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Bicycling with Kids in the Netherlands

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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.

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.

Netherlands bike path

Bike path in the Netherlands

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.

European cargo bike

Another cargo bike in the Netherlands

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.

Popular 'Bakfiets' of the Netherlands

Popular Bakfiets of the Netherlands

Bike safety

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.

About Farrah Ritter, The Nomadic Travel Mama

Farrah Ritter is an adventure-seeking mama to a 4-year-old son and twin 2-year-old boys. Her family of five moved to the Netherlands in October of 2012. Originally from Michigan, she and her husband relocated to the South in 2006 and jumped over the pond with their boys in tow. She blogs at The Three Under when she can and is looking forward to documenting and sharing their European journey with anyone interested in travel with multiple small children. An Instagram and Twitter junkie (@Momofthreeunder), Farrah loves to see perspectives of others and experience the beauty of old towns and historic places.

  1. Great post, Farrah. I love the bike culture in the Netherlands. Even harsh weather doesn’t stop the Dutch from ‘fietsen’. I like seeing families out together, teens on dates, and even little children all on their bikes. I’ve noticed how parents ride closest to traffic as a buffer for the kids riding along. I often wonder if the children attend bike lessons to learn how to negotiate roundabouts and such, or do they learn from parental instruction. An amazing society, either way!
    p.s. Sharing this post with friends back home 🙂

    • Farrah Ritter, The Nomadic Travel Mama says

      Thanks Gayla! It’s really funny as I never thought we would do this until they got older. And in rain, ice and snow? You got it 🙂 I’ve noticed that too with parents- often keeping their hand on a child’s back. I was thinking the other day that it might be time I read some general traffic rules with biking because I have been in a few situations where I don’t know if I did the right thing.

  2. Lisa Goodmurphy says

    I love that your family is embracing bike culture in the Netherlands! We haven’t been to the Netherlands but our first family trip to Europe started in Copenhagen and it was all the bicycles that made the biggest impression on my kids. We were staying across the street from the train station and they could not get over the racks and racks of bikes lined up outside. Personally, I was very impressed by the women riding to work in their business suits with take-out coffee cup in hand!

    • Farrah Ritter, The Nomadic Travel Mama says

      I will never cease to be impressed by those women- when I see them in their high heels I think, ‘And I won’t even wear those just on a regular walk!!!’ It’s something to see for sure 🙂 And those bike racks- oh wow. They’re like nothing I have ever seen. I hope against hope that when we return to the States we can keep this up and I don’t wimp out just because there are hills 🙂

  3. I’m impressed, too, by the bike racks. Even more impressive than the vast number of them, are the ‘long term’ storage sheds at many train stations…for bikes!!

  4. wanderingeducators says

    what FUN! i love the whole bike culture. 🙂

  5. Laurel- Capturing la Vita says

    Love the cargo containers for the kids! I wish so much that the beautiful bike culture of the Netherlands would spread to the US!

  6. Shalini Wood says

    Hi Farah,

    I stumbled upon your expat interview when I was googling for schools for my lil boy in Oisterwijk. Great blog by the way….We moved to NL 4 yrs back and been a year in OIS…. My son turns 2 in Jan 🙂 gosh time flies ….. . If you’d like I’d love to catch up with you for a cuppa tea in ‘our little village’ Oisterwijk.

    Shalini Wood

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