a way of life here, not just a form of recreation. It is their main source of transportation. With a country as flat as the Netherlands, biking to and fro in a small community is a delight. We've found that warm summer weather brings out even the most novice of riders!
My husband and I love bicycling with kids here. Every chance we get we'll helmet up and hit the nicely paved bike path. Peddling through the woods on an immaculate bike path, passing walkers, equestrians and even ice cream carts along the way—we often make our way to one of our favorite family restaurants: our Oisterwijk pancake house.
Venturing further as a family
Our newest love is going for longer family bike rides on Sundays. During the week I shuttle the boys to school and run errands in our town's small center. We enjoy the peddling-lifestyle so much, we like to give ourselves a more of a challenge on the weekends. When my husband is with me he will carry our 4-year-old on the back of his bike. Meanwhile I take our 2-year-old twins in my cargo-bucket bike and we set off to explore new destinations from the seat of our bicycles.
Our next goal is a bicycle ride to the Netherlands/Belgium border town of Baarle-Nassau. By car it is around 22 miles, which will make this an all day trek for us.
Dutch cargo bikes
The most popular cargo bike here is the Bakfiets, which you will see all over the Netherlands and Germany. Ours is an American import; a Madsen cargo bicycle with a back bucket seat for the kids. Our bike gets quite a bit of attention here, simply because it looks different from the front-bucket bikes that everyone else has. We have seatbelts in ours just like the Dutch versions. It's also got benches for our children to sit on and enough room for a few packages to boot.
Our family gets some strange looks riding around with helmets since helmet-less heads are the standard in the Netherlands. However, I won't compromise on safety even if we do look odd to locals. Interestingly enough, right next door in Germany my friends have told me that helmets are required, as well as government-certified bikes.
Bicycling with kids in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands we have the luxury of well-maintained bike paths, car drivers who are used to sharing the roads, and no hills (for the most part). We're lucky to be here and travel using such a healthy, environmentally friendly and fun way.
Next time you go on vacation I encourage you to rent some bikes with the family. Try out a tandem or maybe even a cargo bike if they have one! You might be surprised by how much your family enjoys bicycling together.
Do you bike with your family? Would you consider riding around in a cargo bike with children where you live?
All photos by Farrah Ritter.