Urban planning vlogger Not Just Bikes explains how and why bicycles in The Netherlands are different from those in other countries, particularly in Canada and the United States. It basically comes down to the way bikes are culturally viewed. While other countries view bicycles as a means of exercise, the Dutch use them as a primary form of transportation.
There’s a good reason for this uniqueness: in the Netherlands, bicycles are seen as a tool for everyday transportation. A way to get from point A to point B, quickly and efficiently.
This necessitates both comfort and ease in a bicycle, thus the “Omafiets” (grandmother bicycle). This upright, step-through bike makes it easy for all genders to ride to work in their work clothes, carry their children to school, or just ride around town running errands.
The primary difference is that this is an upright bicycle. It’s built to ride in an upright sitting position. This is an inefficient position that will not transmit maximum power into the crank during a pedal stroke. Plus it’s totally not aero. But who cares? What the upright position does provide, is comfort. The handlebars on this bicycle are high-up and swept back, making it extremely comfortable to ride.
There are also additional items that are considered standard in The Netherlands that are not considered to be so elsewhere including front and rear fenders, a kickstand, a specialized valve, an advanced locking mechanism, and a dynamo that attaches to the rear wheel to charge the light on the bicycle. But mostly, it’s a convenient way to get from point A to point B without much fuss.
It’s so great to have bicycles that aren’t for sport. Bicycles whose primary function is to be there when you need it, to carry your shopping … or your friend … and to be used with as little effort as possible. No special gear or costume changes required. This is a point that’s often overlooked. Because, while it’s obviously important to have safe streets and cycling infrastructure, it also makes a difference to have easy access to practical, low-maintenance bicycles like this one.