Cycling in the Netherlands picture post #2: Shopping

Time for another picture post! This one shows people going shopping. A rather dull, every day activity really, but one which most people would never dream of using a bike for in the UK. In addition to the general fear of cycling on the roads, sensible bikes with storage aren’t the norm here, there is often no cycle parking, and shopping centres are usually designed with only cars in mind.

Most Dutch people would think this a very boring blog post, as in the Netherlands it’s a common sight to see old women filling panniers with their shopping and riding off, for example. But that’s something you’d never see in the UK, and it shows that shopping by bike is perfectly feasible for people of all ages when you have the right infrastructure.

It’s interesting to see that at supermarkets in the Netherlands the cycle parking area is right beside the entrance, as opposed to the standard UK provision of a few wheel-bender bike racks shamefully hidden round the corner by the bins.

A bike parking lot outside a supermarket in the Netherlands. Hundreds of bikes can be seen with customers amongst them.

Many bikes parked outside a supermarket in Groningen, Netherlands. A young woman rides past on a bike.

A middle-aged woman rides a bike on a cycle-path in the Netherlands. She has a shopping bag on her handlebars and flowers in the panniers on the rear of the bike.

Bikes and shoppers outside a supermarket in the Netherlands

Bikes parked outside a supermarket in Woerden, Netherlands. Shoppers are loading items into their bikes' panniers. The bike parking is nearer to the shop entrance than the car parking!

A person cycles home from the shops in Amersfoort, Netherlands. Both panniers are full and they are holding a large shopping bag on the rack behind them.

A huge number of bikes parked outside a supermarket in Utrecht, Netherlands. Shoppers can be seen.

Cycles are parked ouside shops in Groningen, a woman is riding away with shopping bags hanging from her bike. A man waits with his Saint Bernard dog in the large front compartment of his 'bakfiets'.


I don’t know why the only supermarket in these photos is Albert Heijn — other supermarkets are available in the Netherlands and people cycle to those too! Maybe I should mention Jumbo, C1000 and Plus, just to even out the balance a bit.


You can find all the picture posts here.



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14 responses to “Cycling in the Netherlands picture post #2: Shopping

  1. Erik Griswold

    For those of you in the northeastern USA, Albert Heijn owns Stop&Shop/Giant. Ask them sometime why they can’t operate stores in the USA like you see in these pictures.

  2. legocyclist

    It’s amazing that bikes in the UK are so poor as transport. Try finding a decent bike with a rack, mudguards, a hub dynamo and integral lights.

    This is the norm in the Netherlands and Germany where bikes are used for transport rather than recreation.

    To prove my point look at the difference between the Specialized Sirrus and Specialized Source – essentially the same bike, but the UK version comes without all the useful bits.

  3. In the UK if we were to cycle with one hand on the handle bars and the other steadying a shopping bag (pic 6) or have shopping on the handle bars (pics 3, 4, and 8) there would be a possible chance of being pulled over by the police for cycling dangerously.

  4. Gordon

    Bike retailers in the UK are driven by the need to make money from the “extras” – and will state that the reason they are not included is so the buyer can choose their options. In the past, I have welded old frames on to steel bikes to make rear racks strong enough (and cheap enough) to allow larger loads to be carried. We also have trailers, but they are no good around town as few cycle ways/lanes can accommodate anything wider than a bike traveling in a very straight line – and the hills don’t help!

    The most important safety feature – in my opinion – is fitting roller brakes ( for example). I can stop quickly under most conditions just using the rear brake – even with the trailer loaded.

    • How long does a roller brake last and how do you maintain them? I tried a bike with roller brakes in the Netherlands, but wasn’t too impressed by the stopping power, although I have no idea how old the brakes were.

      • Reg Oakley

        I have not used the model roller brake mentioned above, but have had no problem doing a rear wheel lock when I used to use a utility bike in Holland. I should think the life would well exceed that achieved by bicyle drum brakes, which is almost indefinitely.

      • I don’t know how long they last, because I’m still on my first ones. I bought a bike fitted with them new in ’06, and have moved the back brake onto my latest ride. They do not wear out rims, do not lose performance in the wet and need less force on the lever to stop than any other kind I’ve tried. The only servicing they need is a squirt of grease into the nipple a couple of times a year. No pads, no frequent cable adjustment. They are made to fit on internal gear hubs, and also for standard disc hubs. I weigh over 100kg, and have towed a 50+kg trailer with no sign of brake fade, even on a long downhill.

        They may not be quite as sharp as disc brakes in the dry, but less likely to lock up once you get used to them – very progressive slowing action, rather than the quick grab of a disc.

  5. We had a run-in with traders in Colchester when we wanted a contraflow cycle path. Oh how they moaned …. and they still moan, even though no car spaces were lost. The cycleway was built level to the footway, and cycles use it against the flow of parked cars so drivers can see if a cyclist is coming and hopefully not open their door. Complaints also followed from pedestrians, who were tripping on the mini-kerb between the two paths; then we found out why: the traders were using the old footway as extended display space for A-boards and goods for sale, forcing pedestrians into the cycleway. The worst perpetrator was the florist leading the anti-bike campaign. Her pavement display made a good picture in the paper. Sadly, a combination of traders’ moans and legal snags with making a subway rideable means the route still isn’t properly open three years on. One good thing, though, is that we’ve established two-way use of a one-way route for the next town centre revamp.

  6. Gordon

    William B

    Typical council thinking – “we will spend loads making this segregated, and produce trip-hazards in the act”. Not sure if that is so they become unpopular and are removed “for safety”, or just not thinking about appropriate measures (white lines and a few signs??)

    A lot is made of how many pedestrians are injured by cyclists, but I have not seen comparisons between that and trips/falls or pedestrian/pedestrian collisions.

  7. PaulM

    I can’t pretend to be an old lady (old perhaps, at least that is what my children think) but I also regularly shop on my bike at weekends. Reasons:

    – Parking the car would eat up all the time saved by driving – I can lock my bike right outside Waitrose’s front door and the trip is only 1.5 miles
    – Minimum parking charge is £1 for an hour, and you have to have the right change
    – It’s good for my health/fitness
    – I get that sanctimonious sense of saving the planet for those smoke-belching petrolheads who drive instead
    – Being Waitrose, limiting yourself to what you can carry in bike panniers (almost) spares you a visit to John Charcol each time you shop there

    My bike is a Dawes CityVision 7 – a modern rendition of the classic English roadster, with a Shimano hub gear, mudguards, chainguard, rear rack etc. No dynamo (it had a bottle, but for some reason I removed it years ago) but shopping in daylight is preferable in the car-sick town I call home anyway. I hang a “Basil” (excellent Dutch product) wire basket on each side of the rack, plus a Basil wire basket on the handlebars. The rear baskets double as supermarket shopping baskets.

    I rarely see anyone else in town on a bicycle. The lack of facilities doesn’t help – not so much the state of the roads, which are pretty quiet, as the lack of secure parking. While there are hundreds of on- and off-street parking spaces for cars, for bicycles the sum total is four Sheffield stands in the High Street, and two of those planter-cycle stands outside Waitrose. Even those have now been re-arranged along the wall so that bikes can only be secured to one side of them. Waitrose used to have cycle trailers available for loan but I haven’t seen them in a while.

    I have lobbied for a decent amount of cycle parking in the town centre but so far, months on, nothing to show for it. The local councillor, with whom I share a secret email correspondence having a good bitch about the strident local parking lobby, does seem to be trying but I suspect that he collides with the total apathy of the highways department – I have seen them at work before on the Cycle Forum and their enthusiasm for cycling is, frankly, underwhelming.

  8. It never ceases to amaze me that without exception the ‘utility’ cyclists in these pictures have their bikes set up for efficient pedalling.
    I have lost count of the number of UK cyclists I have seen whose knees come up around their ears and moan that cycling is hard work.

  9. Bertram

    Albert Heijn is the supermarket of choice for the busy city-centre dweller (upmarket and convenience-oriented) hence their dominance in the city centres, especially in Amsterdam. Suburban and rural supermarkets are far more varied.

  10. Worth mentioning here that 70% of all Dutch supermarket shopping is carried out either on foot or by bike. It’s not hard to understand why; it’s been made the most obvious way to shop. It’s easy, safe and convenient to cycle to supermarkets in the Netherlands.

  11. Supermarkets in the Netherlands tend to be very close to urban areas, as opposed to far out in suburbia with huge parking lots. Sometimes (like my neighbourhood supermarket) the parking lots can be a bit overcrowded. Many families go several times a week by bike, and once a week by car for weekend shopping. Sometimes you’ll see several cars waiting for a spot and people driving around a few rounds of the parking lot before shopping.
    all this makes cycling a sensible alternative.

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