Amsterdam: Welcome to the City of Cyclists
Some say that Amsterdam has more bicycles than people. Whatever the truth of this assertion, Amsterdam is a city made for cycling. The locals certainly think so: Amsterdammers make well over 50% of their journeys within the city by bike. Whether it’s commuting to work, taking children to school or simply for leisure, the bicycle is the transport of choice for many people of all ages. As a visitor, it’s a great idea to think about joining them.
Safety and Convenience
Bicycle lanes are a rarity on Amsterdam streets but Amsterdam’s long history of cycle use and the city’s traffic-calming measures make this statistically a very safe place for cycling. Moreover, motorists are discouraged by the scarcity and expense of parking in the city. There are also over 400km of cycle paths (Fietspad), marked in red for easy differentiation from roads and footpaths, as well as plenty of bike racks.
Most Dutch bikes include an integrated lock but, if you have an expensive bike and are worried about its security, you can use one of the Fietsenstalling, or guarded bicycle parking facilities, for a small charge.
Bring your Own or Hire?
Of course, visitors can bring their own bikes but traditional Dutch Omafiets are popular, and readily available for hire. Dutch for “Grandma bike”, these sturdy, attractive bicycles are known for the “sit up and beg” position of their users, a position popularised by the Victorians to make cycling as comfortable and elegant as possible.
Seeing the Sights by Bike
Guided cycle tours are popular, and a fantastic introduction to the city. Here are a few suggestions of places to see or visit by bicycle:
- the Vondelpark, a large park popular with Amsterdammers and tourists alike: wander through its rose garden, watch its street performers, take in a performance at its open air theatre, or swap your bike for roller blades and skate along its wide paths.
- the waterfront: follow the canals out to the city’s waterfront, and see where the old harbour gives way to newer architecture;
- Nieumarkt: Amsterdam’s oldest district but now increasingly multicultural. It’s the place to go for traditional gabled canal houses, excellent shopping in independent boutiques, the fifteenth century De Waag building, and Chinatown;
- the Rijksmuseum: see Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, or cycle on the bicycle path that runs right through the museum in its own tunnel; and
- the Anne Frank House: situated in central Amsterdam, on the Prinsengracht, one of Amsterdam’s three main canals, this one-time precarious place of safety for Anne and her family, is a must-see for many visitors.
Most hostels and hotels, including the centrally-located and comfortable, Amsterdam Hostel Uptown, will be delighted to suggest many other possibilities for sightseeing by bike in the city.
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