Tour de Amsterdam: Biking as a Tourist

image-of-bicyle-in-amsterdam-courtesy-of-j-salmoralBiking in Amsterdam is an experience that can be enjoyed by even novice cyclists. On almost all streets and roads, cyclists enjoy an exclusive wide path separated from motor vehicle traffic by a strip of ground, a ditch or high curb. Riders have the right of way over pedestrians (a practice that takes time getting used to), and even have the prerogative to run red lights! It’s remarkable to be part of a populated community where a bicycle, as a mode of transportation, is only second to the popular and efficient train system that most of Europe enjoys.

As a flight attendant, I get to visit Amsterdam several times a year. While walking proves to be the best way of becoming familiar with a city, once you’re comfortable with the layout, renting a bike allows you to be more adventuresome within and outside the city limits. There are numerous bike rental shops in the city, just outside Central Station (the main train station) and even in smaller outlying towns. Bikes can be rented for a few hours or weekly.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned (some the hard way):  stay on the right side of the street in the bike path, allow faster riders to pass you on the left and, while in the city, ride at a good clip. Riding on the wrong side of the street or trying to window shop in the bike path is not tolerated by the Dutch, who ride with a purpose. On my first ride into the city, cyclists were waving at me, shouting at me and ringing their bike bells. I waved back, “Hello, hello!,” thinking to myself, “What a friendly group of people!” Only after talking to a hotel staff member later that evening – after he quit laughing – did I find out I was lucky no one verbally abused me (that I know of). Apparently, the Dutch cyclists were yelling that I was on the wrong side of the bike path: “Get out! Get out!”

It also didn’t take long for me to discover cyclists could run red lights. Like an obedient rider, I stopped at a red light only to notice immediately that I was the only one standing there. My fellow cyclists left me in the dust – they don’t stop for anyone or anything, except a tram or train. When passing or alerting another rider or pedestrian, use the bell which is equipped on all bikes. If you want stop somewhere, slow down, put your left hand out and down, quickly pick up the bike and step up on the sidewalk. Don’t ever ride your bike on the sidewalk: walk it. Remember, cycling in the city limits is a mode of transportation, not a leisure sport.

In addition to standard tour guides, the library has many guides to bicycle touring both here in Seattle and the West, and in locales as far-flung as Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France, and China.  (Part 2 of this post can be found here).

                                             ~ Edna B

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3 Responses to Tour de Amsterdam: Biking as a Tourist

  1. Julia says:

    Hey Edna!
    Brenda was here on the desk with me tonight, and she showed me the way to your blog. I love hearing about cultural communication impasses, like the one you describe where you were on the wrong side of the bike path and thought everyone was waving. Are you going to Rotterdam with Trent’s group? If not, you should be!
    Julia

  2. Heather MW says:

    I was in Paris during the major transit strike in November. The Parisiens have been bicyclists for years but that November I saw some amazing biking. A fashionable Parisienne on a bike is a sight to see. In Paris the city goverment has place racks of bikes outside many Metro stops. You pay a small fee and hop on. You can return your bike at any Metro station. Seattle should be so forward thinking.

  3. Pingback: Amsterdamize » Amsterdam Through Strangers’ Eyes - Part 3

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