The Paradox

of the Cycling City

By NADIA MURADY | November 16, 2019


Throughout the years, Amsterdam has grown (and is still growing) immensely. You thought it was just based on the rapidly increasing number of inhabitants and tourists? No, the rising presence of bicycles and cyclists in Amsterdam is more prominent than anything else. Forget about cars as the mode of transportation – here, the bicycle is king. 

Anyone who has had the unfortunate pleasure of visiting the city center should know that bicycles are dominating the public sphere. Cyclists are either racing past pedestrians or obstructing the street view alongside the canals. Both pedestrians and drivers have to look twice before crossing the road because, before you know it, there’s a cyclist rushing past you. 

Even though Amsterdam’s infrastructure welcomes both cyclists and pedestrians, the sheer volume of cyclists creates hazardous traffic situations.

It was just last week when my friend and I were making a valiant effort to cross the road. Despite looking both ways and avoiding bikes, all while shielding ourselves from the pouring rain with our umbrella, we still got hit by a cyclist. 

Fortunately, we were fine, even though the cyclist rammed her bike into my friend’s rear. The worst part was being confronted by the infuriated cyclist who not-so-kindly reminded us that “this it the Netherlands, there are more bicycles here!”

Truth be told, our vibrant city has a dark side: the great number of dangerous cycling situations and accidents occurring every day.

The behavior of certain cyclists is one of the main reasons. They ignore traffic signs, pass through red lights and have no lights attached to their bike. As the I amsterdam organization would say: “don’t imitate the Dutch.” Besides that, there are not many or enough convenient cycling routes yet. 

If you are new to the city and are still deciding between cycling or using public transport, this should help you out. Here are some tips to navigate you through the city safely whether you’re cycling or not: 


  1. Follow the rules

Seems very straightforward, but there’s clearly a lack of cyclists who do. Rules are there for a reason: making sure that everyone stays safe. Even if you’re in a hurry, passing that red light is not worth the risk.


  1. Get a good, reasonably priced bike
    It’s important to have a good bike that gets you through every weather condition. However, there is a chance that it might get stolen, so look for cheap or secondhand alternatives.


  1. Find a suitable transport subscription
    Public transport is quite expensive in the Netherlands, so if you decide to make use of it, try to find a suitable subscription. If you take the train often, you may want to look at the different offers that NS provides. As for the metro, train and bus, you can check GVB. If you’re a Dutch student or an international student with a job, you may be eligible for free student travel.


  1. Manage your time

If possible, try to stay out of rush hours. Public transportation might get so packed that you have to wait for the next tram or metro – and the streets will be busy too. So, try to leave earlier in the morning and get your groceries before heading home. It will make up for the time you spend waiting during rush hour.


  1. Stay updated with traffic jams or closed roads
    Before you leave your home, double-check if there are any closed roads or traffic jams on your route. Knowing this beforehand can eventually help you to reach your destination faster; you’ll have time to map out another route and prepare yourself. 

On one hand, Amsterdam encourages everyone to join the bandwagon and go cycling through the city. But on the other hand, the overwhelming number of cyclists makes the city more unsafe to commute in. Hopefully you now have some ideas on how to approach Amsterdam’s traffic and safeguard your own wellbeing.

Let us know your experiences with traffic in Amsterdam through our Instagram or simply leave a comment below!

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