If you’ve ever been to Holland, you’ll know that the Dutch love bikes. Go to a mainline railway station, for example, and there are no carparks, but there are acres of bike racks. I suspect the Dutch are like mothers who can tell the cry of their baby from any others, because I’d be hard pushed to find my specific bike in the sea of them.
One of the reasons the Dutch have an enduring passion for bikes is that the country is a great place to cycle. Apart from some gently rolling hills near Nijmegen, the country, being merely dehydrated seabed, is flat as a pancake, making cycling very easy indeed. Also if you’re a driver and hit a cyclist, it’s your fault. No arguments. This means there’s a lot of considerate driving in Holland.
The love-in with the bike has led to an unexpected problem. A normal bike is pretty wiggy all told, so a bike rack or shed doesn’t need to be colossal to get a lot of bikes in. But the Dutch being the Dutch have made a rod for their own backs. Bikes generally have a whopping big basket on the front, like the ones your granny took to market; fashionistas may use a crate instead. Put some panniers on front and rear, and your grid is becoming a bit of a porker. Child seats? Getting bigger. Add a two-child buggy trailer, and suddenly your ride won’t fit in a standard size bike rack or shed.
This has become a major angst in Amsterdam particularly, and study by a rail operator and an infrastructure body has recommended the building of ‘supersize’ bike bays at railway stations. The Dammers have already responded by building bigger bays in garages for the ‘Hummer bikes.’
There’s also been a call for wider bike lanes, and this has raised some blood pressures in the normally stolid Dutch. Women loading their bikes up with all the children can be accused of being ‘self centred.’ Things get worse if you have a y chromosome, when for some reason you may be regarded as ‘not a real man.’ I can’t figure that out.