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13 Tips for Riding a Bike in Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly towns in the world, making it an excellent city for cyclists to tour. Since the city is among the most bicycle-friendly worldwide, riding a bike in Amsterdam is one of the greatest things to do in the Netherlands. As well as being a real treat, it’s a great way of keeping fit and one of the most common ways to get around the whole nation! 

For most Dutch citizens, two wheels, two feet, and a chain is the primary mode of transportation. Biking is an excellent way to explore Amsterdam’s old city center, narrow, meandering streets, and picturesque canal banks. When you visit Amsterdam, biking is the best option.

Thanks to all of the bike lanes around the city, you can go virtually anywhere with a bike. While the public transport in Amsterdam is among the cheapest and best in the world, with a bike, you don’t need anything else to get around in a flash. 

For new cyclists, those used to riding at a modest rate in the park, or purely rural cyclists like mountain bikers, riding a bike in Amsterdam may be initially intimidating. Worry not, because when we say Amsterdam is bike-friendly, we mean it’s bike-friendly.

Whether you’re a seasoned biker or someone new to biking and want to enjoy pedaling through Amsterdam, keep reading; this guide on riding a bike in Amsterdam provides some top cycling tips.

Biking around the city can be stressful, mainly if you are not accustomed to the frantic nature of Amsterdam’s roads.

Top Tips for Riding a Bike in Amsterdam

Here are the important things to bear in mind as you take on a cycling adventure:

1. Know Where to Bike BEFORE Your Start

Cyclists on a scenic trail in Amsterdamse Bos
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Amsterdam has various bike lanes and pathways that make cycling across the city safe and offer an enjoyable experience. It is usually seen on the right-hand side of the street. 

Some bike lanes have two-way lanes only on one side of the street. These lanes often have white lines and bike markings painted on the road or a reddish-colored path to distinguish them from other vehicles.

All traffic in Amsterdam, including bicycles, uses the right-hand side of the road. It is common for bike lanes to be absent on several streets in the old center and around canals. Ride with the traffic flow or keep to the right to let automobiles pass. 

See Related: How to Find Cheap Amsterdam Trips

2. Bike in your lane.

Cyclist biking near historic Amsterdam architecture on sunny day
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

If you plan to ride and take a cycling adventure in Amsterdam, you must adhere to the traffic regulations, including remaining on the bike path. It is not just observing the rules, but it is also respecting the lanes reserved for non-bikes. 

If you pedal your bike on the sidewalk, get off and walk it; the sidewalks are for foot traffic. It is also unacceptable to ride through pedestrian zones only because a sign indicates that you are in a pedestrian-only zone, even if someone else is also bicycling there, and vice versa.

You must not cycle on walkways, shopping streets, sidewalks, or motorways, among other places. You should anticipate people yelling and calling you out if you ride your bicycles down the sidewalk. The same will be said if you’re walking in the middle of a cycle path or the road!

This behavior may also be subject to a fine. There’s no point in straying. Staying in your lane will allow you to enjoy a pleasant and traffic-free biking experience without cars or pedestrians to worry about, so why stray?

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3. Pay Attention to the Signs.

Bike Lanes and Signs in Amsterdam
Stop Light in Amsterdam on Bike (Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers)

The city of Amsterdam has a number of bicycle-specific signage and signals, as well as bike traffic lights. The most significant junctions are equipped with bicycle traffic signals that flash red, yellow, and green in the shape of a bike.

You must follow the directions on the signs and the bicycle paths, as you would if you were in a car. It could mean the difference between life, limb, injury, and death!

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4. Know the Right of Way.

Green Light and Biker Traffic in Amsterdam

Trams coming from any direction should always be given the right of way. Keep an ear out for the unmistakable clanking of their bell. You must yield to oncoming vehicles when you see a combination of backward triangles and stripes. 

If you notice zebra stripes on the road, this signifies a pedestrian crosswalk, and you must give way to the pedestrians. Allowing the right of way to oncoming traffic is the same rule for all other cars and bicycles. 

Vehicles approaching from your left should yield the right of way to you. The use of taxis and buses frequently exceeds the boundaries of this guideline; therefore, you must proceed with caution as they approach. Remember, it’s your safety and vacation at stake here! Being flattened by a bus is going to put a downer on things.

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5. Use Hand Signals on Bike Paths.

Amsterdam bike lane at sunset, showcasing hues and urban tranquility
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

This is among the most essential details to remember when biking in Amsterdam. Constantly give a signal before making a turn. The use of hand signals for changing directions and generally signaling intent is prevalent in Amsterdam and the Netherlands; the Dutch are highly proficient in using hand signals. and can be accomplished by extending your hand. 

You do this by extending your hand in the direction you wish to turn. It will also alert cars and other bicyclists that you are on the right, not overtaking you on the left, and vice versa. 

Using signals and giving the appropriate warning can save you from trouble, and if you fail to do so, it may disturb people or, worse, cause an accident. Note that some cyclist hand signals in the Netherlands may differ from those in your neck of the woods.

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6. Make way for other cyclists.

Cyclists and pedestrians enjoying a sunny day in Amsterdam's Vondelpark.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Avoid biking across with more than two people, maintain a steady speed with other bikers, and pull over when you’re using a phone or a map. Make an effort or do your best to keep up with your riding companions, and NEVER stop in the middle of the path. Riding two lanes in pairs is permitted if your speed does not cause traffic jams.

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7. Use a Map.

Summertime at Rembrandtpark Amsterdam with Dutch bike
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Cycling through Amsterdam without a route plan and guidance is exhausting, inconvenient, and dangerous. This city, particularly in the center, has lots of narrow, winding streets, and the canals, while pretty, can be a hazard in themselves, not to mention the toilets that rise out of the ground!

A map is required to avoid such inconvenience and allow you to enjoy the cycling tour more. For the most part, bike rental businesses give basic city maps. You can also purchase a map from the tourist information centers in Amsterdam that includes suggested bike routes, shows locations that are off-limits to bicycles, bike service centers, and a list of interesting sights to see.

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8. Use your bell when riding a bike in Amsterdam.

Pink Bike Bell Along Canal in Amsterdam

A bike bell in Amsterdam is what a horn is to taxi cab drivers in New York City. Use your bell, but use it when riding a bike in Amsterdam. It’s always a good idea to signal cyclists in front of you if you plan to overtake. Then there are the inevitable pedestrians who don’t know about the existence of a bike lane, meandering in and out of bike paths while you’re cycling about town.

Instead of shouting at someone like some double-wheeled hooligan, you can be a civilized and responsible ambassador of the bicycling community by ringing your bell once to get someone’s attention, whether it’s a cyclist or someone on their way if they aren’t looking around carefully.

If you’re using your bike’s bell to alert someone, you must only ring it once; overdoing so can cause disturbance to locals and possibly a ticket. 

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9. You must have a bike light at night and all winter hours.

It is illegal for you to ride a bike in Amsterdam without front and rear lights at night, and you need to keep the lights on both day and night during winter! You don’t have to worry, for most rental bikes come with include lights. 

This is a hotly policed law, so hot that you must remember that it’s common for people to steal bicycle lights! To be safe, always detach your bike lights and carry them everywhere when leaving your bike unattended to avoid such inconvenience and aggravation.

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10. Don’t bike while drunk.

Many young Dutch cyclists, as well as many rowdy tourists, believe it’s okay to bike after drinking or indulging in that other favorite substance you can find in Amsterdam.

However, riding a bike in Amsterdam while biking drunk will certainly lead to an accident and/or injury, and biking while under the influence is illegal in the Netherlands and will at least result in a hefty fine.

This not only applies to biking but also to driving a car. If you ever plan to drive an automobile, do not drink and drive. It is dangerous for you and everyone around you. Safe biking means safe and sound travel in the Netherlands.

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11. Don’t use your phone while riding a bike in Amsterdam.

This tip also applies to driving; using a phone while cycling distracts you from seeing the fantastic sights of Amsterdam and is extremely hazardous. Remember, you are not the only one using the road; cyclists and vehicles surround you.

If you’re riding a bike in Amsterdam and need to use your phone, you need to pull over, just like if you’re going to check a route map.

Using selfie sticks while biking is also hazardous. If you want footage of the city (or yourself) while you pedal the streets, using a GoPro attachment on a bicycle is much safer to record your Amsterdam cycling adventure.

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12. Double lock your bike.

Cluster of Bikes in Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Always lock your bike if you have to leave it unattended. If you do not, someone might steal it. This is a problem in Amsterdam; tens of thousands of bicycles are stolen yearly! But we can help prevent this by locking our bikes and never leaving them alone outside without locking them up.

In Amsterdam, thousands of people lose their bikes to thieves. So prolific is the problem; most Amsterdamers use two locks to protect their bikes, and you should do the same and never leave your key on the bike!

U-locks or heavy chains can attach your bike to a frame base, such as a bike rack or post. To ensure an effective fit, feed the lock through both the frame and not just the front wheel of your bike.

Also, ensure you only park and lock your bike in areas that allow such things. Don’t ignore the sign that says you can’t park and place your bike to avoid getting your bike stolen or removed by the city authorities. It’s always best to store your bike indoors at the end of the day.

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13. Always be careful when riding a bike in Amsterdam.

Bike-Friendly Traffic Management: Amsterdam's Bicycle Turn Stoplight
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Amsterdam has abundant biking infrastructure that’s easy for locals and visitors alike. It is one of the safest cities to cycle on Earth, but that doesn’t mean it is 100% safe. Cycling accidents could ruin your travel and cycling adventure in Amsterdam

Getting into an accident that you may have caused (if you ignored our advice!) or being a victim of accidents caused by another user of the road might not just ruin your vacation; you could be faced with a large bill for fines, legal fees, or hospital bills.

You don’t want this nuisance to happen while riding a bike in Amsterdam. No sir. No ma’am. No, thank you, fam. You must exercise extra caution when riding a bike in Amsterdam and remain vigilant of your surroundings to avoid accidents, inconvenience, and the possibility of spoiling your trip to the Netherlands.

You can purchase your biking and travel insurance for more peace of mind. Some rental bike businesses also provide insurance against accidents, theft, damage, and other concerns.

This comes at an additional expense, but travel insurance, especially when traveling abroad, is better to have and not need than need and not have.


How many bikes are in Amsterdam?

There are an estimated 881,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. This number has been growing steadily over the years as more and more people have begun to rely on bikes as their main form of transportation. Amsterdam is known for being a very bike-friendly city, with wide paths and lanes specifically for cyclists.

Why does biking work so well in Amsterdam?

Biking works well in Amsterdam because the city has made a concerted effort to make biking an easy, efficient, and safe way to get around. The city has invested in a comprehensive system of bike lanes and traffic signals specifically for bikes, as well as in bike racks and storage facilities. Bikes have priority and the right of way over all other forms of transportation. And because Amsterdam is relatively flat, it’s an especially convenient mode of transportation for residents.

How are the bike lanes designed in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam bike lanes are designed to be as safe as possible for cyclists. This is done by separating the bike lane from the traffic lane with a physical barrier, such as a curb or median.

Additionally, the bike lanes in Amsterdam are typically wider than in most other cities, which makes them more comfortable and convenient for cyclists. One of the many reasons Amsterdam has been so successful in promoting cycling is its well-designed bike lanes.

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