Cycling the Dutch way: Priority rules, fines, and signs

Let's break down the cycling rules in the Netherlands and the fines if you don't follow these rules.

The Dutch infrastructure is built for cyclists and consists of a network of clearly marked cycle paths with smooth surfaces. Let's break down the cycling rules in the Netherlands and the fines if you don't follow these rules.

Although there are separate signs and traffic lights for those on two wheels and there are almost everywhere cycle paths, there are several rules that cyclists in the Netherlands must abide by. The prejudice that those using pedal power have priority is, for example, not true.

General Dutch cycling rules

The rules of the road in the Netherlands are easy to learn. There are general cycling rules, legal rules for your lights, priority rules, and important road signs for cyclists. Let's start with the general rules. It's wise to read these before you step on your bicycle.

  • If there's a bike lane, always use it.
  • Stay on the right side of the bike lane, and pass other cyclists on the left.
  • If you're passing someone, always ring your bell so they know you will pass. 
  • Before turning left or right, extend your arm horizontally (left or right) to signal where you'll go.
  • Two cyclists are allowed to bike side by side, no more.
  • Although there are separate traffic lights for cyclists, you must stop for every red traffic light.
  • You're not allowed to cycle on sidewalks.

Besides official cycling rules, there are a lot of do's and don'ts when you're on a bike. You'll save yourself and others a lot of frustration by reading up on the Dutch road etiquette for cyclists.

Priority rules for cyclists

In the Netherlands, motorized traffic is often alert to cyclists around them. But that does not mean there are no rules regarding priority for cyclists. Quite the contrary.

  • Give way to drivers coming from your right at any intersection without signs, shark teeth marks, or traffic lights.
  • Trams always have priority.
  • If you turn left or right, you must give way to all straight-through road users (including pedestrians).
  • Priority vehicles with optical and sound signals (such as police, fire departments, and ambulances) always have priority.
  • Pedestrians on a crosswalk have right of way.
  • As a cyclist, when approaching roundabouts, you give way to drivers who are already on the roundabout. On the roundabout itself, you have priority. When leaving the roundabout, signal with your arm to the right.

Important road signs for cyclists

There are a lot of road signs. If you want to get your car license, you need to know them all. Cyclists don't have to follow all the car traffic signs. There are special bicycle traffic signs that cyclists need to follow. These are the most important road signs in the Netherlands for cyclists:

road signs for cyclists
road signs for cyclists
road signs for cyclists
road signs for cyclists
road signs for cyclists

Rules for bicycle lighting

There are legal rules for your bicycle lights. If you don't follow the rules, you could be fined. Before you hit the road, check if everything works. Especially in fall and winter, as it gets dark early in the evening. You need:

  • White or yellow light at the front and a red light at the back.
  • Lights that shine straight ahead or straight back.
  • Good, visible lights.
  • Non-flashing lights.
  • A red reflector (not a triangle) on the back of your bike.
  • White or yellow reflectors on the wheels or tires of your bike. Note: spoke reflectors are not allowed.
  • Yellow reflectors on your pedals.

Do you want to attach lights to your clothing? Then you can only attach them to the upper part of your body. Attaching lights to your head, arms, or legs is forbidden.

Fines for cyclists 

You can be fined if you don't follow the rules as a cyclist. Bicycle fines are expensive because they ensure the safety of traffic and other road users. We give you a handy overview of the most common cyclist fines that apply from March 1, 2024 (without €9 administrative costs).

  • No reflectors on your pedals: €45.
  • No reflectors on your wheels: €45. 
  • No working bell: €45. 
  • No (working) lights: €70.
  • No working brakes: €70.

  • Turning without indicating direction: €45.
  • Not staying on the right side of the road: €120.
  • Not stopping for a red traffic light: €120.
  • Cycling against the indicated direction: €70.
  • Biking on the bus lane: €70.

  • Overtaking just before or on a crosswalk: €180.
  • Overtaking someone on the right: €120.
  • Biking on the highway or motorway: €190.
  • Holding a cell phone or other communication devices while cycling: €160.
  • Biking under the influence of alcohol: €200.
  • Not stopping for a stop sign from the police: €180.

  • Not giving priority when you need to stop for a stop (road) marking: €45.
  • Not giving priority when you need to stop for a 'stop' sign: €120. 
  • Not giving priority when you need to stop for sharks' teeth (a row of triangles with the sharp ends pointing at you): €120.
  • Not giving priority to a bus at a bus stop: €70.
  • Not giving priority to a tram: €120.
  • Not giving priority to a blind person (with a white stick): €180.
  • Not giving priority to a pedestrian at a crosswalk: €180. 

Hopefully, these rules won't scare you away. Cycling in the Netherlands is a matter of practice, practice, practice. When you get the hang of it, it becomes a natural thing. Trust us!

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