LivingTravelTop 10 tips for bike safety in Amsterdam

Top 10 tips for bike safety in Amsterdam

Biking in Amsterdam is an essentially Dutch experience, and it is by far the most popular and efficient way to get around. But Amsterdam’s hectic traffic flow and confusing streets can intimidate visitors on two wheels. Read these tips to stay safe and protect your bike before you get on your cruise.

1) Know where to travel

Amsterdam’s 400km (249 miles) of bike lanes and paths ( fietspaden ) make cycling city safe. They generally run on the right-hand sides of the streets. Some two-way lanes are on only one side. They usually feature white lines and bicycle symbols painted on the reddish road or road.

Amsterdam traffic uses the right side of the road, and this includes bicycles. Many streets in the historic center and along the canals do not have bike lanes. Just drive through traffic here, or keep right to let motorists pass. Large cars and trucks will generally follow behind you.

2) Pay attention to the signs

Amsterdam has many signs and signals specially designed for cyclists. Some important ones include:

  • Bicycle lights: These lights shine red, yellow and green as bicycle at most major intersections. Obey them. Trams and other types of traffic have their own lights that do not always correspond. Use the traffic light for cars when there is no traffic light for bicycles.
  • Designated Bike Route / Route – This is a round sign with a blue background and a white bike. Indicates a bike lane or route.
  • Excepted Bicycles / Scooters: A sign with the word uitgezonderd (“except”) and a bicycle / scooter symbol means that bicyclists are the exception to the posted traffic rule. For example, a round red sign with a white dash means there is no entry. Cyclists are allowed entry if the white rectangular uitgezonderd sign is also present.

3) Give right of way

Always give the right-of-way to streetcars from any direction. Hear the distinctive sound of its bells.

As for all other vehicles and bicycles, give way to oncoming traffic from the right. Traffic coming from your left must give you the right-of-way. Taxis and buses often exceed the limits of this rule, so be careful when approaching.

4) Forget the adage “When in Rome …”

Local Amsterdam cyclists tend to ignore red lights. They carry friends on the back of their bikes. They ride on the sidewalks. They cross other cyclists without warning. They don’t use lights at night, which is required by law. They chat on the phone as they move through the crowds. They should not be imitated!

5) use your hands

Use hand signals when changing course. Just point in the direction you want to go. This will allow motorists and other cyclists to know how to yield or not pass on that side.

When in doubt at intersections, dismount. There is nothing wrong with getting off your bike and walking through busy areas.

6) don’t get stuck in a rut

Stay away from tram tracks – they are just the right size to swallow bike tires. If you must cross the tracks, and you will at some point, do so at an acute angle. Many suggested bike routes do not have a tram.

7) be a defensive rider

You may know the rules of the road, but that doesn’t mean everyone does. The most abundant obstacles you will encounter on a bicycle are pedestrian tourists. Without knowing it, they walk on bike paths and cross the streets without looking. Be on the lookout for them and use your bell to get their attention.

To my dismay, scooters are always in and out of bike lanes. They accelerate, scaring cyclists who know what you know. When you hear them coming with their penetratingly loud exhaust systems, stay to the right and let them pass.

8) Lock it when you leave it

Never leave a bike unlocked, not even for a minute. Bicycle theft in Amsterdam is a problem, but it can be avoided.

Secure your bike to a permanent structure such as a bike rack, pole, or bridge with a heavy chain or U-lock. Always put the lock through the frame and the front wheel. Also, lock the little shiny device that immobilizes the rear wheel. Most rental stores offer both.

Look for signs that say Hier geen fietsen plaatsen : “Do not put bicycles here.” If you ignore them, your bike could be confiscated.

9) keep it moving and clear the way

Try to keep up with your fellow cyclists. You can ride two in a line as long as your pace doesn’t slow down traffic.

Never come to a complete stop on the bike path or on the street. When you walk your bike, do it on the sidewalks or pedestrian areas.

10) use a map

Not all streets in Amsterdam are intended for cyclists, so “flying” without a route plan can be inefficient and dangerous. Use a map.

Most rental stores have basic city maps / routes, but these are a bit limited. Highly recommended is the Amsterdam op de fiets, the map «Amsterdam on the bike». It is available from Amsterdam tourist offices and shows suggested bike routes, closed areas for cyclists, bike repair shops (important for flats), tram lines, and even popular museums and attractions. Covers all of Amsterdam from the northern islands to the southern suburbs.

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