We spent day 5 of our trip in the town of Houten, located in the Utrecht province. Houten is renowned for its sustainable transportation policies that support cycling and walking over the use of automobiles; as the city expanded in the 1970s, the key focus was to make a more livable and safe city. This was achieved by approaching design and planning with a car free structure, and adding public space like greenery, schools, and water. In the city of Houten, bicycles never have to stop for cars.
Figure 1: Rainbow Houses in southern Houten
Key Design Elements
What sets Houten apart is the ring roads that surrounds the city. Within the rings, cars can only access parking in neighborhoods on the perimeter; the town centers can only be reached by bike and pedestrian paths. To get to another point in the city by automobile, one must exit to the ring and drive around the loop — due to the large number of cycling paths, biking is the fastest and most efficient travel mode (Foletta, 2010)
Figure 2: Map of Houten, Outlining Roadway Ring (adapted from Google Maps)
Figure 3: Example of Roadway Ring
City Heart Centers Near Transit
Houten has two city centers, one in the northern section and one in the southern section, that are known as the hearts of the town. What makes these city centers so important is their connection to railway lines that lead to larger communities like Utrecht. This connectivity to bigger cities even further supports the lack of need for automobiles; this is supported by a top notch Dutch transit system that you will hear more about in the next blog.
Surrounding the city centers and intersecting the neighborhoods are green belts that house parks, large open spaces, and waterways. In planning the town, emphasis was placed on the use and availability of public space to replace the larger motorways that were no longer necessary. Not only do the green belts beautify the town and increase public well-being, but they help spread the town density out by running parallel to major cycling tracks; these make the parks easy to access.
Figure 4: Greenbelt near Centrum Houten
Two Level Roundabouts
The cycling routes in the two rings are connected by a series of tunnels that go under the roadway to allow for easy access between town sections. In the middle of Houten is a very unique two level roundabout that features automobiles on the top section and bicycles on the bottom. Out of all the roundabouts we have used in the Netherlands, I felt the most safe on this one due to the complete separation of auto and bike; while this design feature is not applicable everywhere, Houten is a shining example of what can be done with the proper design approach.
Figure 5: Two Level Roundabout
Would this work in the US?
It would be incredible to see a city like Houten work well in the United States, but this would require a lot of far planned out design and change of general opinions on cycling. I think about my hometown, Peachtree City, and the massive network of multi-use trails located throughout the town. You can really get anywhere in the city by bicycle, yet nobody uses the trails for more than just recreation. I narrow down this problem to two main reasons:
Car access through the city: unlike Houten, wherever cycle paths are located, car roadways are also present, running either directly parallel or nearby. The staged elimination of these car roadways would help increase the amount of cycling through the city; this would have to start off small by possibly closing roads surrounding some of the key hearts to the city.
No access to transit: The nearest transit station is 20 miles away, so there is no way for people who live in this community to get to larger cities/locations like Atlanta and the airport. In Houten, 66% of people living in the town work elsewhere, and a similar trend can be seen in Peachtree City; by expanding transit to the center of the city, there would be an increase in interest of biking the shorter distance to the station and taking the train to finish the trip.
In the 1970s, Houten, like many other cities in the Netherlands, transformed its streets to incorporate protected bicycle infrastructure. However, Houten went a step further in its designs by creating a unique inner core that is completely bike-oriented. Although this was not the original goal for the community, instead it was proposed as a “Livable City” that was centered around the idea to create a pleasant and safe atmosphere for its residents. Therefore, cars were taken out of the equation, which left biking and walking as the main forms of transportation. A “ring road” for cars was built around the city boundary, but no cars are allowed within the center. Since biking is the most common form of transportation within the city, planners designed the layout to make sure that cyclists were given direct routes to their destinations. For example, bridges and tunnels were built to allow bicycles access over or under areas with highly dangerous car traffic near the Ring Road as seen in the image below. This allows cyclists to safely bike past cars without stopping.
Low Level Roundabout
This approach in design has created a better quality of life. Not only is it safer for the public, but this design also creates less air and noise pollution within the city center; it allows neighbors to live closer to each other and live closer to desired destinations, such as schools, stores, and markets, without constricting their livable space; and it is more economical to create and maintain bicycle infrastructure.
Vision for the United States
While there are numerous benefits to Houten’s design approach that are desirable, it is unlikely to see a similar project in America, but not impossible. Houten has taken several decades to develop into its ideal structure. And its progressive designs were conceived at a time when the town was small, and when the Dutch people all across the Netherlands were demanding more bicycle infrastructure. Houten is also reliant on public transportation since it has two train stations within its boundaries. These combined factors are not commonly seen in modern-day American cities. Many suburbs with public transportation access to bigger cities are already well-developed with major roadway infrastructure for cars. And the United States is not currently facing a huge public outcry for better bicycle infrastructure, like the Netherlands experienced in the 1970s. However, this approach is not impossible to create. City Planners in America are already developing New Urbanism designs, like the creation of Seaside, Florida. This design focuses on creating a more connected and pleasant community for pedestrian accessibility. While New Urbanism designs intend to eliminate cars, similar to Houten’s approach, they prioritize walkability over bicycle transportation. Additionally, there are many Dutch-inspired protected bike lane designs taking root in cities and towns across the country. For both of these reasons, it is possible to imagine a city like Houten in America, but it will only occur if there is public demand for biking.
Houten offered a new picture compared to what we saw in Delft. For the past few days, we have been able to navigate our way around the historic Delft and interact with varying infrastructure that provides a seamless way around town. In Houten, a city in Utrecht curated to be a “liveable city,” was designed with a very specific image in mind. As Andre Botermans said, Houten is intended to not just be a cycling city, but a city where people can walk and cycle easily, and children can play. Cars simply do not fit into that formulation. To compromise and service those that work and frequently travel outside the city, there are ring roads around the city that allow for vehicular traffic flow around the perimeter. Within the city, bike routes come in all forms: quaint paths, wide paved streets, and tunnels all provide safe connections between points of interests and neighborhoods. One unique feature that attests to Houten’s commitment to safety is a two level roundabout that separates cars and bikes entirely, pictured in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1. Two-level roundabout
The approach Houten takes requires a wholehearted pledge to the community that cycling is prioritized, and in turn the public responds by trusting the infrastructure; this includes letting their children bike to and from school alone, fully utilizing the paths, and limiting personal car usage.
Set Free in Houten
Today, we were let loose to bike around this bicyclist’s paradise and find out for ourselves what paths to blaze, and determine whether or not this type of city could exist in the United States. We started out uncertain of destinations we wanted to see, but quickly found that as long as we stayed within the ring road’s confines, we were bound to see some interesting design features. Besides passing through the old village and the city center, most of the sights seen included residential districts and schools, connected by well-maintained, wide paths. Older folks were seen walking around leisurely, kids biked to school, and, to our surprise, a fair amount of cars snuck up behind us and kept us on our toes, which we did not expect to encounter. We passed through a set of “rainbow” houses, pictured in Figure 2, unique playgrounds, and well-designed park areas that led me to really understand just how planned out this town was and still is. Truthfully, the uniformity was very strange, and I felt because of the homogeneity and perfection the city boasts, some character was lacking.
Figure 2. Biking over Rietplas
With each new feature we encountered, it had me thinking how unlikely this would be in the United States in a city comparable to Houten. I can imagine a very undeveloped city, possibly near the coast with a wealthy population and ideal climate, being able to plan their city with Houten in mind. A town like Daniel Island, near Charleston, comes to mind, as it was developed recently and has plenty of right of way to create a system like Houten boasts. It would have to be an “oasis” of sorts, with all the right boxes checked. I think a very important piece that was not mentioned enough today is the necessary public transit piece. While it is clear Houten’s residents enjoy the quaint feel their city has to offer, over 2/3 of their inhabitants work outside of the city, and this is where mass transit is so key. This is also where I have a difficult time seeing a small city adopt Houten’s design idea. With that idea eliminated, a small city closer to in-place public transit is the next contender for this bicycle oasis. With the connection to mass transit, adequate funding, and with a wide shift in mindsets from the public – and I’m not sure which of those is harder to come by – the ring road design could be implemented in smaller towns that are either undeveloped, or require and have the space for redevelopment.
Houten is an extremely great example of the potential of city planning and how to build a mid-urban suburban development straight from the beginning of design ideation. With the integrated planning approach, the Houten municipality decided to create a transportation system that truly protected the most vulnerable user and insured that the biking and pedestrian infrastructure was not only adequate but also robust. This resulted in a city center and a vast majority of Houten to prohibit the use of cars and encourage the small trips to be done though alternative modes of transportation--most namely bikes. Moreover, the city makes it harder for cars to traverse the city due to the Ring Road, limited intracity access, and an adequate enforcement system. The presenter continuously harped on the fact that the space, noise, and safety concerns of a car-centric development went directly against the ideology of childhood safety, easy trips, and a more cohesive lifestyle that was definitely seen as our design group explored the Houten development.
Double Roundabout: Example of Bikes being Completely Separate from Car Traffic
With the Houten trip, one of the first implementations of the robust biking/pedestrian infrastructure was the ease of access between the rail-line and the rest of the city. This type of model is truly revolutionary in terms of solving the last mile problem that plagues that United States so much. It not only allows for Houten to be connected to so many other major city stops such as Utrecht and The Hague but also creates two centralized locations in the city where the business life, civic life, and political life in the two city centers can flourish. Additionally, due to the shape of Houten, it is evident that the planning was done around these two stations to adequately accommodate the citizens as well as the growing population.
Furthermore, the fact that the bike routes had different colored route numbers throughout the city was very helpful--especially for us who do not speak Dutch! Much like many of the interstate highway systems in the United States, the bicycle routes of Houten only required a few seconds glance in order to know if you were going in the right direction and if you were heading to the right place. This meant that our group was able to navigate the routes rather quickly without having to stop with the map multiple times. This is very important for bikers as it limits the amount of distractions and time that would be used if that was not the case.
Bridge Across the Numerous Train Tracks (with SERAH!!!!)
As far as the United States goes, this is not completely feasible in the urban setting but definitely capable in the suburban setting. For example, the ideology of the average American is that they have a right to use their car to get them from point A to point B without much interference--even from traffic. Moreover, due to the car-centric funding models of different Department of Transportation offices and municipalities, it is difficult for the average American city to completely overhaul its infrastructure to create a bike-centric city like Houten. The culture of America and the pride Americans have in their roads also hinders the likelihood that this move would be good politically--especially since a first-hand account of a city like Houten is not readily available to most Americans. However, due the scale of Houten and the scale of modern American suburbs, it is very easily implementable if and only if it is designed from the beginning with the Houten model in mind--especially since it still allows for the members of America to still own cars and travel to work in the urban areas if needed. Finally, the last thing that would hinder the American suburb to adopt this model is the lack of heavy/light train access throughout the nation. It is quite evident that the train stations are a huge driving force of the success of Houten; therefore, there would have to be an extension of intercity rail-networks in order for something like this to be successful in America.
Houten is an idealistic city created in an almost perfect circumstance. The ring road around the perimeter encloses a town full of happy children, safe streets, and proud residents. Andre Botermans, a city planner who works and lives in Houten, gleamed about the town's achievements and accolades for their system of cycling infrastructure. Most routes within the ring are free from vehicular traffic, and so cyclists and pedestrians can safely travel without having to stop and yield to cars. Children can bike to and from their schools, and to any of the plentiful playgrounds. The city is centered around two "hearts", which are both located at train stations. It takes less than 20 minutes to bike from any house in town to the train stations, and from there it is only a 10-minute ride to the thriving metropolis of Utrecht. Two thirds of people in the Hague work elsewhere, so it is important to connect biking and walking with public transit. Trains go from Houten to Utrecht and Rotterdam, and buses go around Utrecht to other cities in the area.
Figure 1: Houten Houses with Car Parking
Figure 2: Bike Path Towards Houten Castellum Train Station
Figure 3: Two Level Roundabout Separates Cars from Bikes and Pedestrians
Some of the most interesting features of the bike network are the two-level roundabout, the bicycle bridge over the water, and the dual city hearts. These features, along with many others, earned Houten the "cycling City of the Netherlands" in 2008 and 2018. The overall planning of the town makes cycling a very appealing option for residents. Bikes are allowed on all the paths, which provide direct routes between neighborhoods and other destinations within the town. Car parking is also typically about 100 meters from houses, which encourages cycling or walking to close destinations. Planners also prioritized greenery and water along routes, which creates lovely views as you travel within Houten.
Realistic Applications in the US
I think small towns in the U.S. could create a similar system for cycling, but they need to have connections via transit for longer trips. Near my hometown of Germantown, MD, the DC metro stops in many suburbs. There is new funding and a biking master plan for Montgomery county, and some suburban areas are already designed with housing, schools, offices, and shops within a three-mile radius. If cars were rerouted around these communities, the existing arterial roads could be converted to bike paths. From an infrastructural point of view the transition would be reasonable, but there would have to be an acceptance of the cultural shift from all residents in the community. Most Americans value the convenience of driving, and they would be reluctant to change their daily travel modes. This idea could be better suited for new developments with a focus on young professionals. With enough resources and willing inhabitants within the ring road, the Houten model for cycling could be effective in American towns.
Dr. Watkins said it best: “the only stressful thing for Dutch cyclists is dealing with new American cyclists on their paths.” From our first cycling tours around the city of Delft, it is clear that the Dutch have fine-tuned the best practices for safe street designs. Their bicycle infrastructure is safe because it is continuous, recognizable, and intuitive for all users. The cycle paths are also impressive because they are well connected throughout the entire city. All across the city, the streets were designed to accommodate all modes of transportation. And different design techniques were used to enforce safe, stress free measures for cyclists. Roundabouts and protected intersections ensure safe transitions at junctions for cyclists and pedestrians without hindering the traffic volume through-put for cars. Bike boulevards provide convenient through access to more major roads for cyclists while inhibiting car traffic. And advisory lanes for cyclists are used for streets with limited space. As seen in the image below, two-way traffic is allowed on this street, but the cars must not impede on the bicycle space if there are cyclists around them. All of these measures show that cyclists are prioritized over cars in the Netherlands. Cyclists are always given space or infrastructure accommodations when needed. Streets are also designed to give the most direct route for cyclists, whereas cars may be slowed down or prevented on certain bike-designated streets.
Advisory Bike Lane
In the Netherlands, cycling is perceived as a necessity for daily use, similar to how Americans perceive cars as their go-to form of transportation. When our group went out for a bicycle ride on Sunday, very few casual cyclists were on the road, but on Monday we were never alone on the cycle paths. In America, this may be the opposite situation for cyclists because more people bike on the weekend as a leisure activity. These differences in utility are important because it leads to a different perception about cycling. In the Netherlands, bikes are perceived as a necessity for local transportation, therefore their cities would not function properly without them.
American Bicycle Design
The United States, unlike the Netherlands, does not have bicycle infrastructure that is connected across the city. For example, Atlanta has a few cycle tracks, but they are scattered around the city and they often stop at intersections. Even on minor roads near the established safety tracks, safety measures are not identified or enforced for cyclists. This is not just the case in Atlanta, but in towns all across America. City streets give priority to cars because that is the common form of transportation. At intersections, cyclists must merge with traffic to turn, which is dangerous and difficult for an amateur bicyclist. American bicycle infrastructure is still a work in progress, but the Netherlands system shows a good example to start from.
My first impressions of the Netherlands came when Serah & I arrived on Friday morning at 7 o’clock in the morning. The timeliness of the country was almost immediately palpable when we were coming through the train station and were looking at the different people rushing through out it. Even though Dr. Watkins had originally told the class that time was much more respected in this country, it was not until I had witnessed it first-hand that I truly understood it. The trains, cook times, and business hours were all completely more respectful of the customers’ and the servers’ time compared to that of America.
This impression was also definitely seen in the more liberal culture of Amsterdam and the Netherlands overall. For example, after talking to a few Dutch people on the train, they explained how their culture was definitely more proactive in the way that they approach many problems. They explained that one of these problems was the ideal of legalized marijuana and prostitution. To them, having an unorthodox but regulated market of these two extremes--compared to American culture--are much more manageable and economically stimulating than enabling a black market where these things are done without regulation. This idelogy of proactivity is also seen in the way that public transit and bike infrastructure are used in ways to make sure that the nation does not go towards the car-centric, unsustainable approach that America has implemented.
These two impressions of the Netherland’s culture truly transcends into the bike infrastructure. It is evident that the bike infrastructure was not only done to ensure a timely transportation option for the bikes, but it was also evident that they had understood that investing into something as proactive as bike infrastructure would ensure the longevity of their land as it would lower the Netherland’s impact on global warming. Therefore, I truly enjoyed the ability to truly travel the entire Holland landscape with the bike infrastructure.
However, these bike facilities in the Netherlands are extremely different than the United States. To begin, the way that the Netherlands approaches the incorporation of bike facilities is completely different. In the United States, due to the fact that a majority of America still thinks that bikes are for recreation instead of actual transportation, there is not much push for bikes and the vision for the wise investment is not understood. Therefore, bike facilities are always on the road and separated bike infrastructure is sparse and unconnected in general. However, with the Netherlands, the most vulnerable user in the system is held paramount. Thus, the priority for the bikes is heavily seen and the priority of pedestrians is ultimately understood. Therefore, there were many bike facilities--especially on the way to the Maeslantkering and throughout the city of Delft. With roundabouts that understand the bike should be yielded to and the multi-use facilities for bikes, bus, and cars in the streets was extremely exceptional. Finally, it is definitely understood by the way the cars yielded and were extremely understanding of the bikes that the culture of the bikes were truly upheld and that multi-modal transportation was embedded in the culture in general.
En hier zijn we allemaal! What a whirl of a couple of days it has been since flying into the Netherlands. My flight from Atlanta was a redeye, but I was fortunate to grab a couple of hours of rest. While I thought that I would be able to manage the public transit system, upon entering the airport station it was apparent that MARTA had not trained me well enough. By a stroke of grace, a friend not affiliated with the class who happened to be on the same plane assisted me with finding my train to Delft, as he had been to the country twice before. Upon arrival, I was able to stay with my new Dutch friend, Koos! He is a member of the Dutch Navigators and a friend of a friend of a friend! What a joy when things like this work out.
While I could talk extensively about stroopwafles or 14th century churches, the infrastructure is the purpose of this trip and is what we have engaged with the most. Over the past few days, the group walked, biked, and rode transit.
How does design differ from that in America?
The infrastructure differs from that I have encountered in the states in many ways:
Grade separation of modes and/or speeds
Prioritization of cycling over other modes
Public transit that is feasible for daily use
Beautiful yet functional design
Grade separation is a wonderful concept employed by the Dutch. Raised grade crossings such as the one shown below intuitively indicate that the consistent grade has the right-of-way. This is one of the methods that gave me a sense of safety as I biked in front of cars.
An interesting difference is that the Dutch seemingly compromise other modes for the sake of a strong cycling culture. Car capacity in Delft is reduced, transit ridership is reduced due to the bike’s convenience, and pedestrian facilities are sometimes smaller or have less investment.
"I don't think that you would find a light post in the middle of a cycle track"
Using intercity trains in tandem with trams, navigating the country has been a breeze with travel from the airport to Delft, to Rotterdam, and beyond.
The picture below touches on the beauty integrated into most Dutch designs.
The image is from the Delft library. Inside are books, study spaces, recording studios, and much more. The library functions as a city asset but does so with a flare coming from painted steps, art exhibits, and more. This same drive is integrated into the Dutch transportation infrastructure. Rarely have I looked at an intersection or roadway in the US that caught the eye. They are quite common here, however.
In everything, the Dutch demonstrate an eye for detail and a priority for the bike in all transportation planning and design. Whether cruising on a bike superhighway in the country or safely navigating an intersection with separated bike traffic and bike-centered signal timing, cycling is a mode positioned in the Netherlands to be popular for years to come.
“Cycle tracks are like Art in the Netherlands, and Science in the U.S.,” said one of my classmates earlier today while we were on the bike facilities tour. As I pondered on this for a while, I realized that this sums up my initial feelings about Dutch bike infrastructure. Art appeals to one’s emotions, intuitions, and intellect. While riding to Delta Works in Maeslantering, it became challenging after about an hour. In fact, I remember asking April, the Teaching Assistant, how much longer we had, only for my soul to crash at her response when she reluctantly said, “About an hour.” It was at that moment that I decided I would simply enjoy the scenery and enjoy the journey rather than think about the destination. Although I was undoubtedly exhausted, the suitable biking infrastructure that changed throughout made it more interesting.
Design Differences and Prioritization of Cyclists
In terms of design, it is evident that cyclists are prioritized. There is bike infrastructure on almost every road. On our way back to Delft from Maeslantering, there was a stretch of road where there was no bike infrastructure – no cycle track, bike lanes, or advisory bike lanes. However, this was on a country, residential road without heavy vehicle traffic. When it comes to traffic signals, most, if not all traffic signals, include signals for cyclists, pedestrians, and motor vehicles. I was especially surprised to see a turn signal for cyclists. Another major design difference is in the color of bike infrastructure. In the U.S., the pavements on bike lanes and cycle tracks are painted green, while they are red in the Netherlands, as shown in the image below.
In the Netherlands, where roads may also be red, I realized that the roads and bike paths are paved using different materials. In this case, the roads were bumpier. This may not only be to further distinguish between the two but to also slow down the vehicles. Also, because bikes are prioritized, roundabouts are more common in the Netherlands than in the United States. Roundabouts are beneficial because cyclists can continue their journey, they improve traffic flow, and improve safety. An example of a roundabout that we saw during our tour is shown below.
It is also clear that cyclists are prioritized with the construction of bridges and tunnels. During the tour of the bicycle facilities today, we were able to see a bridge that was constructed in order to shorten the travel distance and more easily connect one side from the other. Tunnels are also constructed for the same reason. However, if not to cross a body of water, tunnels may be preferred due to many reasons. There is a shorter height clearance required for tunnels as only the height of the cyclist is taken into account. A tunnel is also not as high as a bridge and thus requires less work from the cyclist, in terms of biking uphill. Without these bridges and tunnels, cyclists would have to travel much further than they need to.
Cycling in Dutch Culture
Cycling is part of Dutch culture. It is part of who they are. It is part of their lifestyle. The Dutch use bikes to get to work, wearing a dress or suit. They use bikes to rush to their 11 am lectures or to transport their children to school. They also use bikes to get to the grocery store, to list a few. I have seen young children rushing home after school on their bikes. I have also seen elderly people biking. It is so deeply rooted in their culture that, when I am speaking to locals and share with them that I am here to study Dutch bike infrastructure, they look astounded. In the Dutch culture, cycling is a usual mode of travel that is cheap, convenient, environmentally-friendly, as well as good for heart health. They love cycling, as is portrayed in the image below. It is this beauty that makes cycling in the Netherlands like Art, although plenty of Science has gone into making it the best in the world.
I would have never uttered these words a few weeks ago but ever since arriving in the Netherlands, everything has changed. I feel the same way about biking in the Netherlands that I did about taking transit in Boston; it gets me where I need to go with a smile on my face.
Smiling through the Netherlands (not pictured: my cute pink bike)
Cycling in the Netherlands
I arrived in the Netherlands last Friday, 3/15/19, and have been exploring Amsterdam, Gouda, Rotterdam, and Delft on a bicycle. I feel confident casually biking around the city and really think it is the best way to get around! Cycling infrastructure is prominent and I have the ability to get to where I need to go. I am surrounded by other cyclist but not in an intimidating spandex way. When I bike around the Netherlands, I feel like singing (even more than I normally do) because I am so calm and happy. It is very unlike when I was biking around Atlanta and I was on edge and (mostly) not singing.
Roadway design in the Netherlands always gives bikes a safe way to travel. Bicycles have a separated lane, track, or road for travel and they aren’t mixed in with the traffic. At intersections, bikes have a clear (red) path to follow separate from cars. When cars and bikes do mix, cars must yield. Bike traffic lights at intersections allow bikes to pass an intersection before vehicles. When I did interact with vehicles at intersections, we both had designated spaces to wait. Both intersections and straightaways are built for bike safety and are sensitive to the surrounding speed, volume, and context. The Netherlands contains a huge network of paths for bikes; Anywhere people would want to go, they can use a safe bike facility. Although we have a few bike lanes in the US, trails often end at the intersection and leave a cyclist vulnerable when there are the most potential conflicts. In the US, bike facilities are designed to fit next to/in speeding vehicle facilities and bike design is often an afterthought.
Classic Dutch photo featuring canals, small houses, leaning tower, and of course, bikes!
Power to the (Bike) People
Most streets are for bikers and pedestrians first and then cars (if there are any). Cars must yield to cyclists so I always felt safe at intersections. In the Netherlands, I was able to follow the red bike lanes without worry or stress even though I was still not-too-familiar with standard bike and car interactions because I knew that as a biker, I was often given the priority.
Unlike in the US, utility cycling in the Netherlands is the status quo. While traveling with our large group, I heard many bike bells but only a few car honks because biking is more common. We saw all ages ride, from kids learning with training wheels to older folks picking up groceries. Biking is just a part of the dutch pleasant way of life because it gets them to where they need to go in a safe manner.