To travel with ease in Amsterdam, you must own a bike. This is an indisputable statement. Though there are trams, buses, and a short metro line, the best way to get where you’re going is to hop on your bicycle and ride. Learning to bike in such a busy city with narrow streets takes much practice, as I learned upon my arrival here. In the States, bikes are often seen as a “problem” on the road. In The Netherlands, the opposite is true: to the bikers (which is most of the population) the cars are the problem. Bikers always have the right of way, and in the case of a bike/car accident, I recently learned that no matter what the situation, it will be the car drivers fault 99% of the time. Because it’s the law that vehicle drivers need to be aware of bikers, and give them the right of way at all times, things remain relatively safe.
Cycling as a form of transportation has its pluses and minuses. A major minus is cycling in the rain, wind, sleet, snow or hail; in a word: miserable. However I must say, that the overall benefits conquer the negative component. Biking is an excellent form of exercise, it’s often the quickest way to get somewhere (at least in Amsterdam), and it is good for the Earth!
The most impressive thing about the bikers in Amsterdam, is the number of things they can do while on their bikes. This includes but is not limited to: calling & texting, eating, applying makeup, singing opera, putting on/taking off clothing, carrying various household items, and transporting many children. Biking is a way of life, not just mere recreation. The important thing to remember as a tourist in The Netherlands is that biking is serious business. If you accidentally step into a bike lane here, it’s the equivalent of standing in the middle of a multi-lane highway in another country. If ten bikes have to suddenly brake for one tourist, it’s not a pleasant sight. You will get sworn at, you will have obnoxious bells rung at you, and you will think twice before you step in a red bike lane again!
A few photos to celebrate this unique form of transport: