All about cycling in the Netherlands
“Celebrate women’s achievements. Call for greater equality. #Make it happen.” This is the theme of the International Women’s Day in 2015, that is celebrated today, 8 March.
I always feel fortunate to live in a country where the rights of minorities are generally treated with respect. That doesn’t mean everything is always as it should be, not even here in The Netherlands, but I am fully aware that it can be a lot worse too. This is also true for women’s rights. In general there is respect for half of our population, but unfortunately there still is imbalance in certain topics. When it comes to equal pay for instance, something that should have been behind us for a long time already. But we do still need a greater awareness for women’s equality in this field.
There is one thing regarding women, however, that goes very well in The Netherlands. The number of women who ride a bicycle. We are the country with the largest percentage of women cycling. In fact, more women than men cycle in this country. A fact we only share with our rival Denmark.
When the Guardian wrote about Dutch women cycling, last October, they nailed it when they wrote: “Dutch cities are equipped with networks of separated bicycle paths, and as a result they actually have more women cyclists than men.”
But they went the wrong path completely, when they continued to say “American women’s lives are still disproportionately filled with driving children around, getting groceries, and doing other household chores – housework that doesn’t lend itself easily to two-wheeled transportation. It turns out that women may be more likely to bike in the Netherlands because Dutch culture is giving them more time to do so.” No, no, no! We are not that emancipated at all in this country! Dutch women also do those chores far more than men. But they do them on a bicycle! You see, that housework does lend itself for two-wheeled transportation very well, when you have that network of separated bicycle paths! The fact that Dutch women do these household chores more than men, is precisely the reason why they make more journeys on a bicycle than men.
If have shown you before how the Dutch get their groceries, in my shopping by bike video, and you will see that it is mainly women doing the groceries! A school run in the Netherlands involves a lot of bicycles. Parents, usually mothers, ride with children on bicycles when they’re still young. From the age of about 9, but certainly from 12, children cycle everywhere alone. So the Dutch don’t have to spend so much time driving their kids around. When Dutch parents do take their children somewhere, it is also done on a bicycle or a bakfiets often.
The fact that women can cycle everywhere in safety up to a very high age and that the same goes for girls from a very early age, gives them a great freedom to travel. And the freedom to travel independently is also a very important aspect for (women’s) emancipation. In “City Cycling” (2012) we read: “The Netherlands, in particular, has achieved one of the highest rates of female utilitarian cycling in the developed world by establishing cycling as an appealing, convenient, and safe form of everyday travel for women of all ages, including during the child-rearing years. It is therefore an important model for other developed countries where few women cycle for transportation.” (Garrard, Handy & Dill; Chapter ‘Women and Cycling’, p229) So: #makeithappen, you can see here that it can happen!
My video with a focus on women cycling in The Netherlands