I came to the land of windmills and discovered that windmills were not in every corner. That most Dutch do not wear wooden shoes, and that the only realistic traveling brochure information was the delicious Gouda cheese and how flowers were highly commercialized. Oh, yes, and the bikes.
I always joke saying that a Dutch learns how to ride a bicycle before he or she learns to walk. Bikes are highly used here for transport, not just for sports. Therefore, having a good infrastructure for cycling is crucial for the country. And believe me, they do have it.
In 2013 there were almost 35.000 km (21748 miles) of cycle lanes here. Not bad for a country with a total area of 41,526 km2 (16,033 sq miles). The lanes have plenty of traffic signs, more than enough to keep a smooth ride.
And yet, as I unpacked my lack of knowledge of Dutch culture, I achieved feats very few did. For example, being stared at by eyebrow-lifted faces because I managed to ride on a wrong-way lane. I remember the very first time I rode a bike here. I rode for quite a distance on a pedestrian sidewalk not realizing that the second sidewalk was the lane for bicycles.
Once I stared at a sign, for quite some time, trying to figure out what the heck the white round sign with a thick red border meant. If you are planning to drive or ride in The Netherlands, I suggest you research a little about the traffic signs here. Here is a link to a website with a nice and informative video about them. http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/road-signs-for-cycling-in-the-netherlands/
And of course no good traffic system exists without traffic lights. When I first saw a traffic light for bicycles here, I was in awe. – That’s because where I come from, only the pedestrian ones were available. – I confess that while waiting at the cycling light that day, I wanted to stay for a couple of minutes more. Just to see the little bike pictogram turn from red to green on the command of a button.
If you live in a place with similar infrastructure, all this might not seem like such a big deal. I understand. After all, novelty is amazing until it fades into the ordinary.