Cycling in Amsterdam-19 useful tips for an enriched experience
Cycling in Amsterdam is one of the best ways to experience the Dutch culture and for most visitors, this is an essential experience. However, do not imitate the Amsterdammers!
Cycling in Amsterdam
It may seem overwhelming and at times terrifying to watch the Dutch get around their city with their kids in their front baskets, talking on the phone and in some cases biting into their sandwiches! They do so with such ease and with great confidence! Observing how the Amsterdammers go about their daily lives may discourage visitors from riding a bike in the city but cycling in Amsterdam independently really is a favourite adventure to undertake if you are a skillful cyclist.
Bike friendly city
Cycling in Amsterdam is made easy by the 500 kilometres or so of dedicated cycle paths. You can basically go everywhere and anywhere within the 17th century canal ring and beyond if you are confident to do so. There are low-speed cycle paths, extra-wide ones as well along with protected cycling spaces at intersections. This cycling haven, only second to Copenhagen has even great bicycle parking facilities. Moreover, bike rentals are cheaper than public transport and cycling is a lot quicker than public transport.
Cycling in Amsterdam opens up many opportunities to discover the historic city and the countryside. You may want to explore the wonders of a forest or observe some riverside wildlife, while marvel at the preserved architecture, taking-in the serenity that surrounds you when not in the bustling city centre. Riding a bike and discovering the city and surrounds either independently at your own pace or on a small group guided cycle tour is a rewarding experience.
However, cycling in Amsterdam can be hectic if you are a visitor and cycling in Amsterdam independently is not an activity for everyone!
What to expect from this article
Therefore this article sets out 19 useful tips on cycling in Amsterdam as a basic guide to an enriched cycling experience for those who wish to explore the free city by bike.
Whilst we work hard to be accurate, and provide the best information possible, we also encourage you to please always check before heading out.
1 | Road signs, Traffic rules and regulations when cycling in Amsterdam
Before getting onto a two-wheeler in Amsterdam, familiarise yourself with the Traffic rules and regulations in the Netherlands as these may be different to your home country. Ensure you are familiar especially with the road signs, traffic rules and regulations in Amsterdam in relation to cyclists. In particular:
1.1 | A working bicycle bell when cycling in Amsterdam
Ensure that you have a working bicycle bell that can be heard by other traffic users who are at least 25 metres in distance to you;
1.2 | Working lights and reflectors
Ensure you have working lights and reflectors on your bike incase your adventure takes you beyond dusk, or you are exploring in winter. You will be subject to a fine if you do not use lights when riding at night or if you have faulty lights;
1.3 | Keep to the right when cycling in Amsterdam
As you ride, keep to the right side of the road so other cyclists who are faster than you are able to pass. If you are riding in a group, keep to a single file.
1.4 | Don’t ride on the pavements!
Most importantly, don’t ride on the pavements although most Amsterdammers ignore this rule. Disembark from your bike and walk the pavements instead;
1.5 | Pedestrian only zones
Don’t bike through pedestrian only zones, or you’ll risk a fine;
1.6 | Use hand signals when cycling in Amsterdam
Use hand signals when you want to stop or when turning at an intersection. If you are turning left or right, you would want to put your arm out as a signal that you would be turning at the next intersection. It is important to give proper and enough notice so fellow traffic users are aware of your intentions and next move. If proper signals are not given, you may cause accidents.
1.7 | Follow all traffic signs
The Dutch are so geared into cycle travel that cyclists have their own set of traffic lights and dedicated lanes. In some areas, they have their own roundabouts as well. Adhere to all traffic lights and signs. Always wait for the ‘green bike’ to appear before you continue on with your journey.
1.8 | Give way to pedestrians
Give way to pedestrians on crosswalk. Don’t try and speed-up in the hope of missing them. Accidents can and do happen! Just stop and let them pass.
For a comprehensive guide on Traffic Signs and Regulations in the Netherlands download the PDF to peruse.
2 | Amsterdam bikes are different!
Amsterdam bikes are different in that they may not have gears or handbrakes. This is because the Netherlands is mostly flat and and gears are not needed. Therefore, bikes with fixed gears are readily available where all you have to do is pedal. However, if you are renting a bike for your visit, you might want to hire a bike with handbrakes. You may feel more comfortable cycling in Amsterdam with these features that give you some control and ability to stop rather than stopping with your foot.
3 | Beware of Tram rails when cycling in Amsterdam
Trams are part of an extensive public transport network in Amsterdam and you just need to be careful not to get your wheels stuck in the tram rails. Ensure you cross the tram rails at a 45 degree angle, or avoid the tram tracks if at all possible.
4 | Bike parking policy in Amsterdam that you need to know
Amsterdam has a strict bike parking policy!
Amsterdam is a city of bicycles and getting around on a bike is a way of life for the Amsterdammers. They don’t only go everywhere with their bikes, they also park everywhere and anywhere they like. Therefore, basically you can park your bicycle anywhere as this is not illegal.
Wrongly parked bicycles may be removed by the police. To retrieve your bike, you need to go to the bicycle depot, and pay a fine. Learn more about retrieving your bike from the bicycle depot by visiting Amsterdam’s official site in this regard.
5 | Park bicycles in designated guarded parking facilities
Theft of bicycles in Amsterdam is high! Even if you have locks and secure your bike to the side rails, there is a possibility that your bike will not be there upon your return.
You are strongly advised to use one of the guarded parking facilities provided by the Amsterdam City Council. The Council do not charge for the first 24 hours of parking but thereafter, a small charge is levied. Unfortunately, there is no prior booking for this facility. Visit the Amsterdam City Council web page to locate guarded parking facilities dotted around the city.
6 | Bike theft and cycling in Amsterdam
Bike theft is a huge problem in Amsterdam. Hundreds of thousands of bikes are stolen each year in the city. When cycling in Amsterdam, never leave your bike unattended or unlocked even if you are stopping for a quick photo.
7 | Lock your bicycles
One of the best things to do to avoid an unpleasant experience such as theft is to lock your bicycle at all times when not in use even when you pop into a shop for refreshments or on a terrace sipping up the city’s local brew.
8 | Use certified locks
Lock your bicycle using certified locks. Ordinary locks are easy to break. Use thief-proof locks which takes longer to destroy. You can purchase these certified locks from any of the bicycle shops in Amsterdam city. Certified locks are little more expensive than ordinary locks but it is worth it.
8.1 | Double-down on the certified locks
Use two certified locks and secure your bike to a solid object. Having two locks is twice harder for a potential thief to break the locks and to ride away with your bike.
When securing your bike, don’t just secure the front/back wheel alone. A front wheel can easily be unscrewed from the main bike frame and bike thieves can walk away with the frame. Secure your bicycle frame as well. Ensure you secure your bike to a bike rack or a solid metal post.
9 | Avoid quiet or abandoned areas to park your bicycle
Avoid quiet and abandoned areas to park your bicycles. Vandalised signs and broken locks are areas not best for leaving your bike. Choose a secure location to park your bicycles as mentioned in #5 above. You could park in busy areas such as along the canals and bridges where you could secure your bicycle to a lamp-post or railings.
10 | Do not leave valuables on your bike
Do not leave valuables on your bike. It is pretty obvious that leaving money, mobile phones, passports or GPS is never a good idea. The less obvious items such as water-bottles, bicycle pumps or even bicycle bags may be tempting the thieves also.
11 | Adequate Travel Insurance
Having your bike stolen while visiting Amsterdam is not a joke and certainly an incident best avoided. However, should the unfortunate happen, you need to report it to the police. Chances of your bike being recovered is low to none! You shall need the police report for insurance purposes.
Ensure your travel insurance cover your bicycle and cycling activities whilst on holiday in Amsterdam or wider Netherlands.
Some insurance companies may consider cycling as an ‘adventure’ activity and may not cover adventure activities as part of their standard travel policy. You may have to pay a little extra to include cycling but it is worth including it. Also ensure your policy covers theft of bicycles and not just injuries or medical expenses resulting from cycling accidents.
Check World Nomads for their comprehensive cover on travel and adventure insurance. Read all fine prints before signing up to a policy and ensure the policy covers you and your travel needs.
12 | Be prepared for the rain!
It does rain in Amsterdam! If you are biking, you may want to use a waterproof jacket, wear a cycling cap and wear overshoes and gloves. Most tourists use a poncho instead. Best to check the weather before embarking on a cycling adventure in Amsterdam.
13 | Avoid rush hour
The rush hour in Amsterdam are between 08:00 and 09:00 when everyone rushes to work as well as between 17:00 and 18:00 when everyone rushes home. You can imagine what the cycle lanes will be like – long queues! If there is no great need to be cycling in Amsterdam during these hours, then avoid it by all means and wait for the rush to calm down.
14 | Helmets and cycling in Amsterdam
Believe it or not, cycle helmets are not required when cycling in Amsterdam at the moment. Cyclists in Amsterdam rarely wear them and they consider cycling is not an intrinsically dangerous activity. The Dutch have pretty much created a safe cycling environment. Most of the head injuries sustained are from car accidents. So bicycling is regarded as a super safe activity in the Netherlands.
Having said that, it is highly recommended that you use a cycle helmet when cycling in Amsterdam. This is so, especially when you are unfamiliar with the roads and fellow Amsterdammers.
The bike rental shop will have one available for you for a small extra charge.
15 | Do not imitate the Amsterdammers!
The cyclists in Amsterdam are notorious and well-known for breaking the rules. Weaving through cycle lanes, cycling through red traffic lights, cycling without lights at night, eating and drinking while cycling, riding with one hand and holding an umbrella in another with no helmets! Don’t follow them!
16 | Biking directions | Smartphone Apps for cycling in Amsterdam
There are many smartphone apps in the Apple Appstore and in the Google Android PlayMarket designed for cyclists. Some are specifically designed for cycle-touring the Netherlands and available in Dutch . There are some that are useful for non-Dutch speakers also. Some of these apps require internet connection for it to work, and we known that this is not always possible when you are cycling in open spaces, countryside or rural areas. The following two apps, one for within range of a cell tower and the other is an offline app which could be something you may want to consider:
16.1 | Google Maps
Google maps is my go-to app whenever I am out and about. Google has its own proprietary data and the quality of the maps and directions are detailed. It is an app, without which I would be completely lost navigating my way around a foreign city or driving in another country. However, the downside is, google maps requires an internet connection. It may not always be possible to connect to a cell tower when you are out of the city and you would not want to hike-up your data usage when abroad. For this reason, the offline maps.me is a useful tool to consider.
16.2 | MAPS.ME App
Maps.me was formerly known as MapsWithMe and is a mobile app for Android, iOS and Blackberry. It is free and internet connection is not required which is really handy when you are cycling in Amsterdam or the rural areas of the Netherlands. In fact, maps.me is increasingly becoming a favourite for adventurers.
In relation to quality of content, Maps.me takes a universal approach by using opensource OpenStreetMap data. It is completely community driven where the content is developed by passionate individuals who readily and willingly contribute to the growing list of local knowledge.
The main benefit of maps.me is the offline feature. You could download the maps and store it onto your device. You will always have access to the maps, location and local resources such as hiking trails, driving directions, cycle routes. The maps.me app also allows searches by name, street or co-ordinates. You could search for hotels, points of interests, and so much more.
The only thing you need remember is to ensure that your device is charged so that you can access the app when you are on the road.
17 | General information for cyclists cycling in Amsterdam
In the Netherlnds, there are currently twenty-six long-distance cycling routes and many smaller ones to make up longer journeys. If you decide to go beyond cycling in Amsterdam, the following websites may be useful:
17.1 | The ANWB
The Royal Dutch Automobile Association, simply known as the ANWB is a travellers association in the Netherlands supporting all modes of transport. Their information centres, ‘VVV’ is the place to go to for all of your information on cycling. You can pick a cycling route map here to plan your cycling in Amsterdam.
The ANWB has developed an app allowing for cyclists to plan their route using node numbers. It also includes descriptions of sights and places to eat.
Navigate to the ANWB – the site is in Dutch, just Google translate to read in English
Alternatively, you could pick-up a cycling map published by ANWB right here by clicking the image link below:
17.2 | Fietsrouteplanner
The Fietsrouteplanner is a great site to go to for mapping your cycle journey. Although this site is in Dutch, you could select the Google translate option to English. Set your marker on the starting point and a red ‘flag’ appears which you use to select your end point. You could also select any points to go via and map your route.
17.3 | I Amsterdam Visitor Centre
The I Amsterdam Visitor Centre is a tourist information office located in the heart of the city. Here, you can pick up various cycle route map for cycling in Amsterdam. Staff are friendly and helpful.
I Amsterdam Visitor Centre, Stationsplein 10, 1012 AB Amsterdam, Netherlands
17.4 | Amenities
There are not many public amenities available along the Dutch cycling route, so ensure you map your route to reach a town or village where you could visit.
17.5 | Resources – guide books and maps
The following useful resources may be handy – available in print and Kindle version:
18 | Renting a bike in Amsterdam
As a cycle city, Amsterdam has a number of bike rental shops and you are never too far away from one. There are number of bike rental shops which you could go to on the day or you may want to do the easy way – prebook your rental and pick it up from the various locations to suit your itinerary.
Recommended read: Rent a bike in Amsterdam Green City
Here are some suggestions for you if you would like to visit a bike rental venue.
Green Bikes Haarlem, Kruisweg 30, 2011 LC HAARLEM
Dutch Pedelec Tours, Flevoland 11, 1948 RH BEVERWIJK
Yellow Bike Rental Central Station, Nieuwezijds Kolk 29, 1012 PV AMSTERDAM
19 | Independent cycling in Amsterdam or small group guided cycling tour – which is for you?
If you are a skillful cyclists and can endure the craziness of the Amsterdammers 🙂 then by all means, go out there and have a splendid time. On the other hand, if you are unsure and feel that being with fellow cyclists may be better for you, then joining a small group guided bicycle tour led by an experienced guide is the best option for you.
The benefits of a small group guided cycling tour includes but not limited to, are:
i | Biclycle rental;
ii | Guide to where to park your bicycle;
iii | Led by an experienced guide;
iv | Cycle paths that are away from major traffic areas so you feel confident riding at your pace;
v | The benefits of travelling in a group – shared interests and fun.
There are a number of bike tours which you could sign-up to – from private tours to group tours, and from exploring hidden gems to food & drinks tour. Select what best suits you from this dedicated page.
On a final note
Cycling in Amsterdam city is not for everyone! You need to be careful even as you walk the narrow streets of the capital city not to be run over by the sophisticated cyclists. It certainly was not for me!
While I very much wanted to tick off cycling in Amsterdam city from my bucket list of experiences, I was much too overwhelmed and certainly did not feel confident to embark on this adventure, after almost run over twice. No, not on this occasion. Cycling beyond the city in the outskirts at my own pace is more my kind of fun and adventure.
Though I did not bicycle in the Dutch capital, I feel compelled to share my observations of the cyclists and of the city’s overall cycling culture along with my extensive research which I undertook in preparation for my cycling adventure. I share these to support your cycling trip, should you elect to do so and sincerely wish the 19 useful tips for an enriched experience of cycling in Amsterdam is valuable to you in planning your visit.
In preparation for your trip to Amsterdam, you may like to read the following articles also:
Have a splendid time exploring and cycling in Amsterdam!
Quick facts on Amsterdam, Netherlands
City: Capital of Netherlands
Mayor: Femke Halsema (since 2018)
Elevation: -2m (-7ft) – Dam Square
Nearest Airport: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)
Train Station: Amsterdam Centraal Station
Inspiring your Journey to Amsterdam
Travel Information on Amsterdam
Things to do in Amsterdam
Food & Drink in Amsterdam
Getting around in Amsterdam
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Cycling in Amsterdam-19 useful tips for an enriched experience first published at timelesstravelsteps.com