I have been following the Dutch Cycling Culture from the last five years and always thought that someday I will visit the cycling paradise. After six months of meticulous planning, finally I visited the Netherlands in June 2023. Since I had planned my trip in advance, I emailed some of the important people in the cycling industry and secured an appointment with them.
My travel dates were from 2nd June to 15th June 2023 during which, I visited the cities of The Hague, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Haarlem, Nijmegen, Rotterdam, Delft and Giethoorn village. And for two days I visited my friend Stefan Voormans in Nettetal Germany.
The people in the Netherlands are friendly, polite, helpful, and welcoming in nature. Being a cycling blogger from India, I have developed valuable relations in the cycling community across the borders through social media. Now was the time to capitalize on the opportunity and meet in person some of the greatest minds from the cycling industry.
During my stay, every Dutch citizen I approached for help and directions, they guided me accurately with utmost curtesy and respect. So, I didn’t shy away from asking for help whenever I needed to get around or inquire something google didn’t had answers for; as I was alone in the country, and it was my first solo trip to Europe.
I am documenting here my meetings so that my followers should be aware of the possibilities of engagements in the internet world and the cycling industry and how open the Dutch society is when it comes to establishing international relationships.
Here is a list of eight prominent people I met in the Netherlands:
Michiel Van Zuijlen:
Michiel and I became good friends on twitter and when I told him about my travel plans, he invited me to The Hague on 3rd June World Bicycle Day to be a part of the bicycle flashmob (more about this in my next blog). Michiel took me around for site-seeing on a rented blue and yellow OV-Fiets bicycle and introduced me to a lot of local cyclists including the current Bicycle Mayor of The Hague ‘Remco de Rijk’ and the former Bicycle Mayor of The Hague city ‘Marcel Kleizen’ both of whom are working in collaboration.
We spent a day together exploring the city and I was overwhelmed with the great cycling infrastructure the Dutch people have created for themselves. I was impressed with the hospitality offered by Michiel and his friends to a foreign national who was new to the soil and was nervous in the beginning but was made to feel very comfortable by the kind treatment and fellowship. Thank You Michiel for everything and I am sending you lots of love and best wishes from India.
On 5th June 2023, I was invited by Janine Hogendoorn to her house in IJ Burg, Amsterdam. She is the founder of Ring-Ring app. Ring-Ring is a unique cycling app that encourages the use of bicycles with rewards attached to the kilometers you cycle. You can learn more about this app on this website https://ring-ring.nu/
Janine is a visionary leader and very enthusiastic about her start-up project and has a road map ready to scale up her business. She was very affectionate during our interaction and shared her knowledge and experience about her visit to India to introduce the Ring-Ring app to the Indian government officials. We went for a bicycle ride and had a nice conversation while pedaling in the scenic and secluded areas of IJ Burg. Through this blog, I want to thank Janine for her time and efforts in briefing me about her plans and the importance of combining technology with sustainable development goals.
My connection with Adam Stones dates to 2019 when I first read his book ‘The Limey Project’ and published a review on my blog. We exchanged emails thereafter on several topics and he agreed to meet me in Amsterdam on the 6th of June 2023 over a coffee and the famous Dutch apple pie.
Adam Stones is an award-winning writer and communications strategist from the UK. In 2016, he re-located to Amsterdam and founded the purpose-focused enterprise A’DAM Communications. I urge you to visit his website https://www.adamstones.co/ to learn more about him and his work.
Adam gifted me his latest book ‘INFLUENCE’ which is about ‘How to speak, write and brand yourself as a leader.’ We also spoke about our common interests in cycling and his four different bicycles that he rides on different occasions. He narrated a story of his stolen bicycle and how he happened to find it again ‘Luck-By-Chance’, which was extremely fascinating. I admire Adam for his soft-spoken nature and his endeavor to cycle all the way from Haarlem to Amsterdam just to meet a stranger who had nothing to offer in return other than a friendly hug that we shared. Long live our treasured friendship.
The moment I wrote about my visit to the Netherlands to Maud de Vries, the Co-Founder of BYCS in Amsterdam, James was the first from her team to respond to my request. James works alongside Maud and looks after the worldwide Bicycle Mayor Leadership Program.
BYCS is a non-profit organization with a global mission to accelerate the use of bicycles with a vision ‘50by30’ – half of all worlds commute should happen on a bicycle. To recharge this campaign, BYCS have appointed Bicycle Mayors as leaders to spearhead its mission in their respective cities. There are around 150 bicycle mayors appointed globally with presence in Africa, Asia, Europe, America, and Australia. You can visit their website https://bycs.org/ for more information.
James and I had a focused discussion about the Indian cycling context and the kind of work that is happening on the ground level. About 50 bicycle mayors are currently active in India who are representing BYCS and involved in the advocacy of cycling with the local community and lobbying with the local government and municipalities for a better cycling future. I want to thank James for his energetic approach towards transferring the Dutch expertise in cycling to the world.
I guess almost every 3rd cyclist in the world must be aware of who Chris Bruntlett is; for he is very popular and famous for his social media posts and photography ability. Chris Bruntlett and her wife Melissa Bruntlett are a Canadian couple who moved to the Netherlands few years ago. The couple have authored two fantastic books ‘Building The Cycling City – The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality’ and ‘Curbing Traffic’ and I had a chance to read both these books and recommend you to read them if you haven’t still.
Chris works as a Marketing and Communications Manager at the Dutch Cycling Embassy (DCE). The Dutch Cycling Embassy is a public private network for sustainable bicycle inclusive mobility. They represent the best of Dutch Cycling: knowledge, experience and experts offered by private companies, NGO’s, research institutions, national and local governments. They call themselves as an intermediary between the demand for Dutch cycling expertise and Dutch parties that can deliver. They have a website https://dutchcycling.nl/ which covers more details of the organization and the work they do.
I had the privilege to meet Chris at the DCE office in Utrecht city on the 7th of June. He took me around for a spin on a typical orange color ‘Omafiets’ with a back-pedal brake’s, sweep-back handles and comfortable saddle. We passed through the world’s largest underground bicycle parking garage ‘Stationsplein’ which can accommodate over 12000 bicycles. (More details about the bicycle parking garage in this blog post by Mark Wagenburr https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2019/08/20/finally-fully-open-utrechts-huge-bicycle-parking-garage/).
Chris highlighted specific sign boards which are put up to facilitate cyclists and help them make decisions on the go. For instance, one sign-board had an indicator which showed how many bicycle parking slots are available at the Stationsplein. Next, he also showed me road markings on streets that has cars with lower speeds – 30 kms to be precise. Chris and I also discussed about how bicycle infrastructure is encouraging for the disabled people to be independent and exercise their right to mobility.
If you are interested in cycling or want to learn about the evolved cycling culture of the Netherlands, then I advise you to follow http://www.modacitylife.com/ for their advance knowledge and command over this subject.
It was a dream come true cycling side-by-side with Chris Bruntlett and sharing space with one of the most intellectual minds in the cycling world. Cheers Chris and see you soon on my next visit.
Post my meeting with Chris Bruntlett, I had a subsequent one scheduled with Herbert Tiemens on the same day. Herbert is an Urban Planner and works with the municipality of Utrecht. He is involved in Urban Cycling Policies and a board member with the Dutch Cycling Embassy.
My friendship with Herbert started through facebook and we continue to engage with each other’s post. Herbert has been a cyclist since childhood and has over two decades of cycling experience when it comes to cycling policies and infrastructure.
Herbert prefers to cycle everywhere and has explored almost all of Europe on his two wheels using pedal power. His bicycle is an extension of his legs. In 2023, he cycled to Leipzig to attend the annual Velo-city Cycling Conference where he was a speaker. Bicycle touring comes naturally for Herbert and he prefers staying connected to nature and even likes camping on his road journeys.
Herbert and I sat next to a majestic canal for dinner. We witnessed the glory of water transport with boats passing by on a perfect summer evening savoring on a scrumptious Dutch food.
I have no words to thank Herbert for his valuable time and sharing his travel tales with me. Despite being such a senior personality, Herbert is a down to earth man and a person to look up to for his ideas and proficiency in the subject of cycling.
There are cyclists and there are cycling documentaries. Anything and everything that you can imagine around cycling is available in Holland. I met Gertjan Hulster on social media in 2019 and got an opportunity to translate captions in Hindi language for his first cycling documentary movie called ‘Why We Cycle’. And our friendship extended further when I watched his second movie ‘Together We Cycle’ and published a review on this blog. Visit the website https://whywecycle.eu/ for more information.
Gertjan Hulster is an award-winning director of the two documentaries and is currently working on the third one ‘Untitled’. When I informed him about my visit to Haarlem on 8th of June, he immediately confirmed it. He offered me a chance to feature in his third documentary by filming my interview and consider an outsider’s perspective about the Dutch Cycling Culture. If I have spoken sense, then I might get featured in the final reel or else get edited out. Either way’s, I am grateful to Gertjan for giving me this exposure.
After the shoot, Gertjan and I rented a bicycle and explored Haarlem in a local style and stopped by at a café for lunch. Haarlem is a colorful city with open spaces, old architecture and plenty of greenery and connected cycle tracks to move around. If you are a traveler planning to visit the Netherlands and want to look places beyond the crowded Amsterdam, then Haarlem is a good choice.
My meeting with Gertjan was more than fulfilling and I had a wonderful time learning the subtle nuances of cycling from Gertjan. He is a very humble personality and willing to lend his ear to listen to your point of view. No wonder, he is in the field of movie making and story telling because he is a good listener and demonstrates plenty of patience in his character. Thank you Gertjan for everything and looking forward to watching your third movie.
I met Jos on twitter in 2018 and approached him to participate in an interview for my blog and he obliged. At that time, I had just started this blog but still, Jos showed faith and trusted my platform for his presence. Since then, we never looked back and remained connected on several occasions and mostly focused on the topic of Cargo bikes.
Jos Sluijsmans is the Director of the International Cargo Bike Festival (ICBF) and lives in Nijmegen. Since 2004, Jos Sluijsmans has dedicated his professional life to the promotion of the cargo bike, cycling, and cycle logistics as the most healthy, sustainable, inclusive and efficient mode of transport.
Together with his partner Tom Parr, Jos organizes the ICBF every year and this year the event is going to be held between 24th-26th November in Amsterdam, Netherlands, more details can be found on this website https://cargobikefestival.com/
Jos has a personal collection of vintage cargo bikes which are currently displayed in a public place in Nijmegen. I had a chance to view some of his bikes which are well maintained and a must see for every cycling lover.
We spent our day cycling in the cargo bike where Jos was the rider, and I was the passenger. It was a completely different feeling sitting in the front basket of an electric cargo bike and to be ridden on the high-class cycling infrastructure by a seasoned professional. I couldn’t have asked for more. Thank God!
Jos shared his knowledge of the city infrastructure in Nijmegen, and we had a discussion on wide ranging topics related to mobility, events, conferences, and the future of cycling. He even complimented me for my Birthday Photoshoot blog, which was motivating, and I was surprised that he remembered about it.
We had 3 stopovers for food and drinks and the places that Jos took me were all unlike and served local Dutch food. We tasted salads, juices, cheesecake, coffee and finished by visiting the oldest bar in the Nijmegen called ‘In de Blaauwe Hand’.
It was an exciting day spent in the city of Nijmegen and I am truly indebted to Jos Sluijsmans for his warmth and kindness bestowed upon a novice person like me. Sending you hugs from India.
Whom I couldn’t meet and plan to meet on my next trip:
Maud de Vries, Co-Founder of BYCS.
Mark Wagenbuur, blogger of Bicycle Dutch and cycling ambassador of the Netherlands.
Marco te Brommelstraat, Social Scientist and urban planning expert at the University of Amsterdam.
Tom Parr, Co-Founder International Cargo Bike Festival.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai