Culture Guide Int'l Lifestyle

Author Jessica Lipowski Shares How to Bike Like The Dutch

Guest Post By Blogger and Author Jessica Lipowski

The city of Amsterdam is synonymous with biking. According to iamsterdam, the Amsterdam Tourist Board, the city is home to an estimated 881,000 bicycles and only 811,185 inhabitants, more bikes than residents. On average, 58 percent of the population cycles daily. Biking is more than a method of transportation; it is a way of life.

Completely different from any other city I’ve experienced, biking in Amsterdam is like a fast-paced game. Peddling along in the designated bike lanes, others fly by, accustomed to the speed. Parked bikes are peppered across the city, sometimes clustered together in huge structures like that at Centraal Station or sitting outside on the street, locked, in residential neighborhoods.

At first, the Dutch intimidated me as they made their way from Point A to Point B while chatting on their cell phone, holding hands with a lover or even riding with an extra passenger sidesaddle on the back. Out of shape, I couldn’t even comprehend biking 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) to commute to work or meet up with friends. My first biking experience in Amsterdam was a disaster, almost colliding with a tram and losing a shoe, twice. Now, after living in the Netherlands for more than four years, I can keep up with the best of them. On average, I bike 8 kilometers (5 miles) one way to go somewhere and weave my way through the city, knowing the fastest route.

Tips for Biking in Amsterdam

  • Stay in designated bike lanes, often marked with a biker painted in the path or with white dotted lines on either side.
  • Observe traffic rules (even if you are tempted to follow someone ignoring signs). One in particular is worth mentioning. There are little triangle shapes on the road, indicating who has the right of way. If the triangles are upside down and facing you, you must yield.
  • While most Dutch do not wear a helmet, it is better to be safe than sorry, especially if you are feeling unsure.
  • Respect other cyclists. It is fine to bike side-by-side, but if it is particularly busy do not block the entire bike path. Be courteous to your fellow cyclists.

Growing up in metro Detroit, I learned to ride my bike as a young girl around the age of six, but biking for me was a fun activity in the spring and summer months. For the Dutch, however, biking is ingrained at a young age. It’s viewed as an efficient mode of transportation, not necessarily promoted for being green or as exercise. Of course, those two aspects are added benefits, most certainly helping the Dutch maintain their slim figures, but the bicycle is a great way to drop off and pick up children from school, do grocery shopping, meet up with friends or get to and from work. Families even cycle in groups, whether heading into the city or for a picnic in the park.

Tips to Incorporate Biking Into Life Back Home

  • Hop on your bike to meet-up with friends, especially if you’re meeting for a drink. If your city does not have designated bike lanes, research cyclist rules and follow those practices. You can also bike on the sidewalk, but respect pedestrians, as well.
  • Explore the local area by bike. Biking gives you the opportunity to look around and take in your surroundings.
  • Instead of taking the car to go grocery shopping, hop on your bike. Invest in saddle bags and a backpack. You will naturally bring less groceries home, but this enables you to shop for a day or two at a time and use the freshest ingredients for your upcoming meal.
  • Research groups in the area that you can join. Who knows; perhaps your new best friend – also a cyclist – is just out there waiting to be found.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • In the end, it’s simple; enjoy!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Follow Jessica Lipowski on Twitter @JLipowski. She is also a host of two weekly twitter chats: a cultural travel chat using the hashtag #CultureTrav and another on the road less travelled (#TRLT).

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