Small guide for tourists while in Amsterdam

I have an impression that tourists think they’re in Disneyworld while in Amsterdam. One time I got really badly injured while I was driving my bike to work, because some drunk tourists suddenly jumped in front of me and it was impossible to avoid them.

I always wonder why tourists do this when there are plenty of sidewalk paths for pedestrians everywhere in Amsterdam? Are they blind? How they can not see the big white bicycle symbols along the bike lane. They are not realizing that they are putting themselves, but also rest of the cyclists and scooter riders, in great danger.

I am coming from Greece and there we also have a lot of troubles with the tourists. Some people think that when they are visiting a foreign country they don’t have to obey the rules. But in their countries they do.

Even if you’ve never been to the Netherlands, you’ve probably heard about Dutch famous bicycle culture. And what a culture it is?

Bicycles are literally everywhere: chained to every lamp post, tree, railing, other bike, and every now and then, a bike rack.

The dedicated red bike lanes, which are separated by a curb from the road, are usually more spacious than the sidewalks. But why? Because according to the most recent figures, 850.000 residents (442.693 households) of Amsterdam together own 847.000 bicycles. That’s four times the number of cars.

That represents 1.91 bicycles per household. 78% of people 12 years and older own at least one bike.

Bonus fact: Each year between 12,000 and 15,000 bikes are fished up from city’s canals. There are 880,000 bicycles in comparison to a population of 800,000 city inhabitants.

There are many paths, signs, signals, and traffic lights designated solely for cyclists. In the Netherlands, over 30% of all journeys are made by bicycle and virtually all Dutch children cycle to school.

Because cycling is such a popular form of transportation in Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands, you’ll see every type of person on a bike.

Business people in tailored suits, elderly people, couples holding hands, and parents with their two kids on the back and one in the front (while making phone calls and holding an umbrella).

Local bicyclists may run red lights, ignore traffic rules, make phone calls, send text messages, ride on the sidewalks, and daringly weave in and out of traffic, it doesn’t mean it’s okay.

But if you decide to ride a bike in Amsterdam I suggest you to obey the traffic rules.

Police does monitor and ticket cyclists occasionally but I have never seen any policeman stop any cyclist for my 6 years in Amsterdam. So please don’t imitate the Dutch.

As I said Amsterdammers are notorious for breaking the rules: cycling through red lights or biking at night without lights. Do not follow their example!

Dutch people get started with cycling at a very young age, and continue well into their golden years.

Infants are often strapped into a child seat, which sits on top of the mother’s handlebars and is protected from the wind by a small windshield.

Once the kids become a bit too big for the handlebars, they are transported by their parents in freight or cargo bicycles. And not long after that, they get their own bikes.

About 57% of Amsterdammers use their bicycle on a daily basis. Yes, even when it snows!

Did you know that one of the most photographed sights in Amsterdam is the bicycle parking at Amsterdam Central Station.

More than 8,200 bicycles are typically parked there daily.

Bike usage in Amsterdam has grown by more than 40% in the last 20 years.

The total length of bike paths in Amsterdam is about 400 kilometers.

So here are few very important information for all Amsterdam visitors.

The Amsterdam’s bike paths (Fietspad) are usually red and they are marked by a white bicycle symbol.

Please do not walk on the cycle paths otherwise you might get hurt and injured very badly.

There are plenty big sidewalk paths for pedestrians in Amsterdam and also pedestrian zones, please use them to walk around.

If you are about to cross the cycling path, please be careful.

Look left and right before you cross. Also cross the path straight, never diagonal.

Most of the Dutch don’t have any ring bells on the bicycles, so they might whoop on you to move of their way. Usually with ”whooo!!!”

Please always remember that when they’re on bikes, Dutch people are always in a hurry, even when they’re not in a hurry.

You don’t have to ride like them, just stay out of their way and you’ll be fine.

Or if you are riding the bike yourself, just go very closely to the right side of the cycling path so people that are in hurry can pass you by from the left side.

It is extremely important while cycling to stay in your lane: use the bicycle lane on the right-hand side of the road, marked out by white lines and bike symbols.

Many tourists like to discover Amsterdam by bike, as it is the typical Dutch way to get around the city. But, don’t bike more than two people across, keep pace with the other cyclists, and pull over to answer your phone, to look around or to check the map.

Avoid rush hour: between 08:00 and 09:00 or 17:00 and 18:00, there are thousands of bikes on the road, often resulting in big queues at junctions.

If you don’t need to be somewhere, wait until the rush calms down.

With more rental bike shops opening every year, the problem could get worse — unless, of course, tourists grasp the essentials of riding in Amsterdam.

If you don’t want to shout out that you are tourist in Amsterdam you can avoid famous bike rental companies, with yellow, red or green bikes.

If you pedal slowly while gawping at tulips and shops, or stop to check your map, and pretty soon you might been thrown into the canal by the scooter driver.

 

So if you decided to cycle in Amsterdam, besides all I had early mentioned, there are some cycling rules here.

Pay special attention to tram tracks, they are just as wide as a bike tire and they are perfect for getting your wheel stuck and to make you fall down and break your arms or legs.

Always cross them at an angle and you’ll be flying over them in no time.

See those white triangles painted on the ground? Those signs point to whomever is supposed to stop or yield.

That means if the triangle is pointing at you then you have to yield or stop to let traffic pass. If the triangle is not pointing at you still use caution as many ignore these signs and think of them as merely decorations on the streets.

Also, give right of way to traffic approaching from the right if no other rules apply (thus, traffic approaching from the left should give you right of way).

Taxis and buses often push the limits on this rule, so be careful.

You must have a white light on the front and a red light on the rear of your bicycle after dark. Police actively enforces the bike light requirement.

Use hand signals to let other people know when you are turning right or left, or stopping. In Amsterdam cyclists don’t use the formal hand signals. Instead, they just stick their right or left arm out in the direction they plan to turn.

The most important rule of all is to lock your bike, always. Even when you’re leaving your bike for a couple of minutes to get some groceries.

The best way is to use two locks. My Dutch neighbor gave this advice to me when I got my first bike here. He said that even a lot of bike locks are easy to brake with a rock, the thieves prefers to steal a bike with a single lock, because two locks demand more time to brake them, so they can easily got noticed.

Buying or renting a bicycle is easy thing here. Keeping it is a different story. Bike theft is a huge problem in Amsterdam, so make sure you have a decent lock, even before you get a bicycle.

When you see a white sign with black print that says Fietsen worden verwijderd (bikes will be removed) it means you should look for a different spot to park your bike.

Lock the rear wheel or the frame, not the front wheel. The front wheel is typically most easy to remove it.

If you rent the scooter or moped in Amsterdam, you need to know that you are not allowed to drive inside of public parks, such as Vondelpark, but you can ride the bicycle though  but only on asphalt paths.

For the end I would like to share the fact that about 18 million tourists – both from the Netherlands and abroad – are expected to visit Amsterdam this year.

Of course tourism is part of Amsterdam’s international culture and we have to cherish that. But we came to the point where the center of Amsterdam is turning into a massive theme park. And this is kind of scary for us, the citizens of this city.

Try to imagine me going to work at the 6:30 in the morning with my scooter and suddenly while I am passing through of the city center a bunch of drank tourists jump in front of me on the bicycle/scooter lane trying to find out from which party I am coming, telling me that I am pretty, asking me to give them a ride, etc.

I don’t understand why they do this, do they really think that only because we have a Red light district here that every woman in Amsterdam is a prostitute?

It is truly annoying and also scary for the woman alone on the street early in the morning when nobody is around.

Ι am always trying to avoid any conversation with drunk people.

Very often when I see tourists walking on the bicycle lane in front of me I press my scooter horn just to warn them that I am coming hopping that they are going to move away from the lane. But my scooter horn unfortunately sounds happy. It sounds almost like the horns at the gay pride parade. So instead of moving away, they are raising their hands in the air and they usually start to dance, or they are waving to me, thinking that I did this to greet them.

In other words, avoiding the tourists on the bicycle path is mission impossible at least in Amsterdam. We just have to get used to it and to live with it, we have no other choice.

Therefore I decided to write this article hoping that is going to get viral and that it might wake up some people acting like they came to Disneyland while in Amsterdam.

5 thoughts on “Small guide for tourists while in Amsterdam

Add yours

  1. It is funny how people think the rules don’t apply to them when they are out of their country. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be going about your day & have tourists constantly interrupting that.

    Liked by 1 person

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