Home FAQ Why All The Bikes in Amsterdam Are Old?

Why All The Bikes in Amsterdam Are Old?

by Maja Świątnicka

Upon arriving in Amsterdam for the first time, I saw what actually makes Amsterdam unlike other cities I had visited before. Nope, not the canals, not the coffeeshops. It was… the bikes. It seemed that everyone here rode a bike. Kids, teenagers, adults and old people flitting around on two wheels. What surprised me even more, all those bikes looked… old. I was dying to know why.

There are three possible reasons why bikes in Amsterdam are old. First, they are less likely to get stolen than new bikes. Secondly, many Amsterdammers can’t afford a new bicycle, so it’s more convenient to buy a cheaper alternative. Third, people in Amsterdam don’t really care about status symbols.

Old bikes are one of the first things that come to my mind when I think of Amsterdam. This is why I’ve thought it would be a great idea to collect some more info about Amsterdam’s bicycles. In the article, you will find a further explanation of why Amsterdam bikes are old, as well as some stats on bikes in general.

More on Why All Bikes in Amsterdam Are Old

Tourists are often wondering why so many Amsterdammers have old, used and very worn out bikes. To be honest, as far as I noticed, sometimes they’re not actually old but more vintage or old style. Let’s take a random example – a typical granny bike (called Omafiets in Dutch). It looks used and old but in fact, it looks like the famous American cruiser bike, extremely popular in the US in the early 20th century.  However, as mentioned above, there are also old bikes out there and there are some reasons why:

  1. Amsterdammers usually park their bikes on the streets. You see dozens of bikes literally everywhere in the city. Thus, bikes are likely to get stolen. If you want to minimize the chances of having your bike stolen, an old, used bicycle might be a much better option than a brand-new one. Especially if you plan to park it in the center of the city.
  2. Amsterdam is a multicultural city. Among the others, thousands of students come to study in Amsterdam every year. Bicycle is their most common mean of transport. And as the cost of living is one of the highest when compared to other European cities, sometimes buying a brand-new bike isn’t just affordable for an average student. This is why they often decide to buy an old one.
  3. What I have noticed while in Amsterdam, unlike other big cities people don’t usually care about showing their social status. At least on the streets. Very often you see rich people pedaling on a worn-out bike and no one is surprised about it. Spanking-new bicycles draw attention and even might look a bit weird here. If you’re a local, you ride an old or vintage bike! Usually a black, upright one. If you choose a flashy green or bright yellow bike, everyone knows you’re probably a tourist.

Does Everyone In the City Have a Bicycle?

For sure Amsterdam succeeds in creating one of the best transportation systems in the whole world. It’s cheap, eco, clean, convenient, safe and efficient. Bike is the most popular way to get around in Amsterdam. As far as I noticed, literally everyone has a bike here (according to statistics, almost 80% of Amsterdammers own at least one bicycle), and actually most people have more than just one. Among Amsterdammers, it’s the most often to have one old bike for commuting (one-third of working adults in Amsterdam commutes on a bike), bringing kids to school, going to the supermarket and the second one (a sporting one) for recreation on the weekends and during holidays. The average number of bikes an Amsterdammer statistically has is 1.5 bicycles.

Bike parking in front of Centraal Station Amsterdam || Photo Courtesy of Paul Joseph

According to the city’s marketing website, ‘perhaps unsurprisingly, the latest estimations conclude that there are more bikes in Amsterdam than permanent residents.’

And this is nothing but true – there are over 854,000 inhabitants in Amsterdam and more than 880,000 bicycles. What I was really surprised about is that it’s extremely popular in Amsterdam to… walk the dogs by bike!

walk the dogs by bike || Photo Courtesy of FaceMePLS

Amsterdam Bicycle Facts and Statistics

If you’re planning to visit Amsterdam soon, get prepared to have some decent bike trip! Bikes account for almost 40% of all traffic movements in the city. More than 10% of all tourists visiting the city rent a bike while in Amsterdam. You should definitely count in!

In the table below you’ll find the most interesting statistics on Amsterdam bikes. Most of statistics below come from the official portal website of the City of Amsterdam.

The number of bikes in the city Over 880,000
The average number of km an Amsterdammer bikes per year Around 900 kilometres
The total number km biked by Amsterdammers per day Around 2 million kilometres
The length of bicycle paths and lanes in Amsterdam Almost 800km (over 500km are completely separated from other traffic)
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 secured bike parking garages 25 (8 of them are free)
Number of bicycle racks Around 220,000

Amsterdam is relatively flat which makes the city just perfect for biking. As mentioned above, there are over 800 kilometers of bike paths and lanes, 513 of them are dedicated cycle paths. It’s worth adding that 275 kilometers are 2-way cycle paths and 236 kilometers are 1-way cycle paths. There are also many parking spots in the city, especially in the very center of Amsterdam. Around Central Station, there are around 10,000! Approximately 30 bicycle-hire businesses operate in the city on a daily basis.  

Abandoned Bikes in Amsterdam

In the beginning, it was quite weird to me seeing hundreds of bikes left locked in the streets in the very center of the city. They look like they are totally abandoned by their owners. I heard that 6 out of 10 people in the city actually have a bike parked somewhere in the city center. A bike they don’t use at all. In my opinion, it’s a bit crazy – Dutch people love cycling in general so wouldn’t it make sense if they love their bikes too? Instead, thousands of bicycles litter in the heart of the city.

As the government got a bit overwhelmed by the scale of abandoned bikes, they have decided to remove bikes swiftly. In fact, they only provided a 7-day notice to owners. If the bicycle is not removed by the user, the city has the power to remove the bike or even destroy the bike immediately. Did you know that there is the lost bikes depot in Amsterdam? What’s more, the depot holds around 12,000 bikes each year. To me, it sounds unbelievable. After being held from the street, bikes are kept in the depot for six weeks, then they are sent off for recycling or to be repaired and sold. Only 40% are picked up by their owners within these six weeks. In order to pick up their bikes, owners have to pay 22.50 Euro at the collection center. There is also a home-delivery option for 35 Euro. I am not sure if the ‘battle’ with owners of abandoned bikes can be won but things have been recently looked a bit better so maybe if the near future there will be more space for active bikes.

Reasons Why They Are Abandoned

I think that one of the most possible reasons is that there aren’t enough places to park your bike. After the shortage of parking spaces for cars, now it’s bikes’ turn. It seems that it isn’t so easy to find the right place to leave your bike safe. A sad result is that abandoned bikes block parking space for active bike users. The second reason is just theft and vandalism. Many bikes are stolen every day (around 50,000 every year – it’s around 8% of the total amount of bikes in the city) and very often the stolen bikes are just abandoned after some time. Interesting fact: people in Amsterdam often spend more money on locks than on their bikes.

Bikes in the Canals?

WaterNet (Amsterdam’s official water services) has claimed that each year approximately 15,000 bikes are fished up from the canals (data from Associated Press). It’s mostly because of vandalism – bike&canals-related accidents don’t happen very often. In order to keep canals clean and safe, the city’s authorities regularly dredge up discarded bikes from the water. There is even an expert team with a boat-mounted claw so that the process of salvaging bicycles runs smoothly and quickly.


Bikes are very much part of the Amsterdam culture. They are strongly connected with the city center and I cannot imagine this place to be bike-less. Looking closely, almost all bikes look worn out, used and old, that’s true but to me, it only adds more charm to the whole view. Amsterdam, even if it’s considered to be one of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities in Europe, still has a vintage touch and old bikes are definitely a part of it.

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