Miffy on her bicycle

It’s not so strange that world famous Miffy would ride a bicycle. True, I haven’t seen any other rabbit on a bike, but Miffy is Dutch! So it goes without saying that she would be able to ride a bike. Even more, she is from Utrecht like I am. Or should I say: her creator is.

Miffy Nijntje
Miffy on her bicycle and Nijntje on her fiets. It is a very Dutch bicycle too: upright, with fenders and a chain guard!

Dick Bruna is the man behind Miffy, or Nijntje as she is called in Dutch. This is short for Konijntje: little rabbit. I have more in common with the creator of Miffy. We went to the same school in Utrecht, even though we are almost 40 years apart. Last but not least Dick Bruna rides his bike every day like most any Dutchman does, but Dick is well in his eighties! Which only proves that 8 to 80 is no more than a nice catch phrase. In reality the Dutch start cycling when they are younger and continue to do so when they are (a lot) older!

The clear drawing style of Dick Bruna works perfect for children and his work is loved all over the world. Especially in Japan where his style fits in with their traditions. Some even think Miffy is Japanese, but that is definitely not the case. She is as Dutch as a windmill, or should that be Omafiets.

Because his work is so appealing to children it is also used in a friendly method to educate very young children (under six years of age) about how they should behave in traffic.

Traffic education by Dick Bruna
Some images of the method to teach very young children about traffic behavior. With drawings by Dick Bruna. These examples show them how to use a zebra crossing, how to stop at the curb, how to sit at the back of their parents' bike and how to use a cycle path.

Miffy and her creator are honored in Utrecht with a statue, a square and a museum.

Her friendly older creator does charity work too. The video shows him at work: bike in his hand. I hope he’ll be able to create a lot more in future and wish for him  that he can cycle around the city for as long as possible.

14 thoughts on “Miffy on her bicycle

  1. And cycling even manages to find a place in creating world peace. It drastically reduces the dependence on countries with oil to survive as a society. Which means that terrorists in the Middle East, in South America, and other places with oil would be defunded by a huge amount, leading to their collapse. Saudi Arabia might even collapse with their brutal fundamentalism without the money from oil. Others can get around quickly and effectively and carry a lot of cargo in all different weather conditions on bicycles, leading to more freedom and education opportunities. You might be unable to dedicate enough time to going to school if you had to walk there, but on a bicycle, you can get there many times faster. And many other good things come when bicycles take their place as the best form of transportation humanity has ever devised. Imagine if the Romans had the ability to mass produce bicycles.

  2. There are Miffy lights outside the bijenkorf by the Neude and there’s even a rainbow coloured crossing painted on the road now. I was in Utrecht a couple of weeks ago. I am head over heels in love with Utrecht, Nijntje/Miffy, the Dom Tower and the Spoorweg Museum. I love the roads full of cyclists and how smooth and easy it is go get around there by bike. I am planning on moving there in the next year, I can’t wait!

  3. There used to be Miffy pedestrian crossing lights next to the Neude Plein, but they were removed during a road layout redesign. You should campaign to bring them back 🙂

    1. These are the exact same traffic lights that came from Neude. The lights from Neude were removed as the road layout redesign made them redundant. You see traffic lights disappear all over the Netherlands. They are not needed anymore in more modern streets. Whenever a junction is redesigned as a roundabout (and we are talking thousands of them) traffic lights disappear. Also on Neude, that didn’t even become a roundabout. There private motorized traffic was banned almost completely. Pedestrians, cyclists and public transport (even on streets with thousands of buses a day) can easily negotiate right of way without traffic lights.

      1. I think he means find some other traffic light where pedestrians can find it in medium high levels, like the area around the Central Station in Utrecht where the traffic lights are not going away very soon.

  4. I remember reading Miffy books as a child, and am often reminded of the following by my parents. Whenever we used to go to IKEA in Warrington (nearest one to where we live in Manchester before they built the Ashton one) I used to say when we were in the car that Miffy was following us on her bike – even though this was the M62…
    And I believe that it was only when we went to IKEA, had we of been travelling down the same stretch of motorway to go somewhere else she wouldn’t have followed us. Bit odd really but then again thats me all over!

  5. I only started reading Dutch childrens’ books when I was in my forties and starting to learn Dutch. They’re very cute, and very often include cycling as part of the story.

    In one that I remember, a very young boy had to progress from riding on the front of his Mother’s bike to the back of his Mother’s bike when his baby sister was old enough to ride on the front. For the older child this meant he could be proud of being just that little bit more grown up than he was before.

    BTW, I think the charity deserves a link.

    1. I certainly agree that his charity is quite excellent. But I disagree that the immensely destructive nature of modern war has rendered it unattractive. The First World War was so destructive that it was called ‘The War to End All Wars.” Alas, human nature is such that this fond hope did not come true.

      As John Clarke wrote in 1925,

      “…resort to science has rendered modern war so destructive of life and property that it presents a new problem to mankind, such, that unless our civilization shall find some means of making an end to war, war will make an end to our civilization.”

    2. I know about having to read childrens’ books when I was learning (should I be saying trying to learn French. I just didn’t get enough immersion to learn it well. You live in Assen which almost everyone speaks English on a day to day basis). Childrens’ books, because they contain simple language, is perfect for beginners. It still took me a long time to try to learn the story of the Big Bad Wolf when I was even 11 year old.

  6. Yes, as a mammalian anatomist with marked autistic tendencies I often wonder how you’d get a rabbit to ride a bicycle: their back legs are simply the wrong shape. The Moscow State Circus used to have a bear that could ride a modified bicycle, having been trained to do so (one assumes) by the time-honoured Russian method of giving it violent electric shocks until it bloody well rode the thing! But a bear’s hind legs are very differently constructed from a rabbit’s.

    Anyway, enough of this prattle: good luck Nijntje and long may you pedal the streets of the Netherlands. All I can say is, you wouldn’t get away with it in Britain: the child-safety guardians would be demanding to know why you aren’t wearing a helmet, and the Daily Mail would be foaming at the mouth about negligent Dutch rabbit parents who let their offspring out on the roads unaccompanied while they sit in their burrows smoking spliffs and drinking six-packs of Heineken.

    (Sign seen outside London butcher’s shop circa 1978 when the film of Watership Down came out: “You’ve read the book; you’ve seen the film. Now eat the cast.”)

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