Life Without a Car

One of the most significant lifestyle changes we've had since moving to the Netherlands has been living without a car.  We actually hadn't planned to go this long without a car, but we haven't really missed not having one either. Ironically, we're likely getting a car in the near future but I doubt it will overshadow our bikes anytime soon.
Our new Dutch driveway

The Dutch are well known for their love of bikes and all things cycling. Having visited Friedel in 2018, I'd gotten a taste of how prominent the bike culture is here. Now that we've been using bikes as our primary mode of transport though, I have a much greater appreciation for them.

  • We move a LOT more. I've google mapped our routes and we easily cover 20-25 km over the course of a week just doing the day to day stuff. And that doesn't count the bike trips we take most weekends, which would add another 10 km. But this city is built for bikes. Most roads have bike lanes, it's not usually difficult to find a place to park your bike, and the drivers know to watch for cyclists.  And the fact that it's (mostly) flat helps too. ;)
  • We buy less.  A lot less. Since we've arrived, the only new article of clothing I've bought for myself has been a pair of gloves.  I'm not kidding! Why? Partly because our grocery store doesn't have a clothing section, there's only one "mall" that I know of and it's out of the way, but also because I carefully choose what makes "the cut" when I'm out shopping. The same applies to food. I only buy what we really need and want because we don't have a trunk's worth of room, nor do we have the fridge capacity we were used to in Canada. At home in Dartmouth, we'd often apply the "we might as well get it since we're here" logic while out shopping. That rarely happens now.
  • The pace of life has slowed down. It's no secret that the Dutch excel at work/life balance. But when you have to bike to a store, sometimes in the rain, (okay, often in the rain) you use your time wisely. Our rainy days are more often spent at home, hanging out together instead of "running errands". It also helps that our local shops are closed on Sunday, something that I really love. 
I've not yet mentioned buses, trams and trains. We use them as well, but less often as we can usually get there faster by bike.  But when we want to go somewhere further out ( like Amsterdam) the train can't be beat.They're frequent, fast and (relatively) cheap!

I don't think we're up to living without a car forever.  As I mentioned we're actively car shopping now. But I don't think I'll choose car over bike unless I really need to. Gas prices aside, life is just so much easier on a bike. And it's fun! The kids always want to tag along even if we're just going to the grocery store. But even when the novelty has worn off, the slower pace of life on a bike will remain its biggest asset. 


  1. I'd read someplace that in the Netherlands, in an accident that involves both a car (or other four-wheeler) and a cyclist, the former is always considered at fault. If this is true it would explain why drivers are vigilant!
    I've now lived without a car my entire life, and I'm glad that you're finding the upside to the (if temporary) car-free life.

    1. Yes, unless it can be proven that the cyclist intentionally hit the car!

  2. So interesting to see this point of view from the other way round! Not that I cycled much in the UK but I would walk at least 10Km a day every work day with commuting and travelling to client sites etc. Car culture is so prevalent here and it's scary how ingrained it has become with us in such a relatively short time.

    You mention car shopping and gas prices but would be considering an EV? How popular are EVs in the Netherlands?

    1. It is kind of crazy, isn't it? As for cars we're definitely getting a hybrid. Electric and hybrid cars are very popular here as you get a break on the road taxes. And there are lots of charging stations in every neighbourhood.


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