The bicycle developed much differently in Amsterdam and the Netherlands than in other parts of the world. In the 1870’s, bicycling was still as in many parts of the world an expensive and time-consuming leisure activity.
This changed rapidly in the Netherlands with the introduction of the Safety bicycle, which spurred the founding of the General Dutch Cyclists Union (ANWB) in 1883. ANWB played a large role in situating the bicycle in the heritage of the Netherlands. During this time, the country was experiencing a schism between many of the different social groups (socialists, Catholics, Protestants) and between the working and upper classes.
Touring the nation was suggested as a way to reconnect with one’s national identity. Being outside and experiencing the Netherlands were also important ideas: “On the streets, in the country, cycling was not supposed to be about speeding, it was supposed to be about getting in touch with your own national landscape and heritage” (Ebert 356).
The bicycle also played a large role in the Dutch working class’ struggle. As a symbol to educate the working class to vote wisely and become reliable citizens, the ANWB proclaimed the bicycle as the “Horse of Democracy.”
Finally, the bicycle developed in the minds of the Dutch completely different from the car. As noted by the ANWB, the purpose of the car was for getting around quickly without effort, while the bicycle was for someone who wanted to achieve something so, even in its early years, the bicycle became closely associated with Dutch nation identity, national pride, and heritage.