Now More Parents are Driving their Kids to School in Holland, Too

Hi Readers — Fear is a virus. It spreads from country to country, infecting age-old traditions. The latest evidence of this is the fact that more and more parents in the Netherlands are driving their kids to school. The result? Or, rather, results?

1 - More traffic.

2 – Kids less adept at riding their bikes.

3 – More parents driving their kids because of 1 and 2.

It’s a vicious cycle. (And what an apt word!) Here’s fhreeedkbn
the story about it.
 – L.

Is it tilting at you-know-whats to hope that Dutch kids go back to riding their bikes to school?

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18 Responses to Now More Parents are Driving their Kids to School in Holland, Too

  1. Earth.W February 10, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    We live far too close for them to ride. I let them ride on the footpath and when they’re old enough for the road, they’ll have to learn to watch out for drivers because in Australia these days, far too many drivers enjoy swerving their cars at cyclists and motorbikes. Even at kids, they’ll use car to ram them off the road.

  2. Silver Fang February 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    At least there’s still hostility toward the car culture in the Netherlands and some schools are looking to ban the driving. This is how it is in Japan too. Kids walk or take public transportation. No rides from Mommy and Daddy!

  3. Highwayman February 10, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    This is just tragic. The Netherlands has a first-rate bicycle network ON A NATIONAL SCALE! (The country is about the size of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut combined). In fact, the Netherlands has the best developed bicycle network in the world –and this present network was the result of two things:

    1) The Middle-East Oil Shock of the early 1970’s, AND…

    2) A movement (also in the 1970’s) called “Stop de Kindermoord.” That last word translates to “Child Murder”.

    According to David Hembrow on his blog “A View from the Cycle Path”, children usually ride on their own by age 8.

    You can search for the article here:

    It’s dated Wednesday, 11 April 2012

    It’s quoting mostly UK statistics, but then it goes back to cycling in the Netherlands (the purpose of said blog), and at the bottom of the article is this quote:

    ” From an average age of 8.6, very nearly every Dutch child rides independently. ”

    The newspaper article Lenora just linked to is not just ironic, it simply is tragic.

  4. Kaye February 10, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    Sorry, but I think we may be putting an unintended spin on this. My daughter went to a Dutch school for a year. The kids that were driven to school were mostly taken because the parents were in a hurry before or after school, not any deep fear of what might happen (except a little uneasiness about traffic.)

    I have never lived in a country MORE free-range than the Netherlands. It was perfectly normal for 4 year olds in our village to go to the playground by themselves. Even kids who get driven to school ride their bikes other places by themselves. So I am reasonably hopeful that NL is not becoming like the US on this one.

  5. Nicole February 11, 2013 at 4:34 am #

    Firstly, that article is from Oct 2008 – 4.5 years old.

    Secondly, I agree with Kaye — this is not a fear issue. I lived in the Netherlands for several years pre-children, so I can’t speak from personal experience re: school dropoff, but increased car use is more likely to be from family commitments. I worked in planning there — if I can find any recent studies/reports I’ll let you know.

  6. Sally February 11, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    The evidence may not be rock solid, but I think Lenore’s instincts are correct. There is really no other reason for a parent to drop a child off at school every day (in a densely populated, highly developed country like the Netherlands, anyway) then fear.

    To those who commented that it’s just parents saving time – why not save time in a way the furthers the development of the child and fosters his independence? I mean how much earlier could the parent possibly be leaving the house if they are able to co-ordinate that with a school drop-off?

    If the child is not developmentally capable of getting to school all on his own, why not set something up with other children in the neighborhood? The child and parent could still leave the house at the same time – if that is the issue here – but the child could simply head to another child’s house on the way to school. By the time all the children have by collected, it’s no longer too early to go to school. That most definitely would have been the ‘go to’ plan in the recent past. Surely, investing the time in setting up something like that at the beginning of the school year would eventually save much more time than dropping a child off (and maybe even picking up) every. single. day.

    But then again, the drop off gives the parent peace of mind that the child arrived there safety — and that’s worth a little inconvenience. Right? Right? Hello fear of normal childhood milestones. Nice to see you’ve finally arrived in Europe.

  7. Nynke February 11, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    From experience. I’m Dutch, I have a 10 year old son. His school is less than a 5 minute walk away and he walks or cycles (on days when he goes to after-school activities). Two weeks ago we got an e-mail from the ‘BSO’ (after school care) that starting on the first of February they would be working under the premise that all children will be able to come on their bikes. Far too many were taken to school by car and had to walk from school to their location (about 15 minutes). Frustrating for the children that did bring their bikes, because they would have to walk as well. Haven’t heard about responses because I AM NOT PICKING HIM UP ANYMORE. I haven’t for almost a year now. Even when it’s dark already, he is sent home around 5.30. I try to be home in time, but he has a key. He also takes music-lessons in the center of our city (Groningen) and he goes there by bus. Last night he told me: “Mum, there is a boy in my music group, who is almost twelve and they will not let him ride a bus by himself.” Imagine a ten year old feeling sorry for that boy.
    Of course I am worried when he goes out alone, but I also think that I raised him well enough that he will know what to do when there is a problem. Helicopter-parenting in my opinion does not mean that you don’t trust your children, it means that you don’t trust yourself to raise them in a way that makes them self-reliant.

    Love the blog by the way. I see new ways of not trusting the world every time I read it an it only makes me more determined to raise my son in the way I w raised; don’t be afraid, trust yourself and your judgement and go out into the world.

  8. Captain America February 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    One of my daily joys as a kid was riding my bike to, and from, school.

    Fresh air. Interesting (to me) stuff to see. Some nice down-town and exercise before having to sit through school.

    My son is the only one bicycling to his school. Every morning there’s a traffic jam of dropoffs at the place.

  9. Ben February 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    “The idea of a ban on driving kids to school does not go down well in Ypenburg. “My life is hectic enough as it is with work, shopping and all the other fetching and carrying that I have to do,” says Wilma Plomp.”

    If only Miss Plomp realised that not driving your kids to and from school saves time she could use on other things.

    I think it should be mandatory to live within walking distance to school, travel by public transport or learn to ride your bike. Any kid age 6-7 or over should be able to get themselves to school.

  10. Anita February 11, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    As a parent and a teacher living in the Netherlands i do see some change. Most parent that drive their kids to school drive them because they’re in a hurry. They are juggling a job, kids, family care and more and haven’t got enough time for everyting.
    My 3 year old is allowed to ride his bike around the block and to the playground down the street with his friends (3 and 4 year olds). We ride a bike to preschool ( he rides his own bike or is on a childrensseat)

    Some schools have strict rules. Children are allowed to ride their bike only when the live in a certain area ( distance from school) children within walking distance are expexted to walk. Children who would have to walk mor than 15 minutes are allowed to walk. And only children who would have to ride their bike for more than 15 minutes are allowed to be taken by car.
    I do like this very much and it works for most parents.

  11. Steve February 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Biking in the Netherlands:

  12. Rodney C. Davis February 11, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    This is truly interesting. Here I am living in the former Netherlands Antilles. People speak English at home, and go to schools where Dutch is the language of instruction, and scholars continue their studies by traveling to Holland. There is a similar debate about the pros and cons of using public transportation, the school buses, or private means.

    You’d think the debate makes some sense seeing what is going on on the European side. But it doesn’t… not when you consider that we live on the tiny developing island of St. Maarten, roughly about 1/7th the size of New York City. The debate would at least make some sense. Imagine a place that small and it takes you about an hour to drive your kids to school in the morning if you don’t hit the road on time. Its an island with temperatures never falling below 75 degrees… but scarcely anyone rides a bike…

    No-brainer, right? There shouldn’t even be a debate. But yup…since there IS on, I’d say its time for it to heat up.

  13. Katrin from Frankfurt February 12, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    @Sally: I can tell you another reason to drive your kid to school: laziness and the wish to prevent your child of making the experience of being late. One family in our neighbourhood is exactly like that.
    Instead of hurrying their daughter up in the mornings, the parents drive her, instead of letting her face the consequences.
    (By the way the daughter is overweight, has a TV in her room (she`s six years old), and her breakfast is toast with chocolate cream)

  14. Sally February 12, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    @Katrin, that just might be the case there and perhaps in other households – saving the child from suffering any inconvenience and or consequences.

    Upon reflection, what perhaps that attitude, and the notion that a parent must constantly worry and fear for the child have in common, is the belief that the primary aspect of raising a child is protecting the child.

    No one would disagree that protecting a child is important, but quite frankly, for the overwhelming majority it comes naturally. I guess that’s why in the past, parents were encouraged to do the opposite — to not overprotect and baby their children. Why that insight is getting lost I do not know.

  15. DutchMac February 12, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    I’ve lived in the Netherlands for 8 years now and have two young children that I have been taking to school/daycare for 6 of those years. In our area, there is CERTAINLY no decrease in the number of children on bikes! But there are a couple points missing in the comments I’ve seen…..

    1. All the stay-at-home parents I know who live close enough to their chosen school, almost always walk or cycle (weather permitting). It’s the working parents whose workplace is too far to cycle who drive their children to school. This is mostly because, the Netherlands being as densely populated as it is, the road traffic is SO congested, working parents really do NOT have the time to walk/cycle their children to school, then get to work by other means.

    2. Yes the cycle lanes are amazing here, but unless a child’s entire route to school is on major roads, there isn’t too much riding in cycle lanes to be had. Our commute is about half a mile, all through residential roads where there’s not an inch of cycle lane anywhere. And with the congested traffic as I mentioned earlier, YES it’s scary to think of your children cycling themselves, even if they’ve been cycling pros since preschool.

    3. On the other hand, the only children here who are EVER seen wearing helmets are the foreigners (like mine), even the babies. Dutch children are NEVER made to wear helmets, so the Dutch really are their own worst enemies if car vs. bike accidents have more severe outcomes than necessary.

    4. Gas prices here are (no joke) $8-$9/gallon, making each tank a good $100+ to fill. So if parents ARE driving more often because of work reasons, give them a little bit of a break…..they’re suffering enough themselves already.

  16. anne February 13, 2013 at 1:37 am #

    I agree with Kaye and Nicole, this seems a bit fishy and sensationalized to me.

    Are you looking for some shock value, Lenore?

    If you’re going to make such a bold statement about one of the premier-everyday-cycling capitals of the world, please provide more data than one 4 1/2 year old article.

  17. Papilio June 23, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    I know, I know, I’m very late to comment here. But I discovered this post yesterday (how on earth did I manage to not see it…?) and I’m still frowning, so I just can’t let it pass…

    I’d never heard of Soab, apparently it’s an advisory office that has done enquiries in a number of municipalities. I don’t know what that NRC article was about, but I did find the 25% in the result for Ede. And as I already suspected, their research is only about primary school children, not ALL school children.
    All school children would be all children age 4 all the way up to 16 (17, 18)! Children 7th grade and up (=secondary school) would rather DIE than being dropped off by mommy (heck, they’d rather die than being seen in a rainsuit…). In 2007 3% of these kids eh, died, haha.

    The only national percentages I could find for primary school children (pre-K to 6th grade) traveling to school are from Fietsberaad, 2003:
    14% is being driven (about 50% bikes, about a third walks. 40% of all children are unaccompanied.).
    Reason(s) to always drive them:
    -distance (53%),
    -unsafe traffic on route to school (47%),
    -school is on route to work (27%).
    Reasons to sometimes drive them:
    -combination with afterschool plans (54%)
    -weather (46%).

    Some more information: yes, it’s a dense country, *as a whole*. But Chicago for example has about 1,000 *more* people per square mile than Amsterdam, and travel distances still exist.
    Another thingy: there is no direct correlation between fear of strangers and driving kids to school. If parents are fearful, they could just as well walk or cycle with their kids to school. Traffic IS very safe here, even though parents do not always like the idea of their young children navigating it alone.
    And in any case, schools, traffic safety organisations and municipalities try all kinds of things to discourage parents from driving their kids and to keep the traffic around schools safe for the (numerous) cyclists and walkers.
    It’s still a very long way to walkie-talkies, imagined sniper fire and Obama-style dismissals.

    (And if you’re still reading, Lenore, would you please tell me about Velo-city??)


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