Reality is What You Think You Know

If you ever visited The Netherlands, you noticed that biking is not only used for sports but as one of the means of transportation. According to the National Cyclists Federation there are 13,5 million bikes in this country for a total population of 16,9 million inhabitants.

We use them to go to work, weddings, concerts, shopping, etc., and to transport ‘batches” of kids in one go, by using a special bike made for that. I cannot forget to mention that there is a bike that carries coffins to funerals as well. So, you got the picture. 

You will not find the same in any other country in the world with a similar level of wealth. The Dutch like the bike for the independence and flexibility that it offers; particularly to be always on time and for being a cheap way to move around.

You will see young and old, men and women, rich and poor, and even car owners biking.  These are not just short rides. To put things into numbers, that is how it works in reality is: on average, a Dutchman rides each year 300 bike rides for about 878 miles. A quarter of all trips and one-third of all trips is up to 7.5 kilometers. This makes more than 4.5 billion annual bike rides and make 15 billion kilometers. And there are around 35.000 kilometers of cycle paths in the country.

What you perhaps don’t know is that there is a black market for stolen bikes. The last estimate made by the CBS Central Bureau of Statistics for the annual theft rate is this: in 2008 – 858,000 which increased by 4.5% in 2009 to 897,000. And that is why we use old and rusted bikes, and spend more money with bike-locks than the bike itself.

I gave you all these statistics to tell a story.

On one occasion I cycled together with my husband and daughter to meet Brazilian friends at the Central Station in Amsterdam. I recollect their age being around 70. They travelled with their granddaughter.

Later in that evening, when we met again for dinner, the granddaughter told me a very funny story. Granddad had been in shock to see us riding bikes in such poor state. He asked her if we were having financial difficulties!

If you also don’t know, besides being not a small and flat country like the Netherlands, Brazil is a country of real social discrepancy. Those who cannot afford a car, use old and rusted bikes, as perhaps  the only means of transportation.

Until today when we meet them, we have a big laugh remembering that day.


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Sharing sights & insights captured with diverse angles. Ex-corporate, now my own boss. Cycling, hiking, cooking, reading, yoga, writing and photography, are no longer only hobbies listed on my resume. It's what I do when I want.

33 thoughts on “Reality is What You Think You Know

  1. So interesting about the bikes in The Netherlands. The black market for stolen bikes reminds me of what happened to my daughter when she was away at college. During the time she was living in the college town she had 2 bikes stolen. There was a real market for stolen bikes there. We had bought her a really nice bike too. The second one she has bought herself. After her first bike was stolen I gave her my old bike that was a bit rusty. She would ride her bike everywhere and go on rides with friends. She was in great shape after all that cycling. Funny how your friends from Brazil misinterpreted your old bikes. 🙂


  2. I’m so envious of all the cyclists and bike paths you have in Holland. I can only dream of something similar here. I would just love it if everyone gave up their cars for the humble bicycle.


  3. It’s the same case with Hong Kong. Almost zero crime rate except that people steal bikes. So most of us would rather own rusty clunky bikes with screechy brakes. You don’t see many expensive bikes save for those owned by serious bikers who go on trails during the weekends or newly relocated expats. 🙂 That’s what I miss in Bangkok. Biking around. I refuse to buy a car so I am walking it or riding public transport. But give me a few more months and I will have gotten used to the traffic system and I will have a push bike or even a cute little Vespa… 😉


  4. This is so interesting! I really think it’s such a great and healthy idea to bike ride! I just bought a bike this summer and used it as an exercise tool yet not as a traveling/shopping mode of transportation….I should rethink it!


  5. Riding a bike in the city is just so convenient. I also spend more money on a lock than on a bicycle! Fortunately only had one stolen so far (which was chained to a lamp post). It’s the freedom of being able to get around quickly from A to B, not having to sit in traffic, although their are certainly bikes (scooters, E-bikes, bicycles, motorbikes) to contend with, but when it’s raining or snowing – I’m quite happy to leave it at home!


  6. Bike is indeed a healthy and eco-friendly alternative to motorised vehicles. In India, people use bike either due to compulsion (poor people do this) or as fashion (well to do people do this).
    Some serious guys ride a bike for their morning dose of exercise (and to have some fresh air in the countryside. That includes me sometimes.).
    However the biggest challenge for an Indian biker is safety on the roads which are really not so bike-friendly.


  7. Reminded me the first time I visited your country! Soo many bikers everywhere and such tall people!! Loved your post, also took me back to Bangkok, where I did the stupid thing of booking a Bicycle tour of the city. I felt good when I discovered I d be biking with a bunch of senior. I cried when I discovered they where all from Holland. A very humiliating experience of me carrying my bike all the time in the tiny little Soi while they were almost dancing on theirs …


    1. I had a big laugh with your story. It’s so true. The Dutch are giants and master the cycling skills. I confess that I envy those who can ride without using their hands, which are busy holding a phone and carrying other things. I cannot do that. My daughter tries to teach me, unsuccessfully. So, I join you on that ‘humiliation’. Thanks for sharing.


  8. My “new” second-hand bike was stolen within days after I moved to Finland. The lock was cheap and I used the back tire bar lock. Friends told me later that people pick up the bike by the back tire and wheel it away. I then had a borrowed “granny” bike, made sure to lock it *to* something with a better lock and managed to not have it stolen. There was also a huge black market for stolen bikes. This was in 96/97 and I assume not much has changed!


    1. It seems that the black market of stolen bikes has gone global…it’s the same exact experience. You should see how my city bike looks…and still I use 3 locks and have to find a poll to lock the bike on to, if I want to find it again.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I went to Amsterdam because I did not believe that the majority of residents cycled instead of driving. I had to see for myself. I was surprised to see that this was true. The bike garages took me by surprise as well. Cycling is more convenient, cheap and good for your health. I wish this could be adopted in Zambia as well.


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