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How to survive on a bike in Amsterdam

So we’ve all seen that meme about Amsterdam’s bike lanes right? “Look right, look left, look right, look up, look down, look into the 4th, 5th and 6th dimensions, look into the past and future, look into the souls of your unborn children...still get hit by a bike”.

But hey, we’re here to reassure you that cycling in Amsterdam isn’t as perilous as it might seem! In fact, it’s the most efficient and enjoyable way of exploring Amsterdam: a city known to be home to more bicycles than residents. Need a little more persuasion? Read on…

Bike is King in Amsterdam

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s lay down some basic rules. In Amsterdam, the humble bicycle is king of the road! So naturally, there are plenty of facilities and laws to safeguard bicyclists. Think separated lanes, traffic lights for bikes, multi story bicycle parking (many aboard moored up barges!) and laws which almost always favor cyclists.

You might have noticed however, that wearing a helmet isn’t written into Dutch law. I mean, it makes sense if you’ve also noticed our carefully coiffed hair styles…

Bike is King in Amsterdam

Here are the 7 rules that you simply must know before you hit the pedals. 

1. Stay in the designated bike lanes

Unlike most major cities, Amsterdam has well maintained bike lanes which keep you safely away from the passing trams and cars. They are generally one way, so make sure you’re on the right (and right-hand side) of the road, and never pull a U-ey in the middle of a one way lane. Oh! And the bicycle lanes are painted red with the bicycle sign 🚲 painted on the pavement. The direction of the sign will give you a clue as to which direction you’re supposed to cycle in, if you ever get confused…

2. Back pedal brakes

Before you glide off on your new two wheeled best friend, check that you’re familiar with our brake system! A traditional Dutch bike won’t have handbrakes but a backpedal brake. The clue’s in the name: simply pedal backwards gently to stop your bike. If you’re not too comfortable with this we can always dig out our bikes with hand brakes! Phew! 

3. Always (always!) lock your bike
We have thousands of bikes in Amsterdam (roughly 881,000 the last time we checked). Despite these numbers, bike theft is unfortunately still a big problem. So! Always double lock your bike even if you’ve nipped inside a cafe to grab that coffee to go for just one minute. Of course, it’s always advisable to lock the bike to a pole, lamppost or fence when possible.


stay on the bike lanes

4. Mind the tram (and the tramlines!)

The tinkly bells of our city Trams might find their way into your dreams unless you’re keeping an eye out for them when you’re out and about in Amsterdam! The drivers are known for being a little stubborn when it comes to stopping for anyone, so make sure to give them the right of way.

But the real thing to look out for here are the Tram lines. The rails can either become slippery in heavy rain, or when they ice over in winter, and the grooves will trap your wheel which tends to ensure a pretty sudden stop! So give them a wide berth or cross them horizontally (don’t worry too much about this, it’s usually pretty easy!). And if you do find yourself on the floor, you’ll join the likes of hundreds of Amsterdammers who often repeat this rookie mistake.

5. The right of way

In general, any mode of transport approaching from the right has the right of way. Easy to remember, right?! Make sure to check your right at every intersection. When an intersection looks like this 🔻🔻🔻, be sure to stop for other traffic. The same goes for pedestrian crossings: make sure to stop for pedestrians whenever they go to cross the road at a zebra crossing.

6. Amsterdam can be pretty tropical…

…for about a week each summer. Before any day on a bike you should prepare for all kinds of weather. And we mean all kinds: the Dutch will pack up a rain jacket, their sunglasses in the summer and add a hat and gloves in the winter. Just to be sure.

7. More tips for your bike ride

If you’ve skipped to the end of this blog (thanks) at least you’ve hit the most exciting part!
We couldn’t fail to mention our renowned bike tours of Amsterdam. We’ll make sure you feel both confident on your bike and have a great day exploring the city or the country side on wheels in a public or a private bike tour. See you there! 

Mike's Bike Tours Amsterdam Nieuwmarkt