Cycling in the Netherlands in the 1950s

It looks like they got a little head start on us.

From markenlei’s YouTube channel

32 Responses to “Cycling in the Netherlands in the 1950s”

  • todd says:

    2:42 is an Esso Petroleum tanker… tricycle.

  • Alex Moll says:

    Brought a tear to my eye – my idea of a utopian society. Absolutely fantastic. Thanks for posting that, Alan.

  • Alphons says:

    So cool. My father is from Holland, I am now living in Asia. I hope someday we can live like the 50’s more bicycles then Cars.

  • Brad Eschler says:

    What a great film clip. These people look like they are having fun. I loved the oil tanker.

  • john Riley says:

    Seems like it was warmer and sunnier in those days. ;-) Interesting Velocar like quad in there. Surprising number of yank tanks on the road (American cars).

  • Jack says:

    And not a helmet in sight.

  • Paul Lowe says:

    great clip, we are going to show it to our trainee instructors, we use lots of good video on our 4 day course as it gives the tutors a break from speaking!
    paul lowe

  • Larey says:

    That’s the way I remember England in the late 50’s, especially rush hour near the factories when the roads would be full of cyclists heading home. That time period was still post-WWII and the shift from wartime production to consumer production was not finished. Wages were going up, but cars were not yet being produced in great enough numbers to satisfy the demand. London had a lot of traffic, but not so much outside of the large cities. Holland took a different path than other European countries and refused to tear up everything old in order to accommodate the growing demand for cars. So their bike culture is not something new or revolutionary, it’s simply the way things were before everyone had cars.

  • Scott Wayland says:

    Maybe a view of the future, too? We will run out of oil eventually, although probably not for a while. A beautiful video. I’m reminded how lonely it is in my neck of the woods for cyclists. We’ve been having some fantastic weather down here in the southern Sierras at 4,000 ft–highs in the 50’s and 60’s. I’ve been out every day, sometimes more than once, running errands on bikes/trikes. As usual, my wife and I are the ONLY ones doing functional cycling as far as we can see. I also haven’t seen anyone out for sport riding. I’m sure there are a few, but only a few.

    Did you see how fit everyone was in that video? Compare that to your typical American city today. I’m the only one at the grocery store loading up panniers, and person after person in the store is a staggering, obese disease process filling their carts with more junk to ensure their demise! Arrrgh! Sometimes in the grocery store I want to yell at the top of my lungs to wake up these people. Of course, I would be the crazy one in this scenario, as people don’t hesitate to say when I talk about riding all over the place. We’re either crazy or super athletes doing things that the average person could never manage. Maybe given the sorry state of “average” that’s true, but dang it, people, you’re bodies are built to move!

    Thanks, Alan. A real treat.


  • Karen says:

    Wish the world could go back in time, at least for a day, and see how history could improve aspects of the present and future.

  • Roland Smith says:

    Beautiful video! I like the music as well.

    @Scott: reagarding fitness, there wasn’t much in the way of fast-food available in those days! AFAICT, there was not a lot of food anyway. Some foodstuffs were rationed in the Netherlands until the mid-1950s!

    I absolutely agree that we’re built to move our bodies!

  • Joel van Allen says:

    Awesome and inspiring! Like finding the future in the past. I’m jealous!

  • John in Roseburg says:

    Cheap ( subsidised ) motor fuel will stifle this for the short term in the U.S. When gasoline reached $4 / gal in our town a while back the number of bicyclists on the streets increased perceptively overnight then died off when the price declined. Wait until gasoline goes north of $5 / gal and keeps rising to see the potential for bicycle transportation in the urban U.S.

  • John says:

    That was a great Video,It reminded me a bit of what it was like when I was a Child in Dublin. I said a bit because even though there are similarities with an awful lot of People using Bikes in Ireland way back then pre1965 it still is not as much as this Video of the Netherlands.

    Even then when they still had a lot of Cars on the Road they had a Bike Infrastructure far better than ours. After that time 1965 we went off in a different Route that of the Motorcar and the Netherlands went in the other more Bicyclists and better Infrastructure.

    Today our Roads are full of Cars,but the good News is People are discovering the Bike again and more and more Cyclists on the Road demanding a better Infrastructure.

  • Larey says:

    Another thought occurs; while my annual bike vs. car miles certainly qualify me as “Car Lite” I’m actually “Bike Heavy”. The only reason my car miles are low is because I like riding my bike much more than driving.

  • J.. says:

    This video might be somewhat misleading. People might think, just as Alan seems to do, that things never changed in the Netherlands. In fact, in the sixtees and early seventies, Holland had enormous declines in cycling, as the car became more popular and people had the wealth to buy one.
    So, it’s not like the Dutch resisted the car-centric trends. The processes leading to car dominance had already taken root in the late seventies when a consious decision was made to reverse them. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it is some sort of cultural thing, but rather, 30 years of hard work. Most of what the they have achieved in terms of cycling can be replicated in other places, given the right policies, commitment and proper funding.

  • Alan says:


    “People might think, just as Alan seems to do, that things never changed in the Netherlands.”

    Nope, didn’t say that or think it. But here in the U.S. we’ve never, during any era, had anything even remotely like what is seen in the video.


  • AJ Smith says:

    Yes, yes; I do yearn. I was the only cyclist to church today along with running some errands. Yes, it was 1 degree F, but absolutely lovely and crisp outside. Maybe it’s me, but I do feel that so many people are missing out. Now, if Colonie, N.Y. looked like that video, I would feel I was in Utopia; except for he singing at the end.


  • peteathome says:

    My favorite part is that the women managed to look fashionable even riding bikes while wearing wooden shoes.

  • J.. says:

    Alan said:
    “Nope, didn’t say that or think it. But here in the U.S. we’ve never, during any era, had anything even remotely like what is seen in the video.”

    Fair enough. I must have confused Americans and Brits. England had some of the best bicycles and bicycling ever, and they completely blew it.

    Although I can’t imagen what else people might have used to get around in the US ca. 1900, when the car was still a rich man’s toy the industrial cities had already developed. Those factory workers didn’t have horses, I would think. Bicycles would have been affordable, practical and had been around for a while. Given the abundance of industrial production capacity, one would think the place would be bristling with them.

  • veronica choroco says:

    I absolutely love all the amazing exchange of ideas and discussion going on in the comments. i think we all agree that this clip was very inspiring.

    For me so take aways were both positive and negative.

    Positive: Complete inclusion of cyclist into all roads, apparent good cycling etiquette, creative and innovative ways of hauling kids and stuff, and finally, overall respect between cyclist, pedestrian and car.

    Negative: Though they didn’t know it the time, everyone should be wearing a helmet. Again, this footage is before helmets were mandatory.

    Thanks for posting it ECOVELO!

  • Dean Peddle says:

    Actually, nothing has really changed….it still looks the same in Holland. The fashions are different and the cars are smaller but the racks and roads are still full of bikes, there are no helmets in sight, the bikes are still all black and look the same and everyone is still just as thin. Go figure.

  • breetbikes says:

    nice video, didnt know that my country looks so funny 50 years ago. but the biketraffic did not change, it even the busy this day.

  • J.. says:

    @Veronia Choroco

    Errr… Are you trying to reignite the Helmet Wars again? Don’t go there.

    BTW, Dean Peddle is right. Things haven’t changed. People are not wearing helmets over here, because they don’t need to. It’s safe.
    It’s already been calculated that for every life a helmet law saves, it will murder 10 people via heart disease and diabetes. I’m not willing to accept a death toll that’s 1000% higher, just so that some politician can act concerned about bike safety, without actually improving bike safety.


    PS: Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • Mark says:

    Thanks for featuring my video.

    There were some comments wishing things could still be like this. Well, they are! At least in the Netherlands. See my latest video filmed just last week in below freezing temperatures.

    Yes cycling rates declined dramatically in the 1960s but from the 1970s we picked up our bicycles again. In time for everyone to remember how things were. There wasn’t a generation that didn’t grow up with cycling, so things weren’t completely lost.

    And Helmets? Never ever will anyone wear a helmet in the Netherlands and yet cyclists here are safer than anywhere else in the world. Helmets don’t make cycling safer. Many other things are needed for that; most of all good cycling infrastructure.


  • Mr. CrankyPants says:


    You left out the part about how choosing to wear a helmet automatically makes a person not a person, but a vile enemy of all that’s right and good and true.

    [sarcasm/off] [Godwins Law FTW!/on]

  • Alan says:

    Hey guys, let’s not turn this fun thread into a helmet debate. Thanks and have a wonderful day!


  • Mr. CrankyPants says:

    Sorry Alan – I couldn’t resist. I always shake my head when I see the helmet debate – or the clothing debate for that matter – because it invariably turns into a ideological holy war (I figured I’d throw Godwins Law into the mix before things got out of hand). Notice that it took all of six posts for a helmet related comment to appear. Forget traffic, poor infrastructure etc etc etc, cyclists themselves are the worst enemy of cycling.

  • Alan says:


    No sweat! Just trying to quell the flames before they turned into an inferno… :-)


  • Jack says:

    Sorry I mentioned helmets. Really I was thinking about the lack of helmets in the context of the whole environment. It makes all the difference in my mind. I will not comment further here to respect Alan’s desire to control his own blog.

  • Alan says:


    It’s no problem, Jack… :-) If it stayed at this amiable level I wouldn’t mind at all, but past experience has shown that helmet discussions often degenerate very quickly.


  • Yvar says:

    Even in the fifties wooden shoes were only worn in the countryside on farms…

    I’ve been cycling to work for the last 1 and half years now and I only haf two close ones, that’s how safe cycling is over here (I’ve had more in my car). So unless your on a road bike doing 30+ miles an hour no helmets in Holland.
    Love the blog by the way. Funny thing, all good bike blogs are from abroad.



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