Cycling rules in Amsterdam made easy

More than 58% of Amsterdammers cycle everyday. It’s not so hard to fit in, but there’s a few things to know before you set off. Your bike safety is of the highest importance to us, so we decided to make your life a whole lot easier. Following these 5 simple tips will ensure you come home in one piece. 

Prefer to watch cycle tips instead of reading?

Amsterdam’s official guide for residents and visitors, Iamsterdam, made this handy video. Hear from a cycle instructor about how to hold your own on two wheels.

Although the mish-mash of trams, buses, cars, and bikes might more closely resemble the traffic in Egypt than what you expected from Northern Europe, there is a delicate order, and you’ll soon be breezing your way through with the rest. For cautious first-timers and cycle veterans alike, these 5 tips will ensure you survive and thrive in the bike capital of the world.

#1 Don't bike next to each other

Cycling two-abreast is a surefire way to slow everyone else down and put yourself in danger. Keep to single file by biking behind one another and give your friends ahead of you enough space to allow a margin for error. This allows you to cycle at your own pace, with plenty of room in the cycle path, and lets other bikes and cars pass you easily.

cycling in single file on a street in amsterdam with bikes and shops around

#2 Make sure to always signal when you're changing direction

The key is to ensure everyone else knows what you’re doing. As always, bike on the right side of the road. If you need to turn, then show this with a clear outstretched arm in the direction you want to go, while you look for any other traffic, and gradually change your direction. Make eye contact with other cyclists and drivers. A ‘thanks’ also helps keep people happy when when someone gives way.

#3 Never stop in the middle of the cycling path

Trust us, it’s better this way. To ensure your bike safety, keep to an even pace, and don’t stop or turn suddenly unless you’d rather end up under a pile of Amsterdammers and their bikes. If you need to check your map or answer a phone call, check over your shoulder, indicate you’re turning towards the walking path, and coast onto the pavement before you do so. Whilst you might see people riding with no hands, on their phone, flipping pancakes, and probably solving cold-fusion while they cycle, we do not advise this. Keep such activities to the pavement on your own two feet. 


#4 Follow the rules and signs

Although biking in Amsterdam is unique, most of these are universal. Red means stop, green means go; a big red sign with a while line in the middle means no entry, uitgezonderd means ‘except for’, the little stickmen holding hands means pedestrians only, and the white bike on a blue background means there is a compulsory cycle path. Not rocket science, but we’ve got a useful guide for all you need to know about the traffic signs.

Cyclist stopped in front of red lights in the cycle lane in front of the Rijksmuseum

#5 Cycle on the proper bike path

Aside from normal streets, all the wider roads have a biking path allocated to them. Considering we bike on the right side of the street, the biking path should always be on the right side of the large road you are on. That is, unless there is only one bike lane which has a right side and a left side. To ensure your bike safety when on the double bike path, you should always stay on the right side of the dashed line where a bike sign indicates you are on the right path. Oh, and please cycle the right way up the bike path – unless you’d rather learn some charming Dutch swear words.

Cyclist on the wrong side of the bike lane, with people angrily cycling the other direction in front of the Rijksmuseum

Additional Bike Safety Tips

  • Never cycle in front of a tram
  • Only cross tram lines at a steep angle
  • Turn your rear bike light on at night
  • Use your bell only when necessary
  • Don't forget to lock your bike

Be prepared for walking in Amsterdam

If you’ve read to this point, well done – you’re now older, wiser, and ready to take on the cycle-lanes. Not yet convinced that cycling in Amsterdam is safe and fun? Just bear in mind that walking comes with its own perils. In fact, given that bikes have right of way over anything other than trams, cycling is usually a whole lot easier.

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