You see them all the time cycling on the pedestrian lanes as slowly as possible, while cluelessly consulting the Google maps on their mobile phones. They brake abruptly at the sight of the Royal Palace at the Dam Square, don't adhere to traffic rules and barricade the cycling lanes with an innocent glance.
So are cycling tourists becoming a problem in Amsterdam? Well, a lot of Amsterdam residents think so. They find these tourists rather annoying and not fit to be on the roads, while a small number of Amsterdammers think that it's all part of tourism and people just have to get used to it. There are also Amsterdam residents who believe that the most dangerous person in Amsterdam, is a tourist on a bike. How true is that?
Amsterdam has always been a bicycle-friendly city and residents as well as tourists are expected to cycle. The busier the city gets, the more bicycles are rented out each year. This is good business for bike rental agencies in the city but a problem presents itself when a lot of these tourists can't cycle or adhere to the cycling rules in the city. Out of the twelve million tourists who visit Amsterdam every year, approximately 700,000 rent bikes from MacBike or Yellowbike. These are mainly Italian, British, U.S., German, Spanish and French visitors and they also receive a leaflet from the bike rental agencies about cycling and the rules of cycling in Amsterdam and other parts of the Netherlands.
By now, it's no longer a secret that not every tourist can cycle. Most of them hardly ever do it in their home countries and some have a hard time adjusting to the busy Amsterdam city traffic. And it's quite understandable because there are trams on their heels, cars and buses drive past constantly and there are also other cyclists trying to reach their destination in no time. While one may expect cycling tourists to always be involved in accidents, bike rental agencies say it isn't the case. Occasionally a scratch here and a scratch there, a broken wrist or a sprained ankle, there isn't really any cause to panic. On the other hand, Amsterdam residents beg to differ!
Every once in a while, bike rental agencies are forced to refuse renting a bicycle to tourists. They say these are usually tourists who find it scary and are too anxious to cycle in the busy Amsterdam traffic. Sometimes, other tourists are refused because they're either too drunk or too stoned to cycle. The question is, what happens when a tourists rents a bike while they're sober and then goes into the city to get drunk and/or stoned? Who holds them accountable while they make the bike paths unsafe for others?
There are lots of questions being asked and while answers aren't being presented right now, the best everyone can do is try to educate the tourists on how to cycle in Amsterdam. There are rules in place and these are there for everyone's safety.
Take a walk or cycle on the Damrak, Dam Square, Nieuwmarkt area or even the Red Light District and you'd see a lot of Amsterdam residents cursing out at tourists due to frustration. The problem with the average Amsterdammer is that when it comes to bicycle traffic, they can be a tad unfriendly and blunt. Of course, there is never an excuse for being rude, but one must understand how frustrated they must be when traffic is rendered chaotic due to nonchalant tourists. There are tourists walking casually on the bicycle paths, crossing from one side of the road to the other without looking and blocking the paths with their bicycles and also braking abruptly to take pictures. For Amsterdam residents hoping to either arrive at their workplaces or appointments on time, this is annoying! One question they all have for these tourists is, "If you've never ridden a bike before or aren't used to riding one in a busy city, why choose Amsterdam to start?"
Tourists are always welcome in Amsterdam but they must understand that while Amsterdam is a wonderful and welcoming city, it also has residents who would just love to go about their daily businesses with as little trouble as possible.
It is a welcomed idea for tourists to want to discover Amsterdam by bike and for this reason, we have put together a few cycling tips.
Understand that there are rules governing the Amsterdam "cycling world" and please try to obey them. They are there for your safety and the safety of others. Another thing tourists must understand is: not everyone in Amsterdam is a "tourist like you" and there are people who actually have to rush to appointments or even commute to work by bike. They have to be on time and a total disregard of the cycling etiquettes brings out their rude and blunt sides.
Guide To Cycling In Amsterdam:
Know Your Path And Stay On It:
Amsterdam traffic uses the right side of the road, and this includes bikes. Many streets along the canals and in the historic centre don't have bike lanes. All you have to do is join the traffic, or stay on the right to let motorists pass. Don't be scared of riding on the main road as cars, buses and trucks usually follow behind you. The Dutch respect all road users.
Always Signal Before You Make A Turn:
This is very important as it lets other road users know what your intentions are. Use hand signals when you're changing course. Just point in the direction you want to go and then make your turn.
Always Yield Right Of Way To Trams:
Always yield right of way to trams from any direction. Listen for the distinctive clanging of their bells.
As for all other vehicles and bikes, give right of way to traffic approaching from the right. Traffic coming from your left should give you the right of way.
Never Brake Abruptly:
This is something tourists do a lot because they want to see the sights and take pictures. Other cyclists find it annoying and have a habit of cursing out at cycling tourists who do this. If you must see the sights and take pictures, firstly, alight from your bicycle, park it properly and then take a stroll. It's much better than braking every 10 seconds on a busy cycling path.
Steer Clear of Tram Tracks:
There are lots of tram tracks in Amsterdam and these are just the perfect size to swallow your bicycle tyres. Steer clear of them so you don't get stuck. Stick to bicycle paths and if there are no bicycle paths, join the main road.
Pay Attention To And Obey Traffic Signs:
Amsterdam has many signs and signals designed especially for cyclists. Pay attention to them and try to obey them - they're there for your safety. Also refrain from cycling on pedestrian lanes or against traffic.
Always Properly Park And Lock Your Bicycle:
This is very important because bicycles that aren't properly locked may be carried off by the city council. To get your bicycle back, you must pay a fine. Bicycles get stolen everyday in Amsterdam so make sure you lock yours properly.
When your rent a bike or lend one from friends, make sure it meets the requirements set by the authorities. These requirements which are part of the Road Traffic Act, and every bicycle is expected to meet them. You can get a fine for not adhering to these rule. The basics of these regulations are:
The bicycle must be provided with:
A good working bell.
A good working brake.
A red reflector, which is provided with an approval mark.
Flashing lights are not allowed.
There must be a front light on the bike - white or yellow.
There must also be a back light - red.
This reflector must be fitted between the luggage carrier and the mudguard at a height of 35 centimetres to 90 centimetres above the road surface.
We hope you can use this information to plan a safe and perfect bike tour of Amsterdam. With or without a guide, you should be fine as long as you're empathic and realise you're not the only one making use of the bike path.
Good luck and let us know how your cycling experience was.