Cycling is encouraged in Holland during the coronavirus pandemic as it's good for both the body and the mind. What is it like to be out on the bike with all the restrictions?
All around the world countries are in lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Chances are that you are pretty much house-bound at the moment. No long cycle rides, let alone a cycling holiday abroad to look forward to in the near future.
In Holland the government has chosen a less restrictive approach, the so-called intelligent lockdown. Schools, attractions, museums and venues such as bars, restaurants and sport clubs are closed, events have been cancelled and only people are to work from home as much as possible.
But while official guidelines (in Dutch) advise people 'to stay at home as much as possible', we are allowed to go outside for fresh air as much as we want. Obviously, as long as we do it safely, in other words if we stay 1.5 m apart from people (with the exception of members of your household and children of 12 years and under) and don't go out in groups of more than 2 people.
Despite coronavirus, cycling is encouraged by the government - both for the daily commute and recreation. Travelling by bike is considered safer than using public transport and it's a good way for many people to get some much needed exercise. So what is it like on the cycle paths with all the restrictions?
Before the coronavirus outbreak cycle paths were busy places, especially during morning rush hour. In cities such as Utrecht bike traffic jams were a regular occurrence. Now the once overcrowded cycle paths are almost deserted. Just a few lone cyclists heading to their essential jobs. Plenty of room to keep to the 1.5 m distance rule if you take care when overtaking other cyclists or waiting at a traffic light.
On the cycle paths in the countryside used for recreation it's a completely different story. So many people are travelling to their favourite destinations to enjoy the tulip fields, seaside, woods or polders, that authorities are concerned the 1.5 m distance rule can't be maintained - even on regular week days - especially when the weather is fine.
To prevent overcrowding in the countryside access roads to car parks at popular recreation destinations are closed off for motorised vehicles. Cyclists and hikers are welcome. The idea is that this way everyone can enjoy the outdoors in their own local area without the numbers getting out of hand.
New cycling etiquette
We've noticed that it's busier than usual on our local cycle paths - even with the recommended early start in order to spread out the number of cyclists over the day. Most of us are doing our best to keep the appropriate distance of 1.5 m apart.
Trying to anticipate what other cyclists might do when passing and overtaking, or waiting at trafiic lights. It's not always easy. Will they stay cycling two abreast or go single file? Do I swerve to the other side of the road to pass? A strange choreography that's new to us all. Along the road a new cycling etiquette is being created.
Now we see people out on their bikes who under normal circumstances would never go for a recreational bike ride. The bike has become a much used mode of transport to get away from home and find a quiet place to enjoy the exceptionally fine spring weather. Especially in the afternoon, when the necessary work has been done, we find all benches along the cycle paths are occupied and people are out on their picnic blanket relaxing.
It's great that we can continue to go out on our bikes. Hopefully we will all manage to enjoy the outdoors responsibly and safely, so no further restrictive measures are needed and we can keep on cycling. How long the current coronavirus measures will stay in place is not clear, but it's likely they'll last all through the summer of 2020 - if not longer.
Coronavirus measures: No bikes on train
Due to coronavirus measures Dutch Rail does not allow you to take your bike with you on the train from 12 May 2020. Tickets for the bike are no longer available. Folding bikes and special needs bikes for which you don't need a ticket are still allowed. For the latest information, see the website of Dutch Rail.
Update 25 june 2020:
From 1 July bikes are allowed again on the train. You are requested to reserve in advance online or via the Dutch Rail app.
Update 20 March 2023:
Reservations are no longer required.