Cycling in the Netherlands: Do's and don'ts

Do you already see yourself cycling through the Dutch streets? We'll give you a hand with the Dutch cycling culture and how cycling in the Netherlands actually works.

Maybe it sounds a little scary: taking your bike to work or school. But in most cities, bicycling is by far the fastest way to travel. Besides that, you are getting some exercise and fresh air, it is an eco-friendly transportation option, you avoid other car-related expenses, it reduce your stress level, and you get to know your neighborhood at a slower pace. If you don't have a headwind, all these benefits should not be too much of a burden to take the bike. Right?

girl biking through city
Many Dutch people take the bike to work or school, regardless of the weather.

In fact, in the Netherlands, it is taken for granted that you can ride a bike. Dutch children are even required to take a bicycle exam in the last year of their elementary school. Because their secondary school is often only accessible by bicycle, they are tested on all the signs and rules for cyclists. However, not all cycling rules and habits are official cycling rules.

Dutch road etiquette

If you are new to the Netherlands, you may be amazed by the cyclists here. Bike jams at traffic lights are not uncommon and hardly anyone, including children, wears a helmet. Expat Xing Chen even wrote a whole book about it: Learn to Cycle in Amsterdam. Because trust us, being able to ride a bike is different from riding a bike in a crowded city.

Anticipating the behavior of other cyclists begins partly with your own bicycle behavior. Let's dive deeper into Dutch road etiquette.

  • Wearing a helmet reveals that you are a tourist. New to cycling? Better safe than sorry, of course!
  • Cycling across a market? Don't do it.
  • You have bikes for men (with bar) and women (without bar). Tip: get yourself a women's bike. Getting on and off is much easier without a bar!
  • Keep the pace up a bit. Being continually passed is a mood-breaker.
  • Suddenly breaking for no reason will not be appreciated.
  • Don't creep ahead because you think you can still make it.
  • Biking with an umbrella is not recommended, as the wind knocks it over in just a few seconds.
  • In the Netherlands, you may carry almost everything on your luggage rack or in your cycle bags. But make sure other cyclists can still pass you.
  • You won't often hear about someone whose bike has not been stolen. Secure your bike properly by locking your frame with an extra chain lock to an immovable object. Tip: check if you are insured against bicycle theft.
  • Transporting your bike on the train? For an additional €7,50, you can take it with you only during off-peak hours (Monday to Friday between 9.00 – 16.00 and 18.30 – 6.30 and on weekends all day). Folding bikes are free of charge.

written by Inge

Big fan of content, in all ways. A good chance that you won’t spot her without her phone. Trained her thumb to scroll on social media and loves to write.