Amsterdam, probably the most bikeable city in the world but it can be difficult for people that aren’t used to the ways the dutch do things. I was beyond excited to bike here for the first time but quickly almost got ran over which traumatized me. There are a lot very different aspects of riding here but once you get used them you will appreciate not having to worry about taking a cab or needing to rent a car. Here are a few tips I want to share after experiencing biking in this wonderful city.
1. Know the street signs and pay attention to them. Some are more obvious ones like the ‘yield’ sign but many will be in dutch. For example – fietspad = cycle path. toegestaan = pedestrian zone, biking permitted. uitgezonderd or sometimes bijzonder = literally translates to ‘except’ or ‘particularly’ and will be next to a photo of a bike, both motorcycle & bike, or car & motorcycle.
2. Check your bike. Be warned, many bikes in Amsterdam come with few gears or none at all due to the lack of hills. Many also do not have hand brakes.
3. Avoid the obnoxiously branded rental companies. Maybe this is a pet peeve but if I see a few people in a group of bright yellow bikes with big signs on them I tend to avoid them like the plague and I imagine other locals feel similarly. There are plenty of less obnoxious looking bikes to rent.
4. Watch for the motorbikes and even small cars on the bike paths. This may change in 2015 but currently motorized vehicles below a certain speed, I think 30kmph, can ride on the bike paths. I personally think this is dangerous but it is what it is at the moment, so until the law gets changed, watch out!
5. Know where you’re going. I know that Amsterdam is lovely and it’s tempting to stop in the middle of the road and take photos or second guess your directions but it can really slow down traffic. Either pull off on the sidewalk or have the directions on your phone with headphones in one ear telling you where to go. I have found the headphones to be super helpful in getting me where I need to go. You can preload directions on google maps when you are on wifi and it will continue to work when you get off it, as long as you don’t go off track!
6. Lock it up. There is a reason all bikes come with ridiculously large locks. So make sure you always try to lock it up to something. During festivals and events it may not always be possible so I usually lock the wheel to the bike itself so that it is not easily moved, however, I would not do this for more than a few hours just to be safe.
7. Go with the flow. Some streets are for walking pedestrians only, so if you see people walking their bikes on a path, it could be for this reason. One way streets (for cars) may have an opposite path for bikes only. Be observant of what the locals are doing, it’s usually a safe bet to follow their lead (although some don’t follow the rules either).