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Doing a trip in Europe. I know in UK the bike paths are optional. You can ride on them or you can ride on the road, whatever feels better for you.

Somebody told me that in Netherlands most bike paths are mandatory, not optional, but I can't find any information in English about it.

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    I suppose it is like in Germany: If there's that blue "lollipop" (blue sign with white bicycle), the bike path has to be used, unless its state is totally unfit, e.g. blocked by parking cars. But in the Netherlands you want to use bike paths anyway, since they are quite superb. – Erik Apr 1 at 9:08
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    @Erik I'm more concerned when the bike path is separated from the road. You may not see it or be aware of it. – Claudiu Creanga Apr 1 at 9:29
  • It's not like you spawn somewhere in the countryside and have to pick your way, you'll start somewhere in a city and use the bike path from the beginning, so you wont lose it. – Erik Apr 1 at 9:42
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    Also, bike paths that are not visible and/or reachable from the road generally cannot classify as required to be used. The road may be outright forbidden for bikes (motorway, autobahn), but if that's not the case and you never saw an alternative that you could actually reach, then you are definitely allowed to use the road. – cmaster Apr 1 at 17:27
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    @Criggie Although you won't stand out and be doing anything unexpected when you "watch what other people do, and do the same" you will most likely be ignoring half the traffic lights, road rules and many traffic signs indicating one-way streets, pedestrian-only zones and more... Dutch cyclists are not the most law abiding riders in that regard... – HBruijn Apr 4 at 13:31
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Mandatory

Mandatory bike paths do exist in the Netherlands (Article 5 of RVV 1990 regarding traffic and signage rules) and will be marked with a "G11" sign, a round lollipop sign with a white bicycle on a blue background.
Sometimes they will additionally be distinguished from footpaths, parking spaces and other paved surfaces by a red coloring.

G11 mandatory bike path

Some mandatory bike paths are also mandatory for mopeds and will be marked with the "G12a" sign below, a round lollipop sign with both a white bicycle and a white moped on a blue background.
You will typically find these outside of city limits or along roadways with a speed limit exceeding 50 km/h.

G12a mandatory bike and moped path

Mandatory bike lanes are not physically separated from the the main roadway but the lane will be marked with bike (often enclosed by a white circle) , a (semi) continuous white line separating the bike lane from the main traffic lanes and sometimes the red colored riding surface.

bike lane

Optional

Optional for cyclists are bike paths marked with a square blue sign "fietspad".

G13 fietspad

Forbidden for bicycles

Probably a bit redundant but cycling is forbidden where and when indicated by the explicit sign, but also by the implicit signs indicating a pedestrian only area, on bus lanes, and on motor- and expressways.

C1 entry forbidden cycling forbidding pedestrian only zone motorway expressway

Absence

When no mandatory bike path is indicated and there is no sign explicitly or implicitly prohibiting access for bikes, then bicyles are allowed on the main road.

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If the bike path is marked with a round blue bike sign then it is a mandatory-use path. Optional bike paths are marked with a rectangular blue sign saying fietspad ("bike path'). See the link for the images: https://www.fietsersbond.nl/ons-werk/infrastructuur/fietspaden/.

  • But I'm wondering how come road signs can have such a different meaning between countries: cyclescheme.co.uk/community/featured/reading-the-signs In UK the same road signs mean something completely different: Somewhat confusingly, ‘mandatory’ doesn’t mean that cyclists must use this route; it means that only cyclists may use it – Claudiu Creanga Apr 2 at 9:31
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    @ClaudiuCreanga Yeah, so much for EU harmonization. In the UK, a round blue bike sign means "You may cycle here". But this question is explicitly about the Netherlands so let's not go any further with this. – David Richerby Apr 2 at 9:50

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