Cycling in Amsterdam is the most authentic way for any visitor to see the city.
Amsterdam is perfectly set up for getting on your bike - there are 400km (250 miles) of dedicated cycle lanes. For expats the bicycle becomes a cheap and essential way of getting around town... and it will keep you fit!
Cycling is deeply ingrained into the Dutch psyche at all levels of society - not surprising when you consider how flat the Netherlands is. There are some 18 million bikes in the country (Netherlands has a population of 16.7 million) and on any working day between 8am and 9am in the morning almost 2 million bikes will be on Dutch roads!
With so many bikes it's not surprising to note that bike theft in Amsterdam is rampant - over 200 bikes a day are stolen. You may be approached by a dodgy stranger on the street offering to sell you a bike for €5 or €10 - don't think about it as these are stolen and you risk a fine of €190, as well as perpetuating this criminal activity.
Due to risk of theft, most locals ride battered old cycles for normal use around town. Most Dutch cyclists will also own a more expensive bike for touring - given that there are 100,000 km of well marked cycle routes around the country.
Many locals cycle in an assertive (if not 'kamikaze') manner - they travel at good speed very close to each other, they will often ignore red lights, they will pull out from side streets without looking, they will shout "Ja, Hallo!" in annoyance if you inadvertently walk into the cycle lane and they will park their bike in the middle of the pavement on a busy shopping street!
If you want to ride a bike around the city it does take a bit of practice to get up to speed with the locals - so take some care initially. A lot of bad cycling seen in the centre of Amsterdam is actually done by inexperienced tourists who may not do much bike riding at home.
You should always follow the traffic rules (including obeying the special cycle traffic lights), be careful crossing tram tracks (do so at an angle) and watch out for trams, pedestrians and other cyclists. Don't listen to personal music players while cycling - you need to hear what's around you. Stick to the designated cycle lanes - do not ride on pavements, squares or pedestrianised ways.
There are different types of designated cycle lanes (fietspad) - these can be marked on the road itself; or cycle lanes can be physically separated from both the road and pavement. Cycle lanes are usually one-way though a dashed line in the middle indicates travel allowed in both directions.
Use hand signals for turning left/right when there are other road users around you. Unless otherwise signed, priority is given to traffic coming from your right. And don't forget you officially need a front and back light when it is dark.
The Dutch are not "health and safety" obsessed (unlike the UK, for example) and do not use cycle helmets - even many moped/scooter riders will not wear them. Most Dutch car drivers however, do have very good awareness of cyclists and will give way where necessary.
Note that the most basic Dutch bikes have a single gear and use back-pedal brakes which takes some getting used to if you are accustomed to hand brakes.
There are a number of secure bike parking facilities (fietsenstalling) run by the council - with locations in the centre of Amsterdam at Paradiso and Pathé De Munt. At Amsterdam central station there is the well known 3-storey fietsflat (pictured above right) which can store 2,500 bikes.
If parking your bike on the street always lock the frame and front wheel against something fixed like a cycle rack, railing or post. Expats who own a bike should invest in a decent set of locks.
A good second-hand bike can easily cost €100 to €250 - for cheaper bikes try Recycled Bicycles (Spuistraat 84a) or go to the market at Waterlooplein. Strong locks can be bought at Waterlooplein or Albert Cuyp markets. Dutch department store HEMA also sells a range of basic cycling accessories. Other shops selling new bikes include Halfords, Decathlon and V&D.
There are many bike repair shops in the city so if you get a puncture you should not have far to walk to get it fixed.