Bicycling Is a Big Dutch Treat in the Netherlands

Izon is a Canadian travel journalist covering youth budget routes.

Young travelers wanting to cycle in Europe should visit the Netherlands.

There are 14 million people and about 11 million bicycles. Cyclists there get more respect and better services than in any other country.

The major advantage to cycling in the Netherlands is its 6,200 miles of bike lanes and paths, and its cyclist traffic signals. Much of the time you don't have to share a road with cars. In fact, you can't take bicycles or mopeds on main roads if a separate cycle lane exists.

Seeing the Sights

In addition, Netherlands land is generally flat. Also, you can calculate that if you are an average cyclist, you will likely travel at 9 m.p.h. on a trip. Cycle paths take you to colorful bulb fields, windmills, castles, canals and forests.

Algemene Nederlandse Wielrijders Bond (ANWB), the royal Dutch touring club, is the Netherland's automobile association. ANWB has designed more than 60 routes that vary from 15 to 30 miles.

It also has placed thousands of mushroom-shaped posts along the cycle paths. Each has a number that corresponds to the ANWB tourist map, so you can always find yourself.

Cycle-route information and maps may be purchased at the 300 tourist information offices, identified as VVV, throughout the country.

General information on cycling, traffic rules, holiday packages, accommodations, maps and cycling associations is available in "Cycling in Holland," an annual publication by the Netherlands Board of Tourism. For a free copy, contact the board at 605 Market St., Room 401, San Francisco 94105.

The Netherlands youth hostel association offers a package that includes a three-speed bike, repair kit, poncho, bag, road map, temporary hostel card and coupons for seven nights at hostels with breakfast.

You can start the package in Amsterdam, Arnhem or The Hague, and you get to keep the bike when you finish.

Bed and Breakfast

Cost is 575 guilders (about $334 U.S.). The cost for a night in one of the 50 Dutch youth hostels, with breakfast, is 17.50 guilders (about $10 U.S.).

Arrangements for the bike holiday program, offered March 15 to Nov. 1, must be made at least one month in advance. For details, contact the Nederlandse Jeugd Herbergne Centrale (NJHC), Tulpplein 4/1018 GX, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Many places will rent or sell bikes, and every year more than a million new bicycles are sold.

If you are going to rent, you'll have to present your passport and leave a deposit of between 50 and 200 guilders.

The average rental is 5 guilders (about $2.90 U.S.) per day, 22.50 guilders (about $13 U.S.) per week.

More than 100 rail stations have bike-storage facilities, and many also offer rentals.

At the stations, travelers with valid train tickets are offered rental rates of 4.25 guilders.

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