Amsterdam: 5 basic rules of bike safety

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Amsterdam bike
Safe cycling in Amsterdam. Photo: Enlatado

By Audrey Sykes in Amsterdam—

Amsterdam by bike is the best way to see the city, hands down. The flat terrain guarantees a quick travel time, and there’s something special about the Holland breeze brushing your cheeks.

Most importantly, as biking in this densely-populated city is the main form of transport, there are some important safety precautions you should take. Ride the cobblestone streets in confidence by following these top five tips for biking safely in Amsterdam:

1. Always have a bell.

Bike parking

Tons of bikes. Photo: Audrey Sykes

The saying in Amsterdam for pedestrians goes, “If you hear a bell, run like hell.” The locals love to ring their bell at tourists–it’s entertaining for the biker and educational for the walker.

Yet the saying rings true along busy streets; there will be times when a tourist is standing in the bike lane. It’s amazing how a simple bell ring can reveal a bike path from a sea of tourists. Visitors know to be on alert for the sound of bike bells coming from behind, so don’t be afraid to enforce this warning.

2. Always have a front and back light.

The one law bicycle police actively enforce is the bike light requirement. Pedaling around in the Amsterdam darkness is not only unsafe for you, but also for taxi drivers, night buses, trams and pedestrians. Those caught without lights are slapped with a €50 fine, with no questions asked. Ask for lights when renting a bike, and a two-pack set is just a few euros at the markets.

3. Never make random stops.

Would you ever break on the highway during moving traffic? Not in a million years. Stop in the middle of a bike lane and you’re just asking to be labeled a clueless tourist. Most major intersections have street lights for bike lanes, which is the best place to pause. If you need to make an emergency stop pull off to the side of the bike lane, just like a car.

4. Always signal your turns.

Extend your right arm to turn right, and extend your left arm to turn left–it’s that easy. Locals might be whizzing by as you feel surrounded by chaos, but these biking pros can read traffic instantly and will give you space if you signal… correctly.

5. Keep to the right.

Just like a car, slower traffic stays in the right lane. And a visitor on a rental bike is and will always be slower traffic in the eyes of the Dutch. Rush hour does exist in bike lanes, so be on your best behavior by biking straight, with confidence, and keeping to the right side.

About the author

About the author: Audrey Sykes hopped across the pond from the US eight years ago for a Masters degree in global journalism. Since then, she’s lived all over Europe, reporting and editing for music sites, snowboard mags, and travel media. She’s also the Amsterdam author for Party Earth, a guide to nightlife across Europe.

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One thought on “Amsterdam: 5 basic rules of bike safety”

  1. Just got back from a biking trip through Holland with my husband and two kids. Your safety tips are right on! It’s important to mention that biking is, in general, extremely safe in Holland thanks to their extensive network of bicycle paths that are well-signed and separated from vehicle traffic with their own system of traffic signals, tunnels, and night lighting. Such a fun and inexpensive way to sightsee!


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