The Netherlands is known for being the biking capital of the world, and rightly so. Bikes are more common than any other type of transport, and the infrastructure is designed for bikes. Did you know that there are more bikes than people? Biking in big cities is seriously scary, at first. This is something every new student can testify to. But after a while, you’ll get the hang of it. Let's just say that biking in the Netherlands is an art-form of its own. But one of the perks of studying in the Netherlands is that you can save a few coins by choosing to bike, rather than opting for public transport. With our top tips on biking in the Netherlands, you’ll become a cycling pro in no time!
Separate lanes for bikes
One of the first things you need to know is that there are specific paths for bikes. They are lanes used only by cyclists (if you are walking, make sure to avoid bike lanes to escape certain death). Usually, the bike roads are red, with a white bike symbol on the ground. The biking paths are, most often than not, faster and a more direct way to your destination than the main roads.
If you do bike on the road, make sure to stick to the right side!
Cycle signs and routes
In addition to bike traffic lights (bike lights?), you will also see certain signs. This includes a round, blue sign with a white bike on it. This means that the path you are on is specifically for bikes only. When there is a blue sign with ‘fietspad’ in white lettering, it is an optional bike path.
Never thought we had to say that, but yes, there is a biking etiquette. You should always try to bike behind the person in front of you. This is also for your safety! Of course, you can overtake the person in front of you but be sure to do it at an appropriate time. So, don’t do it while biking full speed across a roundabout, for instance. And, always use your bell to signal you want to pass. You can technically bike two people next to each other, but be aware when people want to pass you. On really busy bike paths we advise you to keep a single file.
Another important point is to never come to a stop in the middle of a biking lane! You can cause serious damage by coming to a complete halt surrounded by a bunch of other cyclists. Not to mention it gets on people's nerves. If you need to stop, try to come to a slower stop or get off the cycling path.
Always stop at pedestrian crossings, and let them pass. Additionally, don’t make the mistake of riding your bike in pedestrian zones! In this case, just hop off your bike and lead it through the area.
Stay safe, kids
There are specific bike crossings and traffic lights. You should follow the traffic lights of the bike lanes instead of those for the roads. Always make sure to check before you turn anywhere so that you don’t get run over! Also, always make it a point to signal when you turn. If you want to turn left, stick out your left arm, and same goes for turning right with your right arm. Oh, and helmets aren’t legally required, but if you feel safer with a helmet, fo for it (it’s also warmer…).
Just so you know: in terms of liability, the larger vehicle is always considered at fault! So, if you are in an accident with a car, for example, they are considered liable for the accident. That's why it is also a good idea to get liability and accident insurance. If you want to get some legal help, you can always see our Key Resources!
And keep your bike safe, too!
Have you noticed that lots of Dutch cyclists have more expensive-looking locks than they have bikes? Yeah, it’s a common thing. Bikes being stolen is something that happens around the world, but in a country, with more bikes than people, the odds are a bit higher. Always lock your bike, wherever you are! Preferably to a lamppost or some other sort of railing, with a good lock.
When it doubt, just take it slow! No one will judge you, and the Dutch people have some form of patience for virgin cyclists. As long as you don't come to a dead stop in the middle of the road and always remember our safety tips, you'll be fine. And hey, in no time you will even become a pro at it. You might even take a weekend trip or two, just you and your bike...
Any tips on biking in the Netherlands? Share them with us!
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