Amsterdam: cycling city

The narrow, winding streets of Amsterdam's historic 17th century city centre aren't ideally suited to travelling by car. Pedestrians and cyclists definitely have the upper hand in Amsterdam and most locals swear by their bikes as the best - and often their only - means of transport.

Amsterdam is a cycling city. Nearly every resident of Amsterdam owns a bicycle. With an estimated 847,000 bicycles in the city, figures from the Amsterdam Accessibility Thermometer 2016 show that there are more bikes than residents in Amsterdam. The average number of bicycle per household is 1.9. From couriers to police officers, everyone's on two wheels - and many visitors marvel at the multi-storey bike racks.

Biking in Amsterdam: fast & flexible

Bikes are still seen as the poor man's means of transport in many countries. However, this is certainly not the case in the Netherlands and in particular, in Amsterdam. The bicycle is simply the fastest, most flexible and fun way to get around. Bikes are embedded in the culture of the city and a key political consideration for the Amsterdam authorities, with cycling being positioned as a worthy alternative to cars and public transport.

Benefits of cycling in Amsterdam:

  • City accessibility: One car parking space can hold 10 bikes. Amsterdam cyclists travel 2,2 million kilometres a day collectively - just imagine the additional environmental impact if these extra kilometres had been travelled by cars!
  • Financial consequences: cycling infrastructure costs a fraction of what it costs to construct infrastructure for cars and public transport.
  • The health of our city: every four km travelled by bike instead of by car results in one kilogram less of CO2 being released into the environment.

Cycling policy in Amsterdam

In brief, the cycling policy in Amsterdam is centred around the following considerations:

  •  Comfortable, uninterrupted cycling: Comfortable, uninterrupted cycling means that cyclists reach their destination via spacious, direct, fast, smooth and recognizable routes.
  • Easy bicycle parking: Easy bicycle parking means that cyclists in Amsterdam quickly find an available parking space close to their destination and that sufficient space is and remains available for pedestrians.
  • The new way of cycling: this indicates appropriate behavior for cyclists in Amsterdam. Given the wide range of cyclist behavior and the limited space in the city, it is important to work together on bike-friendly behavior. The new way of cycling starts with the choice to ride a bicycle.

 For more information on cycling policy and design click here

More Amsterdammers on bikes

Not all Amsterdammers are using a bike. Young people in the city are less enthusiastic about cycling and immigrant Amsterdammers are also less inclined to travel by bike. But this perhaps isn’t surprising considering they didn’t grow up in the Dutch bike culture. And due to the fact that it is often parents who teach their children how to ride a bike, second generation immigrant Amsterdammers are also less likely to frequently use a bike.

The City of Amsterdam is behind various initiatives to encourage people to start cycling. School children are taught about safe cycling in the city and have the opportunity to achieve a cycling proficiency diploma. A school route planner is also being developed that suggests a safe cycle route between the pupil’s house and school. The City of Amsterdam also supports various social organizations that provide cycling lessons to adults that didn’t learn to cycle earlier in life.