All about cycling in the Netherlands
Some people think large bridges or other exceptional infrastructure is what draws people to this blog, but no, it’s the babies. No really, the most viewed post is the one where I show how the Dutch ride with their babies and toddlers. I wrote that post almost two years ago, but it is still in the top three of most viewed posts almost every day. So let’s get into that topic some more!
To the Dutch cycling is as natural as walking, so they cycle everywhere and for a myriad of reasons. That doesn’t change when the family expands. From the moment a baby can sit upright, special child-seats are attached to the bicycle of either mum or dad and off they go! When a second child arrives and is able to sit upright as well, it is usually around the time the first born is just becoming too big for the front seat, so places can be swapped. The eldest moves to the back seat and the front seat is taken by the youngest. This can change one more time about two years later, when the youngest is also too big for the front seat. At that time the front seat may be exchanged for an extra saddle on the frame. That is easy for the bicycles for men, but these additional saddles also exist for a bicycle without the horizontal tube. That extra saddle can then become the seat for the eldest and the youngest takes his or her former place at the back. Then again 2 years later the eldest can cycle on his or her own, and the youngest can take the extra saddle, until that child is also old enough to cycle by itself.
That is the full cycle of the bicycle arrangement for a typical Dutch family with two children. Many families cycle with their children. It is not something only a fringe group in society does. This is a fully accepted way of transporting young children, by every generation. That’s why you see so many grandparents cycling with their grandchildren as well! Few things are more attractive than riding with your child, seeing the wind in their hair and the excitement it gives them. As the video shows, a lot of trips are for transport (especially with the mothers) and many trips are for leisure (especially with the fathers). It is also interesting to see that a lot of grandfathers cycle with their grandchildren, but fewer grandmothers. What the reason for that might be I cannot begin to imagine.
Some observers from a different background look at this habit in shock and awe, especially when they see the bare heads of all these children. But that is not where the danger lures in transporting your children like this. The body parts that are injured most are the feet. A safety board estimates that about 2,300 children per year need medical treatment after their feet were injured, because they got entangled in the spokes. This may sound like an awful lot, but you have to consider that of the 14 million bicycle trips per day in this country, many are made with children as passengers. A third of these injuries are just minor scratches and bruises and 15 years ago the number was closer to 5,000 injuries. So the number of injuries has dropped dramatically; 37% in the period 2009-2013 alone. It has been mandatory to have feet protection on new children’s seats since 2004. Apparently the older second hand seats without this protection are finally being used less and less.
With the modern seats there is really nothing that stands in the way of transporting their babies and toddlers safely on a bicycle for most of the Dutch. The children are also very happy on the bicycles and it shows.
My video for this week shows a lot of happy children on their (grand)parents’ bicycles.