All about cycling in the Netherlands
“How do you get to all those places in your videos?” Several people have asked me this question recently. The answer is by bicycle, for the final 15 kilometres at least. When I have to travel further I use the combined modes of train and bicycle. In that case the bicycle is a public-transport bicycle (OV-Fiets) most of the time.
I have my own bicycles in Utrecht and ʼs-Hertogenbosch, so all the trips for posts in and around those two cities are made on my own bicycle. To film for all the other posts around the country I take the train to the nearest station and rent a bicycle there. Usually there is a train station less than 5 kilometres from the location where I want to film. Only on one occasion I had to cycle over 15 kilometres one way, because there isn’t a nearer (convenient) station to the new bridge of Naaldwijk. In that case, however, I could combine filming. I not only filmed that bridge, but also the new Delft station, where I rented my bicycle that day. So the videos for Delft and Naaldwijk were actually filmed on the same trip.
video of the rental procedure and the ride in Bussum
To show you how convenient train-rental-bike travel is, I filmed the 4km (2.5m) ride to a location where I already filmed twice before: the heath north of Hilversum. For that location I took the train from ̓s-Hertogenbosch to Bussum-Zuid. Trains run every 30 minutes on this route and the 80.5 kilometre trip (car route) takes only 58 minutes by train. That is exactly the same time it would take by car. So this also explains why I do not own a car. Most of the time the train is just as fast, or even faster than going by car in this country. We travel ticket-less in the Netherlands. Like most people I have a public transport chip card and we simply swipe our card at the start and end of a journey in public transport (and when we change providers). The nationwide system is comparable to the Oyster Card in London. There are several different types of cards. There are pre-paid cards that you need to charge before you can use them, but mine is a subscription for free travel on a certain route (ʼs-Hertogenbosch-Utrecht). If I travel outside my route I have to pay for those trips at the end of every month. The amount for that month is simply deducted from the bank-account that is connected to this card. My public transport chip card is also connected to my OV-Fiets subscription (for which I pay 10 euros per year). Every rental of an OV-Fiets (€3.15 for the first 24 hrs) is also included in the total amount that I have to pay per month. This system means I never have to carry any cash for either train journeys or renting a bicycle. This makes getting on and off a train and renting a bicycle very quick. The video shows you just how fast and convenient the procedure is. On this particular journey I cycle from the train station I through the entire town of Bussum on very convenient cycling infrastructure to the forest and the heath. It takes me less than a quarter of an hour to get to where I wanted to be. Getting somewhere in The Netherlands is usually this easy and that makes my trips to a film location like a nice outing. I really enjoy getting to places that I have never visited before and I love cycling in those unknown places. My blog would not have existed as it is now if the OV-Fiets system didn’t exist.
It is has been a while since I wrote about OV-fiets so let’s do a quick recap with updated figures. Every year about 1.5 million journeys are made on an OV-Fiets. This number grows every year. In the coming years the Railways expect 200,000 journeys extra every year. The current trips are made on 8,500 bicycles from 252 rental stations by 180,000 subscribers. (Those figures are from the end of 2014). To be able to grow so fast the Railways announced in June 2015 that they will buy at least 1,000 new bicycles per year in the coming 3 years. The Public-Transport bicycle is very successful but only residents in the Netherlands can use it. That is because a Dutch bank account is required to be able to pay. This doesn’t mean people from abroad cannot rent bicycles at Dutch railway stations. Most stations with a manned bicycle parking facility offer ‘normal’ rental bikes too. The list of rental locations is quite impressive. But renting such a bicycle is a bit more complicated and also more expensive (about €7.50 per day). It usually requires a cash deposit of quite a bit of money and you will have to present proof of your identity. The only reason I do mention OV-Fiets on my blog, even though most of my readers won’t be able to use it, is that it is a successful part of the efficient transport system in The Netherlands and I use it a lot myself.
The video shows how I rent a bicycle at an automated station. People have asked what happens if the bicycle is not okay for some reason. Bicycles can become unusable if they have a flat tyre or if the saddle can no longer be adjusted. In winter you will have to check the batteries of the lights as well. Occasionally you will end up with a broken bike. That doesn’t mean your money is gone. You simply return the bicycle right away. The machine always asks if the bicycle is in working order. If you answer “no” and you have just rented the bike the fee is not charged. You leave that broken bike and simply rent another one. The broken bike is taken out of the system until it is fixed. The organisation is warned automatically so they can send a mechanic. Of course this can also happen in a manned station. I once tried to ride away in Amsterdam and after a couple of hundred metres I heard a loud bang and felt something smashing against my right leg. To my surprise the hard plastic chain case had broken in two and one part had got entangled in the chain that got totally stuck because of it. I walked back to the rental station (lifting the back wheel up), showed staff what happened and they gave me a new bicycle right away at no extra cost.
So that is how I get around the country!