HowTo: walk or cycle in Amsterdam*, a tourist guide

HowTo: walk or cycle in Amsterdam*, a tourist guide

The rules of thumb are pretty simple:
  • If you want to cross a street, start walking, but do not change speed or direction. The Dutch cyclist will always try not to hit to avoid you. The cyclist cannot avoid you when you stop at once in the middle of the street because you got scared. Now the trajectory which was formed beforehand in the cyclist’s brain, is wrong and the cyclist may hit you after all.
  • If you look up to admire the beauty of the canal houses, do not fall of the pavement (many do, true!).
  • Do not walk on the road, this is the part of the street which usually contains Dutch clinkers in older cities, including motor traffic (a few cars, a lorry here and there, some scooters and cyclists)
  • You’re a tourist. You know nothing of the Dutch unwritten rules of cycling. Don’t try to act like your Dutch, which means: when Dutchies cycle in the opposite direction on a cycling path (which is not allowed) they do it because they can. When you try to cycle in the opposite direction, you usually don’t do it the right way. And explaining ‘the right way’ is just not possible.
  • Cycling on the pavement is often done by Dutchies, but – apart from the fact that it’s pretty annoying – this is not allowed either. You’ll never learn to do it the ‘right’ way (personally I dislike pavement-bikers very much, unless I do it myself)
  • If you rented an airbnb-like place or stay at a friends house and you’re allowed to use the beaten up Dutch bikes, please add a red flag or something telling Dutch road users you’re a tourist. Remember, you’re in disguise now. Rental bikes say: this is someone who probably hardly ever cycles. Keep distance, maybe ring your bell.
  • You should Not ring the bell. It’s for warning signals only, not a toy (which means: when you’re in a scary situation, ring it!)
From left to middle: pannier, front racks, front basket, child seat,
From left to middle: pannier, front racks, front basket, child seat,

Well, that was quite a list. How to lock your bike and other stuff will probably be explained by your bike rental shop.

Why those ‘rules’? It’s fairly simple. When I cycle through the stunningly beautiful city centre of Amsterdam I cycle pretty fast. I can’t help it. My daily regular cycling schedule to and from the office totals at least 11 kilometres**. Any other one way cycling trip usually adds about 5 km to that amount (so if I go and have a drink in the city, I’ve cycled about 21 km that day). Not only when the Sun is shining or when there is a pretty strong breeze. No, everyday. Sun, rain, snow, cold, warm, dark, light, dusk or dawn. It doesn’t make a difference.

But then, always around: tourists. During the holiday season they are as ubiquitous as the bikes. Hopefully this blog helped you understand how the local cyclist feels and thinks and keep you out of trouble!

Have a pleasant stay!

* Or any other city with many cyclists
** Miles, miles. Please! The US, Birma and Libya use the Imperial System. The rest uses SI (France: Système international d’unités) or International System of Units. OK, one time and one only: 11 km = 6.835 miles.