Sustainable Transport Ideas: Cycling in Amsterdam

The view from the top level of the multi-storey bicycle parking lot near Amsterdam's Central Station. Photo by author.

Amsterdam is one of the most frequently-cited examples of a cycle-friendly city, and I recently had the opportunity to experience it from the perspective of the cyclist, the pedestrian, the automobile passenger, and the transit user. I was not disappointed by the transport network from any perspective, and was most impressed by the infrastructure that allows cycling to be a dominant form of transport in the city. Cyclists are accommodated by a vast network of well-connected bicycle lanes, traffic-calmed streets, and plentiful bicycle parking (though still not enough).

Amsterdam’s canal streets are, for the most part, traffic calmed to allow cyclists easy passage without dedicated cycle lanes. Cycle lanes on other streets are wide enough for two bicycles side by side, but only for those who can steer – I had to improve quickly!  Major streets include a priority position for cyclists to help keep them moving safely ahead in traffic.

If you would feel a little strange cutting the line of cars as a cyclist, not to worry. You will rarely, at any time of day, be the only cyclist at an intersection in Amsterdam. Coming from Toronto, a city where cyclists are not the most acknowledged road users, I was initially wary of busy streets in Amsterdam, but quickly realized that drivers actually look out for cyclists. The traffic laws in Amsterdam make this a reality because, barring obvious circumstances, the driver is always at fault in collisions with cyclists.

Tiered bicycle parking for easier locking and unlocking when the rack is full. Photo by author.

Traffic laws are just one aspect of the changes that Amsterdam has made to encourage the high share of bicycle use. When addressing cycling, cities also need to consider the need for secure bicycle parking facilities, the problem of bicycle theft, traffic safety awareness and education, and the necessity of ensuring the younger generation continues to cycle. All of these concerns have been addressed in Amsterdam’s current bicycle policy plan “Choosing for the Cyclist 2007-2010”, athough this is not the only policy document supporting the infrastructure and policy development that makes Amsterdam synonymous with the bicycle.

Readers who are interested in a few more of the adaptations for bikes in Amsterdam can take a look at ‘Cycling to Sustainability’ by two professors from Rutgers University and Virginia Tech as a starting point. For those with academic resource access, I also recommend “Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany” from the Transport Reviews journal, which illustrates implementation of cycling policies.

Visitors to Amsterdam can take advantage of a route planner for cyclists available on the city website. Many private companies offer bike rentals throughout the city, and residents of Amsterdam’s suburbs also access rental bikes at park-and-cycle lots on the outskirts. Cycling in Amsterdam was an inspiring experience that I highly recommend for all advocates of transit and cycling!

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One Response to “Sustainable Transport Ideas: Cycling in Amsterdam”

  1. Ten Things That Will Build The New Economy said:

    Oct 12, 10 at 6:03 am

    [...] we will see a larger emphasis on alternative means of transportation and I’ll bet money the cycling community will boom, especially when trains are [...]