November 10, 2005
Dutch Voice in Portland
Christine posted these comments in response to an earlier thread about our time in the Netherlands. I thought they merited their own post!
It's interesting reading you comments about the Dutch bike and car situation in the Netherlands. I'm Dutch and recently moved to Portland.
A few comments:
You have to understand that there is one big, very basic difference in the bike infrastructure in the Netherlands and the USA, and that is the state of mind.
Everyone you'll see driving a car in Holland has started out driving a bike as his/her only way of transportation. -EVERYONE- needs to learn to ride a bike when you're 3-4 years old. Reason for this is that there are no school buses, no parents who drive you to school. As a 4 y.o going to pre-school you will of course sit on the back of you mom's or dad's bike or ride you're own bike accompanied by one of your parents.
Most children at 6 - 7 y.o will ride their bike alone to school. I'm sure you have seen the large groups of kids when school is out, riding bikes in groups, sometimes very dangerous 3 or 4 next to each other taking up a lot of space on the road.
On the contrary to the US it's not common in Holland to have 2 cars in a family. Most families will have 1 car that serves for transportation for long distances.
Driving permit age is 18 in Holland, until that age you either ride your bike or ride your scooter(from age 16 and you'll need a permit too).
You'll see a lot of young moms riding bikes with a small child on the front on a bike in a child seat, sometimes even a child on the back as well and even have 2 shopping bags with groceries on the bike.
For pics see:
Very popular the last few years are the 'fietskar' (bike cart) to transport the kids, groceries, dog etc.
For pics see:
Luggage or groceries: http://www.fietskarren.nl/Groepen/bagagekarren.htm
Seats for toddlers to place in the carts: http://www.fietskarren.nl/Eind-pag/Accessoires/schelpen.htm
As you can see from the prices, they are expensive, reason for this is that they have to be extremely safe and sturdy and are subject to very strict regulations. http://www.fietskar.com/kinderkarren.htm
The first choice of transportation in Holland is a bike, cars would be second. Towns were build with a infrastructure for bikes in place from the start. Cars came later, on the contrary to the US where infrastructure of a town or city is build for cars from the start.
Holland is a very small country with a lot of people living and working(approx 18 million) if all people who are legally allowed to drive a car also would drive there would be no space to live anymore. Car pooling(sharing) is very much promoted, employers (or the tax system) only reimburse public transport as commute cost where driving your car to work would have to be paid by yourself.
Families with children, having a one salary income are still very much the norm, one of the parents will stay at home. Part-time work for parents is also very much standard, a lot of alternative ways of work sharing will be created like 'duo-baan' (dual-job) where you will share a job with a colleague who will work half of the full time position. All of this is heavily subsidized and promoted by the government with child day care etc, because of this it's less common to have 2 cars simply because the budget wouldn't allow it.
Holland did have it's share of car industry, which ended somewhere in the 80's. (Opel, DAF) However, it's not the industry that decides how the country is governed and developed, on the contrary to the US, but the people, for the people. Politicians do not depend on contributions from the industry for their elections as this would only cloud the way they would govern.
So the biking situation in Holland is something that is heavily embedded in your upbringing, it's part of your life like driving everywhere by car is embedded in the US way of life.
Unfortunately for people living on a limited income or wanting to downscale, being without a car in the US is nearly unthinkable while being without a car in Holland is a common situation and does not have to be disruptive.
Feel free to ask me anything you want about the biking in Holland. I, like many other kids rode my bike to school all the way through University, rode my bike with child in front and shopping bags and cartons with milk on the back, in rain, snow and ice storms. ;-) Raised a bike riding child. So I think I qualify as an experienced bike person ;-)
I must say that living in Portland now I feel seriously limited in my movements, I'm not free to go anywhere, anytime I like to as it's not safe to ride my (Dutch) bike here and we only have one car at the moment that my husband needs to commute to his job and to be honest, doing my shopping on my bike would get me strange looks from others ;-)
Guest Column at 10:31 PM
November 11, 2005 4:46 AM
Fantastic post! I dream that Portland will one day be more of a bike haven but "king car" rules... I commute to work by bike as well as shopping for groceries and running errands but find the aggresiveness of some drivers disconcerting. My wife and I have one car and it has been fun to rearrange our lifestyle so that we don't need two vehicles. Anyway, thanks for all the great information and links Christine!
November 11, 2005 9:15 AM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Thanks very much for your comments Christine.
How bike friendly or unfriendly Portland is depends on your neighborhood. Close in NE (mine) and SE will have as many bikes as cars on some streets, and as in Holland lots of drivers also bike, so you get a friendly nod, not a finger.
Otherwise, its a long, slow process have adding bike facilities and getting more people more comfortable with biking as a way to get around.
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (503-226-0676) is where to go to find energy, support, ideas and action on all these fronts. Good luck!
November 11, 2005 9:53 AM
Thank you, Christine. Do bicyclists in Holland tend to follow the laws or they do things like ride through red lights like some do here?
el timito mentioned the Shift Winter Social on Dec. 7 as a way to meet other bicyclists. You could also check out Shift's website: www.shift2bikes.org. Also, the BTA's website is: www.bta4bikes.org.
November 11, 2005 12:23 PM
Cate, and others.
Thanks for your kind comments and thanks to Chris for giving me such a prominent place. ;-)
Cate; no, bicyclist in Holland pretty much tend to follow the traffic rules/laws. Police is very strict when it comes to that, they will just as easily give you a ticket for going through red light as they do with a motorist. Bicycles in Holland are also subject to very strict rules and regulations, lights have to be a certain standard, the white on the back of the bike need to be certain length and reflectors need to be in place.
This all is of course so you can be seen in the dark and for your and the motorist safety. They will not hesitate to ticket you if your lights are not working or if you have no reflectors installed. I once even got a ticket because my bell wasn't working and you need that to be able to tell pedestrians or others that you are approaching and want to pass. But ignoring traffic laws will also get you a ticket.
I think cyclist over here could use some of that, they are hardly visible at night and that's very dangerous.
Thanks for the links I will sure check them out.
December 3, 2005 1:09 PM
I live in Portland and I have a Dutch boyfriend who will soon be joining me in Portland. I've also spent a good amount of time in Holland and am in complete admiration of the bike transport lifestyle. Unrelated to bikes and transport, but related to Dutch in Portland, do you know of a networking group for Dutch newcomers to Portland?
You sound quite familiar with Portland and American lifestyle, so I thought you might have some advice.
December 4, 2005 7:35 AM
Scott Mizée Says:
Hi Michelle, My dad and his family moved to the Oregon Coast from Holland in the 40's. There are quite a few Dutch people living here. I would suggest contacting Hans and his wife at the Dutch American Market and Import on Canyon Road in Beaveton. Due to their business, they come in contact with a large portion of the Dutch community. http://dutchstore.citysearch.com/?cslink=profile_info_website_cust I don't speak much Dutch and am not a native of the Netherlands, but I would be happy to meet your boyfriend when he comes here if you would like. Tot Zeins!
April 9, 2006 12:20 PM
My husband recently moved to Portland from Rotterdam and we are searching for a Dutch community, chat, etc. as well. If you have had luck finding a Dutch group please let me know. When your boyfriend arrives maybe we should stay in touch. -Sheri
May 3, 2006 2:56 PM
I love your memories of bicycling around the Netherlands for daily transportation. I wish North Americans would be less dependent on their cars and more concerned about their health and environment.
I will be traveling to the Netherlands and am wondering if I should take my own bicycle or rent one there. I hope to bicycle to a few other countries as well.