I think I mentioned this in a previous post but if you are going to rent a bike they are all basically the same so just rent at the place nearest where you are staying.
Now… HOW to bike in Amsterdam. First off, stay right. We Amsterdamers realize you are on holiday but we are not. We are late for work, for our dates, meetings, getting to the shop before it closes or generally just wanting to get where we are going without too much haste. After all, it could rain any second.
Yes you often have the right away- so what? We want it and so we’ll take it! Disobedience has been a way of life in Amsterdam since its inception and certain since WW2. The Nazis complained about Amsterdam cyclists, we looked at it as away of resisting the Nazis, and everyone was in the resistance! The Nazis are long gone but the anarchy remains.
But there is a method to all this madness, because believe it or not, we’d really rather NOT hit you, because of course that slows us down and we are trying to get somewhere.
So how does it work? If two roads intersect no matter if one seems like a main road and the other seems like a small side road, if they meet without any difference to the pavement then whom ever comes from right (doesn’t matter if it’s a bike or a car) has the right of way. If the pavement is NOT the same then it’s the main road/straight moving traffic has the right of way.
There are exceptions to this. We don’t have many stop signs in Amsterdam. It’s because it’s a yield system which we all know and love. But if you come to an intersection and you have a row of white triangle pointing at you THIS means you must yield your right of way.
Yes, you are meant to stop for pedestrian at crossings.. we don’t tend to unless it’s impossible to cross but what you should do is balance between a complete stop and a slight weave or dodge between the people. There are so many people in Amsterdam, especially in the summer, that you sometimes need to find your space and can not simply wait for it to be completely clear. That’s Amsterdam.
Green means go, yellow means go faster… and red means… well… if it’s just red then it means hurry up 😉 No you are not meant to run red lights in Amsterdam… but unless it’s really red you don’t stop. If you stop on a yellow expect that someone behind you will slam into you.
When turning stick your arms out left or right, you don’t need to hold it out there at 90 degrees, in most cases a simple flick of the arm will be enough.. Just depends on the situation and usually how soon before you are turning.
I know you hate the idea of getting one of those obvious Red, Yellow, Green or any other solid color bikes but please do. It helps us locals understand that you are a tourist and maybe not so use to our system. I personally had this issue with a woman who was coming up to a bunch of white triangles, I knew she’d stop since she was on a local bike and seemed cool and not stressed at all. However, she came barreling into me and because of her uncertainty on a bike ended up on the ground. I was perfectly fine, since, let’s face it, I’m well use to handling a bit of impact after 12 years on a bike in Amsterdam. And the same will be true for most locals. Generally speaking it won’t be us on the pavement. It turns out she was from Japan and renting a bike from a local company which specializes in old beat up Oma Fiets just like the locals use. Seemed like a great idea for her but I really took her for a local, and of course with that a basic understand of the road rules or how to handle ones self on a bike.
Last and maybe most important rule- confidence. When you step on a bike channel your inner Nazi-resister. Own your bike. Pedal with conviction. Know that generally speaking we won’t run into you but would rather slip just in front or just behind you as we cross paths. If you hesitate and come to a stop this could throw the whole system out a whack – trust me I did the my first year and had a lovely ride to the hospital afterwards.
I do think everyone should explore Amsterdam on a bike so I hope this helps to arm with the both courage and an understanding on how you should handle yourself on one while in Amsterdam.