Q: Why don’t Dutch people (particularly children) wear cycle helmets?

A: My daughter is nearly two and rides on the front of my bike (helmetless I might add). Part of me wants to say that one day she’ll be one of those fearless Dutch kids zooming through the traffic. The reality is that she is growing up in the city centre of The Hague. It might just be too dangerous.  

It is true that there are no laws enforcing helmet wearing on bicycles, however, there are measures in place to encourage safe cycling. Road safety lessons are obligatory from an early age in all Dutch primary schools; including lessons on cycling and engaging in traffic. There are dedicated cycle paths everywhere, making it safer to cycle on the roads than in any other country in the world.

Holland is for the most part flat which is of course why it is such a practical form of transport, but this also makes it relatively safe ‘terrain’ for cyclists. The fact of the matter is, helmet wearing is the responsibility of parents, but I dare say that not a single Dutch person who is the parent of a young child now, will have ever worn a bicycle helmet as a child.

When we were kids we climbed trees, we played in the woods without adult supervision, we kicked a ball around in the street till dark. I think most of us just feel nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ and want our children to have similarly carefree childhoods without all the rules and regulations. What would Holland be without bicycles? What would Pamplona be without the running of the bulls? It’s tradition.

Hedda Pier, 17 May 2012