Being on a bike in Amsterdam is one of the quintessential experiences of visiting this city. More than anywhere I have been bike personify Amsterdam as they are the main way that people get everywhere in this relatively compact city. Having said that a lot of social norms and outright rules have developed as to how you should actually ride a bike here. If you do rent a bike, do yourself a favour and do not rent from Mac bikes – the most popular renter in the city – as their distinct red bikes will be noticed by the locals and your riding skills will be immediately, if unfairly, brought into disrepute. Rules to follow while biking in Amsterdam include.
This rule is fairly easy and straight forward; stay where there are bike paths and or roads. The sheer amount of bike paths in this city is staggering so for novice Amsterdam riders I suggest sticking to them. If you get to places where there aren’t bike paths, but there are roads, just keep right and let traffic pass. Now important – do not ride a bike in the pedestrian only walking areas. Some people do it, often tourists, and they are not liked by the locals… even sometimes yelled at.
Watch for the bike traffic lights –
Yes, so many people ride bikes in Amsterdam that there are specific lights at major intersections that apply to the bikes. Watch these lights and follow them like you would traffic lights in a car. As a tip what will make this easier is just watch how the traffic of the other bikes reacts. If they all stop, it is probably not a good idea to keep barreling straight along through the intersection.
Use Common sense and do not follow the examples of the Amsterdamers breaking all the bike rules…
The first thing I mentioned here is that Dutch people have been riding bikes since they were kids and they are damn good on them. So you can see how they are able to double each other on their bikes (always a cool sight to see in the city) , talk on their mobiles while they ride, and ignore traffic lights and drive – sometimes – like mad men/woman. Now as tempting as it may be don’t follow their lead – stay safe.
Watch the tram track –
The number one way that cyclist, including the Dutch themselves, crash is by getting a tire stuck in the tram tracks and losing control of their bikes. Be conscious of this and when you cross the tram make sure your wheels are not facing, or nearly facing, straight or they might fall in.
Use the Hand signals –
It is crucial to let cyclist behind you know if you are going to be turning right or left or stopping. Do this simply by pointing in the direction you are turning and placing you hand up and flat indicating that you will be stopping. Failure to do this if there are lots of bikes on the cycle paths is dangerous and could cause a big pile up.