Expat Life
February 21, 2023

Cycling tips to live by (in the Netherlands)

After living in this charming city for over 1 year now and biking with the best of them, I’d like to think of myself as an adequate cyclist. I’m not saying I could bike better than a 10 year old Dutch boy or a Dutch mom with one kid strapped into the front and another standing on the back while extremely pregnant but I feel confident enough to hold my own. A few tips that helped me along the way -

  1. Do not hesitate! Or as I was told when I first started cycling “Hesitate and Die”.  I thought they were joking but this phrase has actually saved me from multiple pileups. You obviously should calculate your moves carefully but most of the time you need to just go with your gut.
  2. Avoid the tram tracks at all costs. Especially in the rain. This can be scary if you get stuck, your wheel will just perfectly fit into the track and if you don’t get out right away you will probably fall. In the middle of the road. And it will suck. When crossing over them, cross at an angle ensure your tire will not get stuck!
  3. Stay in the bike lanes. Normally on the right side of the road and outlined by white lines. This makes life easier for you and everyone else on the road :)
  4. Having lights on your bike is actually required and not just a suggestion. If you are cycling at night, be sure to have your front and back light turned on.
  5. Use your hand signals. Point left for left turn and right for right turn and look before you go. How would you feel if someone just zipped past and cut you off real quick without signaling almost causing you to slam on your breaks? – surely it could cause some bike rage or ferocious bell ringing.
  6. Don’t do as the Dutch do. They tend to own the road and break the rules. You’ll see them run red lights or they wont use lights at night. Better to be safe than sorry is something I say to myself frequently.
  7. Remember that the Dutch have been cycling since they could walk. Multitasking on bikes comes naturally to them. They can eat, talk on the phone, hold umbrellas, carry children and even full adults on their bikes all at the same time. Just because they can (and they make it look easy) doesn’t mean you can! Be confident, but not too confident.
  8. Always lock your bike up!  Over 80,000 bikes each year are stolen throughout the city. Use the back lock and lock the front wheel and frame to something stationary (preferably a bike rack).  I know someone who went on holiday and locked the back lock as usual but only was able to lock the front tire to something stationary (and not the frame) - he came back from his holiday and had to walk home with just his front wheel in hand because that’s all they left him L

My best advice is to just be smart and stay safe. You’ll get the hang of the hustle and bustle of biking in Amsterdam after some practice :)