How to Get Around Amsterdam – Cycling in the World’s Bike Friendliest City

Travel Tips — By Anna Bandurska on March 23, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Amsterdam’s famous bike paths gave rise to a saying: If you hear the bell, run like hell. Cyclists in the city will not stop for you under any circumstances; they WILL run you over.
Amsterdam is the world’s most bike-friendly city. Extensive networks of bike paths run along many roads, while separate traffic lights and signs are ever present to steer you in the right direction. The narrow cobblestone streets along the canals are picturesque and ideal for discovering by bike, and make transportation a real pleasure. Since Amsterdam is a small city geographically, all major sites are a short bike ride away: Rembrandthuis, Anne Frank Huis, Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and the Heineken Experience, are all within 10 minutes of Dam Square or each other. An abundance of bike rental places around the city, most located near Dam Square and Centraal Station, make cycling an efficient and affordable mode of transportation.
When cycling, stick as close to the right as possible; only using the left for passing. Obey the signs and lights designated for cyclists, and in the absence of these, obey regular traffic signs as other vehicles do. Even though you frequently see locals running red lights on their bicycles, it’s not advised to do so. You are not above the law, and if you get in a collision with a vehicle or tram, you will lose.
It is also important to have working bike lights when it gets dark (white in front, red in back). If your bike doesn’t have a set, stop by a Blokker or HEMA on the Nieuwendijk or Kalverstraat and pick one up for 5 Euros. If you get stopped by the police after dark without lights, you will get a fine whether you’re a tourist or not. Even though Amsterdam is a bike-friendly city, there are also a few no cycling zones which are clearly marked (e.g. Dam Square, Nieuwendijk, Kalverstraat). If you cycle here you also run the risk of a fine.
Finally, there are more bikes in Amsterdam then people, and the average bike has 5 owners. Bike theft in the city is very high. Because of this, NEVER leave your bike unlocked – even for a moment. Always take care to lock your bike and try to leave it in designated parking areas. You will see bikes locked to anything and everything, but if you leave your bike in an undesignated zone, it may be removed and impounded in the west of the city.
Finally, if a friendly stranger offers to sell you a bike for a very low price (usually 10 Euros), beware: it’s a stolen bike. It’s a good deal, but also illegal, so buy at your own risk.