Amsterdam is probably one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. In fact, it has won twice an award of Copenhagen Index for the most bike-friendly city. Do you know that there are more bikes than Dutch there? Seemingly, literally everyone rides a bike in Amsterdam – no matter the age and social status. Every day while in Amsterdam you’ll see business people, kids, police officers, teenagers and grandparents biking. Some of them even walk their dogs by bike which always make me laugh.
If you like cycling and want to get some bike culture facts and statistics, this article is just for you. Introducing, 22 facts about bicycles in Amsterdam!
1. There are over 881,000 bikes in Amsterdam
There are over 881,000 bikes in Amsterdam. Actually, there are more bicycles than residents and this number of bikes is constantly growing. A typical Amsterdam street scene sees dozens of cyclists commuting to/from work, carrying groceries or transporting children. Even if it might look a bit shocking for a foreign visitor, it doesn’t surprise anyone here in the city. Cycling is kind of built into Dutch DNA. In fact, bike usage in Amsterdam has been growing rapidly in the last 20 years. If you would like to learn how it happened that there are so many bikes in Amsterdam, I encourage you to read this interesting article by Micaela – WHY ARE THERE SO MANY BIKES IN AMSTERDAM?
Many Amsterdammers just decided not to have a car. Not only for fitness/economic reasons, but this is just by choice. Not only is cycling cheap, convenient and safe, it’s also clean and eco. Well done, Amsterdammers. Actually it’s very expensive to own a car in Amsterdam. Tax and insurance costs are high for a reason, that’s a government strategy to promote cycling culture. Moreover, parking prices in the city center are dramatically high and it’s not easy to get long-term parking permission. You also won’t move around the city center any faster by car than by bike. I know many succesful business people who have no car, but they wear their suit and ride a bike. This cycling culture creates a safe environment in Amsterdam. In this article, you can learn more about cycling culture in Amsterdam and how this city became a bike capital of the world. A COMPLETE GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM CYCLING CULTURE!
3. Statistically, each resident of Amsterdam owns at least 1.5 bikes
Research shows that almost 80% of Amsterdam residents (12 and older) own at least one bicycle. You may ask why? There are two reasons. First of them is that some people have their daily old dutch style bike, which they use on their way to work, school, shops. But they also have their high-end sportive bike which they use for a training purposes. The second reason is that it’s just more convenient to have two bikes parked in different locations. I used to have a bike in Haarlem and in Amsterdam because when I got from one city to another by car or by train there would be my bicycle waiting for me. It’s just very convenient.
4. The most popular type of bicycle on Amsterdam’s streets is the traditional Omafjets
The grandma bike – a roadster with a step-through frame. These are the most popular bikes in the Netherlands. Cheap, sturdy and creating this amazing Amsterdam vibe. Why all the bikes in Amsterdam are old? – Read this article to find the answer. But don’t get me wrong, there are much more than just old Omafiets. Amsterdam is bicycle heaven and you find there any kind of bikes possible, modern city bikes, mountain and road bikes, custom bicycles and sometimes even recumbent bikes. In Amsterdam you’ll also see many cargo bikes – they are usually chosen by families with kids. You may think that they are very heavy and difficult to ride. Nothing further from the truth! Most of these bikes have an engine and they are very easy to ride and safe.
5. 35% of trips daily in Amsterdam are by bike
Around 22% of all trips within the city are by car and around 35% – by bike. Bikes are the most often used means of transport for the distance up to 7.5km – they are most frequently used for commuting, taking kids to school and back, going to the groceries, etc. Amsterdam is a relatively small city and most distances we have to face each day are less than 10 km. It’s really not that much when you consider that the Netherlands is flat like a pancake. I would say that most distances are less than 3 km, and that’s just a few minutes of cycling.
6. 60% of Amsterdammers use their bike every day
Amsterdammers use their bike all the time, even when it snows/rains or when the chilly wind freezes their faces. Almost 60% of them use their bikes literally every day, no matter the time of the year and the weather. So, no excuses even if you’re visiting Amsterdam in the middle of the winter! It doesn’t snow very often in the city anyway. Just be aware that when it gets cold it can be a little bit more slippery. Watch out especially for drain pits, it’s easy to lose control over your bike when turning on the wet drain pit!
7. The bike is often a primary mean of transport in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has a dense network of cycling paths and they are key components of the city’s transport system. Choosing a bicycle is not even a budget of fitness conscious people choosing a bike as their primary mean of transport. Many of Amsterdammers don’t even have a car and it’s by choice. Amsterdam is considered to be heaven for cyclists after all. Who needs a car if they have a bicycle!
8. Cyclists in Amsterdam cycle together two million kilometers each day.
Would you imagine that combined, Amsterdam’s cyclists bike even two million kilometers each day? That’s right, even if it sounds insane. But if you consider that there are over 880 000 bicycles in the city, 2 000 000 sounds quite reasonable. I often cycle 30 km a day, so there are many people who don’t use their bikes but there are many people who cycle on a daily basis and it’s their main mean of transport.
9. Queen and the King also ride a bike
Cycling has always been part of Dutch identity. And even the Dutch royal family doesn’t make an exception. In the past, all three queens have loved biking and Queen Wilhelmina was almost obsessed with it, even if she was banned from using a bike by her mother. However, when her German-origin mother died, she cycled regularly in the public places, even if cycling was considered to be ‘not dignified enough for the Queen’. Below you can see a video of the King cycling and a short story of bike culture in the Dutch Royal Family.
10. Amsterdam has a wide net of traffic-calmed streets
In many places in Amsterdam, you can see a sign that the street is only for bicycles. In the future, there will be more and more bikes in the city. The municipality of Amsterdam already remove many car parks, they create bike racks and they plant trees and flowers. The plan for Amsterdam is to be CO2 free city by 2030. So benzine and diesel cars will be forbidden inside the ring of Amsterdam. I can’t wait to see this city without cars. There is a very popular city in the Netherlands – GIETHOORN – TOWN WITHOUT ROADS AND CARS.
11. By 2020, Amsterdam will create 40,000 extra bike parking spots
The city has developed kilometers of bike paths and bike racks, as well as many guarded bike parking stations but there’s an ever-growing parking problem. Recently, cars haven’t been the only mean of transportation that faces this issue. Sometimes, it’s extremely hard to find some free space where you can park your bicycle (legally). There’s a famous ‘bicycle flat’ with around 2,500 free bike parking spaces and two floating structures in the river IJ that can hold around 4,000 bikes. Also, there are plans to open a new parking garage underneath the water in 2021. It is supposed to hold up to 7,000 bikes. By 2020, the city wants to create around 40,000 extra bike parking spots.
12. There are thousands of abandoned bikes in Amsterdam
On top of parking-related issues, there is also a problem with abandoned bikes. There are many of them in the center of the city (you can read more about it here. The city has been trying to remove them from the streets but the problem is still present. Often the municipality of Amsterdam remove bikes that are not in use for a long time. They put a blue sticker on a bike and if you don’t take your bike from a particular location within 7 days they remove it. Don’t worry if your bike disappear, because it may not be stolen. First, you should call Amsterdam bike depot, because maybe they removed your bike and they still have it. You can contact them on this number 020 334 4522.
13. Amsterdam has currently over 400 kilometers of bicycle paths
Amsterdam currently has over 400 kilometers of bicycle paths crossing the city – it’s really impressive. The high level of cycling infrastructure is a great accomplishment for the city but not a great surprise though, especially considering Amsterdam’s long-held love affair with bikes. Among the others, it’s the result of the policies implemented in the last thirty years. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY BIKES IN AMSTERDAM?
14. Bikes are allowed to turn right at a red light
As the cycling network in the city is much developed, there are many regulations cyclists should follow. The weirdest rule to me, as a foreigner, is that bikes are allowed to turn right at a red light when it’s safe to do so. In most cases, it’s convenient but to be honest, I’ve seen many cyclists that don’t even stop in such situations and it can cause potential danger.
Amsterdam has many signs and signals for cyclists. In this article written by Micaela, you will learn the most important rules and bicycle signs in Amsterdam. Make sure you are familiar with the most important. Bike traffic lights – red and green are common. If a special bike light doesn’t exist, you should use traffic lights for cars.
15. You don’t have to wear a bicycle helmet
Cyclists in Amsterdam are not obliged to wear a helmet while biking. It’s not mandatory in the Netherlands and most people just don’t do it. If you see a cyclist wearing a helmet, this must be a tourist. Of course, you can wear a helmet, and for sure you can get one for your kids.
Even if cycling is still considered one of the safest means of transportation in the city, there are more and more accidents with cyclists involved every year. It’s also because more and more people ride a bike in Amsterdam. Cycling is of course fun but unfortunately, according to Statistics Netherlands – CBS – in 2017 more cyclists were involved in fatal accidents than motorists. 206 cyclists were killed (comparing to 201 motorists in passenger cars). Two-thirds were aged 65 or above. However, Amsterdam is relatively safe when it comes to cycling. Dutch still do a great job with creating safer infrastructure and cycling environment. To show you that Dutch made a great improvement in bike safety I would like to share with you this fact. In the year 1971, when cars were getting more and more popular there were 3300 traffic deaths and this number included 400 children.
16. You can ride a bike in the Amsterdam museum
Amsterdam has the only museum in the world you can cycle through. It’s true! The museum you can cycle through is one of the most famous museums in the city – the Rijksmuseum. Definitely worth visiting and if you plan to visit some museums in Amsterdam you should consider getting a city pass. It can save you a lot of money. Micaela compared the three most popular city cards in Amsterdam. MUSEUMKAART VS IAMSTERDAM CARD VS HOLLAND PASS
17. Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world
Amsterdam won the Copenhagenize Index award several times (e.g. in 2011 and 2013). In 2015 the city was ranked 3rd place and in 2019 it was the second one. Do you know what is the biggest Amsterdam competitor when it comes to bike-friendliness? It’s the capital of Denmark – Copenhagen.
18. Dutch Style Bike is not really Dutch
Do you think the Dutch-style bike is really Dutch? Actually, no! The so-called Dutch bike is a modified English roadster invented at the end of 19th century. In fact, no Dutch company has ever made any serious invention when it comes to bike technology. All features actually come from different models. Dutch companies rather stick to their practical, affordable bikes. A typical Dutch bike has fenders on tires and a rack on the back/front. There is also a quick key lock built onto the back wheel. By saying that I mean city bike brands because there are more and more Dutch companies producing high-end bicycles. WHAT ARE THE BEST DUTCH BIKE BRANDS?
19. There used to be a bike tax in the Netherlands
Have you ever heard of paying tax for a bike? Probably not but between 1924 and 1941 Dutch citizens had to pay the bike tax at the post office. When they do so, they were given a copper plate to be attached to the bike. The tax turned out to be ineffective as the plate was easy to steal and the counterfeit was easy to find. The Nazis abolished the tax in the Second World War.
Safety Tips And Tricks
Biking in Amsterdam is definitely something you cannot miss out on as it’s a quintessence of the Dutch experience. However, cycling in Amsterdam may be hectic for a visitor. In order to stay safe on two wheels, get prepared. Follow my tips below in order to stay safe:
- Know where to go – there are over 400km of bike lanes, they usually run along the right side of the streets. Some 2-way lanes are on one side only. This might be confusing but the lines are marked and painted so you can easily learn it. It’s crucial for you to stay in your lane. Just ride with the traffic and pay attention to the signs. Also, give right of way to trams from any direction. As not all Amsterdam streets are meant for bikers, it’s reasonable to use a map – most rental shops have maps with all bike routes marked.
- Avoid rush hours – 8:00 – 9:00 am and 5:00 – 6:00 pm is a real nightmare.
- Use hand signals – especially when you intend to change course. You should just point in the direction you want to go.
- Light at night – it’s required by the Dutch law to use front and backlights on your bike after dark.
- Watch out for tram rails – it’s very easy to get your tires stuck in the rails.
- Stay defensive – even if you perfectly know the traffic rules, you cannot be sure others will follow them too. Sometimes pedestrians cross the streets without looking or just walk in bike lanes. You can use a bell to draw their attention. When you see a scooter on a bike lane, it’s better to stay to the right and let them by. Also, try to keep pace with other bikers so that you don’t hold up traffic.
- Park your bike right – use only designated bike parking sections, racks or indoor parking facilities. Otherwise, your bike can be removed and stored in the Bicycle Depot.
- Every time you leave your bike, lock it – bike theft in Amsterdam is a huge problem. Sometimes you only leave your bike for a minute and it’s gone.
A Bonus – Some Stats on Amsterdam Bikes
If you are crazy about numbers, here you go – the table below will answer all your statistic questions on bikes in Amsterdam. Most of the data come from the city’s marketing official website.
|The number of bikes in the city||Over 880,000|
|The average number of bikes per 1 person||Over 1.5|
|The average number of km an Amsterdammer bikes per year||Around 900 kilometers|
|The total number km biked by Amsterdammers per day||Around 2 million kilometers|
|The percentage of bike trips on all trips within the city||35%|
|The length of bicycle paths and lanes in Amsterdam||Almost 800km|
|The length of bike paths separated from other traffic||513km|
|The number of bikes that aren’t used||Around 15% out of 880,000|
|The number of canal bikes (pedal boats)||120|
|The average number of bikes fished up from the canals each year||Between 12,000 and 15,000|
|The average number of people that die in bicycle-related bicycles in the whole country||Around 180|
|The number of bike shops||140|
|The number of parking spots around the central stations||Over 10,000|
|The number of secured bike parking garages||25 (8 of them are free)|
|Number of bicycle racks||Around 220,000|
I hope you’ll find the above-mentioned facts about bikes in Amsterdam useful. From kids and students, through police officers and bank staff to the richest people in Amsterdam – everyone rides a bike here. Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities and a great part of its citizens have spent their whole lives on two wheels. To me, it’s just amazing – the bike gives you a chance to meet the local culture. It’s much better than a guided tour. While in Amsterdam, you just cannot miss the opportunity to try to ride like a local!