A Little Tip…Biking Amsterdam Like a Local

Bike signals, AmsterdamAmsterdam is a city that has one major reputation and it’s the reputation that had numerous people giving me a *wink, wink* and a nudge when I told them I planned to stay in the city for two weeks. But there is a whole other side to the city than the “coffee shops” and I was pretty lucky to live like a local in Amsterdam for two weeks while house-sitting and take in the museums, parks, and the thrill of puttering through the streets on an old jalopy of a bike.

So, I don’t think anyone would need a guide for a weekend of visiting “coffee shops” in the city– but there is more to see …these are my stories and tips and you could definitely pick and choose if you only have a couple of days in the city! Stay tuned in all week as I fill out the list!

Rent a Bike in Amsterdam

There is just not a single better tip than to rent a bike in Amsterdam. The city is built for bicycles and it’s faster and way more fun than either walking or public transport. I have to admit, when the husband of the couple took me out into the city for a tour I was REALLY overwhelmed.  He was quite used to the bike lanes and lights and took me whizzing around the town at top speed until I pleaded for a break and took respite in a nearby park.Bicycles in Amsterdam

The city’s streets are designed to accommodate a lot of bike traffic and bikes have the right of way…cars will actually fully yield to bicycles (buses and trams not so much though so GET OUT OF THE WAY…seriously…you were warned…). The red bike lanes run alongside the major roads and work just like roads – you bike on the right side of the street with the flow of traffic.

I may be just a bit easily impressed but I loved the personal bike traffic signals just at eye level at the intersections – you know they’re for you because they’re a bike! Call me lame, but I thought it IMG_0114was cool…and I learned really quickly that you have to look at the ones right next to you, not the one across the intersection (picture the screeching and squealing tires of a car as I figured that one out!).

Anyhow, bikes are great and the tourist bikes are painted bright yellow and red so that the locals know to stay clear of the floundering newbs (I didn’t have that benefit on my crusty-rusty bike). Everything that you could possibly want to see in Amsterdam is bikeable – from the Museum complex to the Anne Frank House (and even the Red Light District) a bike is the only transport fees you’ll have to pay.

Another quick warning – lock the bikes up well. The reason that the couple I was house-sitting for had me using the jalopy bike (they have four others) was because of the high rate of bike theft. I had to use between 2-3 locks on the bike every time to ensure that it didn’t get stolen.

What precautions did you take when you were biking in Amsterdam? Any key tips to share?

Other tips in this “Amsterdam Like a Local” series:

Visiting the Museums in Amsterdam

Shopping the Local Markets

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6 Responses to A Little Tip…Biking Amsterdam Like a Local

  1. mina August 25, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    Love your blog. I would have loved to cycle around Amsterdam when I was there. Although the locals were, I found it too cold to be biking in January

    • Shannon August 26, 2009 at 5:58 am #

      Oh man, I bet that it would have been way too cold – I was whining about the cold and rain and it’s August! Can’t wait to start reading your travels once you’re off!

  2. Amy @ The Q Family August 25, 2009 at 4:59 am #

    That’s so cool especially the bike traffic signal. Do they have family bike for family with small children?

    • Shannon August 26, 2009 at 6:00 am #

      Amy – they do!! They have these huge sturdy wooden boxes that attach onto the front of the bikes – rain covers over them and everything. I saw one mom with three yougun’s under 6 yrs old and they had blankets and toys in there as she peddled along – it was really neat. There are also a lot of the small seats that you also see in the states, but for multiple young ones they have that covered!

  3. Dave and Deb August 25, 2009 at 4:25 am #

    I remember looking at all the bikes at the train station and trying to figure out how people knew who’s was who’s. I wish that we had as great of a bike system as they do in most of Europe. We have a long way to go.

    • Shannon August 26, 2009 at 6:01 am #

      I still don’t know how they would find their bike in that bike parking garage out side of the train st. it is so massive! But I agree, it would be so nice and eco-friendly to have that sort of bike system here in the states (only Portland, OR comes close).

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