Cycling in Ireland vs Cycling in the Netherlands


Visiting this blog you might have come across some blogposts from the Dutch intern at An Óige, Imke. Well, I’m her partner Heleen, and not too long ago I was approached with the question if I would like to write blogs for An Óige as well, so here I am! Just like her I am also from the Netherlands and I’ll be occasionally sharing posts about Ireland and Dublin.

The Netherlands are well known for being a country that is very fond of cycling. We Dutch people cycle everywhere, and everyone does it! Yes, even our own Prime-minister cycles to work.

Dutch prime minister cycling to a meeting with Obama
© anp Yep that’s him alright! Cycling into his meeting with the USA President Barack Obama.

People might wonder what made us the cycling country that we are today. The most obvious answer would be very simple. Our country is flat. Very flat. However, it is not that simple at all. Just like any other country the Netherlands experienced an increase in cars and traffic accidents after World War II. It was the way the people and the government reacted that brought about the well-known cycling infrastructure that we have now. (This is not a history lesson, but if you are interested in how it happened exactly there’s a good video in English.)

And then there is cycling in Dublin. At first I was a bit concerned. I have lived in London for half a year and the traffic there was horrifying; I never even thought about getting on a bike there. Yet living so close to the city center here in Dublin and being able to save on travel costs, we decided to get bikes anyway. I was pleasantly surprised too! The traffic here seems to be polite towards cyclists on the roads, and there are more cycle paths than I initially expected.

2 girls with their bikes in temple bar, dublin
Imke and me, with our bikes in Temple bar.

Yet no matter how you look at it, it is very different from cycling in the Netherlands.

  1. Cycling left was a challenge at first, especially on roundabouts or when taking a turn into an empty street and automatically staying on the right side of the road. But trust me, you get used to it a lot quicker than you think.
  2. The road itself is like a mountain bike trail. Unlike the roads in the Netherlands, which are often well maintained and without too many bumps and dents; the roads here require a lot of attention. Once you get used to it, you know exactly where that huge hole is and when you have to pay more attention to the road. Aside from that there are also less cycle-only paths, so we’ve taken to wearing reflective vests when cycling after dark just to make sure cars can see us.
  3. The only time you have to put in extra effort in the Netherlands is when you’re going against the wind or over a bridge. But here most of the road from the city center to our home is uphill. It is very good for your health though! Daily workout and with an added bonus that going into work requires less effort because it is downhill. In this regard it is very much like Finland where I did my exchange a couple of years ago where the campus was on the bottom of the hill I lived on; only in Finland there were no cycle paths at all and you were required to cycle on the pavement!
  4. The bikes. Yes the bikes here are different from those in the Netherlands. We have these type of city bikes. Off course we have the race-type bikes and mountain bikes that you see a lot around Dublin. But most of the bikes in the Netherlands look similar to this one.
a typical dutch bike
A sort of city bike, the low frame makes it easier to get on with every day clothes and it’s generally a good bike for cities. The wheels are usually not as wide and rough as mountain bikes but neither are they as thin as those race bikes.
  1. I learnt to dislike those people on their flashy racing bikes with their thin wheels. Especially when you’re struggling up a hill on your mountain bike with the wind blowing in your face and you feel like you’re going so slow that you might topple over and then suddenly WOOSH this super-fast bike flashes by and leaves you in its dust.
  2. The weather here is not that bad actually! I know the Irish all think that it rains here more than anywhere else. Sorry to break the bubble, but it’s not true! So far in the last two months it only happened twice that I got into work soaked. So if the weather is one thing keeping you from getting a bike; don’t worry, it doesn’t happen that often at all! I’d almost say I got rained on more often in the Netherlands than here.
  3. There are no cycle traffic jams. In the Netherlands it gets really crowed on cycle paths around peak times. This is a huge pro in Dublin, you get to ride as fast as you can without actually constantly having to overtake people instead of being stuck behind them.
  4. Last but not least; in the Netherlands cycling is considered normal. We generally don’t see it as exercise or doing sports. Whereas here in Dublin if you cycle you’re regarded as being healthy! To be fair though, it is a lot more of a work out with hills!

So all in all, I do enjoy cycling here. I’m glad that we got the bikes as it gives us a lot more freedom to go wherever whenever without it costing anything. You have to be careful with locking it, though that’s no different from the Netherlands (although I never used two locks before I got here! But better to be safe than sorry!)

Tip: If you’re interested in getting a bike in Dublin too, we got ours at Cycle-it. It’s just around the corner from Dublin International Hostel. Cycle-it is a community project where people can donate their unwanted and broken bikes and Cycle-it fixes them up and sell part of them at an affordable price here in Dublin. The rest is shipped to Africa to give to people there.


5 thoughts on “Cycling in Ireland vs Cycling in the Netherlands

  1. Nice insight. Not just into the Netherlands versus Ireland (well, Dublin, mostly, I suppose), but also Dublin versus London. I had wondered whether London was very much worse than Dublin. Apparently so.

    1. Hi Ryan, yes we cycled only in Dublin so far but who knows! Dublin was a big surprise for us if we talk about cycling, and it was a really pleasant surprise too as you could read :) Thank you for your comment, glad you liked it!

  2. Hoi Heleen
    Nice first blog. I used to live in the Netherlands (Utrecht) for a few years and I liked it a lot. The excellent cycle infrastructure is really a joy to use. You’re right about the weather in Dublin; it doesn’t rain as much here as people like to say but remember that dublin is the driest part of Ireland. I do think it rained on me more when I was in Utrecht compared to Dublin, but I’m not made of sugar or rice-paper so it doesn’t matter anyway. Once you have good cycle infrastructure, a little rain isn’t going to stop you from using a bike, anymore than it would stop you from walking outside. :)

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