One of the most striking things about cycling in the Netherlands is the difference in the demographics you encounter. On my usual cycling trips in Britain, the people cycling around me are typically aged between 20 and 50, and mostly male. Children and the elderly (especially children) are almost entirely absent.
By contrast, cycling in the Netherlands broadly reflects the population at large; it is available to all, to anyone who chooses to ride a bike.
Elderly people in particular formed a considerable proportion of the people I met while cycling on my recent trip. This is probably a function of the fact that, cycling from city to city in the middle of the day, I was more likely to meet people who weren’t working, or who were retired. But even at the weekends, the proportion of people cycling who were elderly was large, and the numbers, in general, of elderly people out and about was (to my eyes at least) truly remarkable – totally different to Britain.
Bikes with electric assistance are increasingly being used by this age group in the Netherlands. This couple passed me with ease near Gouda.
As did this couple in Nijmegen.
Close examination reveals the small battery parks on the top of their rear racks.
I think these electric bikes are truly wonderful – they give people the freedom to travel huge distances, partially or wholly under their own steam, without having to worry about getting tired or exhausted. And in hilly areas (like Nijmegen) they just make cycling more pleasant. This elderly couple in Wageningen (also hilly) had the added reassurance of power assistance.
Trikes – which offer a greater amount of stability – were also in evidence –
And of course a bicycle is a mobility aid in its own right, allowing people who would ordinarily be using crutches to travel with freedom.
The powered mobility scooter was also very much apparent, its users employing exactly the same infrastructure as cycles.
People whizzing about in powered wheelchairs were a common sight.
Most touching of all was the way in which friends or couples were still able to travel about together independently side by side, even though one could evidently no longer ride a bike.
So, really, I have to laugh when I hear people suggesting that cycling infrastructure creates problems or difficulties for those with mobility problems. Done properly, as it almost always is in the Netherlands, it’s the complete opposite – totally liberating. A good environment for cycling is a good environment for all.
Please also read Mark Wagenbuur’s excellent and detailed post on these issues, if you haven’t already!