According to a recent Gallup the Dutch feel very positive about cars (86%) and bicycles (84%). They are only 26% to feel positive about public transport.
Cycling is cheap, reliable (arriving on time). The problems are the bad weather (rain and wind) and the parking difficulties (look around the stations!) and bad driving cyclists.
In 2005 all Dutch drove 14 milliard (billion) Km. The Netherlands produced 967 thousand bicycles in 2006.
From my recent 5 day stay in Amsterdam it seems to me that their positive look at bicycles is forced by the politics imposing a ban on car traffic in this city. Walking in the residential area around the Museum Kwartier, which is not in the centre, I saw that parking on the street costs about 3 €/hour, about 25 € for 24 hours, even at night you have to pay for the parking! The residents pay a quarterly fee of 80 € I was told.
With such anti car tolls it is understandable that the Amsterdammers favour cycling.
What surprised me is that they don't wear protection helmets, fluorescent jackets or even anti rain clothes. I must say they are very skilful drivers, I saw no incident at all.
They don't mind about the rain for themselves or for their bikes which are parked outside day and night. Most bikes are somewhat rusty and you won't see expensive sport models. Interesting are the "bakfietsen = cargo bikes" with a large wooden box at the front wheel. This box is loaded with children and shopping.
A good point of all that biking is that there are no fat Amsterdammers, they are all slim and have muscled legs.
Amsterdam is definitely a city built for bikes. Not only does it have bike lanes on nearly every major road, but some stairways have special steel tracks underneath the handrailings so you can slide your wheels up the staircase.
So renting a bike is naturally the fun way to get around the city. However, if WANT to look like a tourist, make sure you rent your bike from MAC BIKES. Alot of their bikes are bright orange and ALL of them have a huge round sign in the front under the handle bars that says, "Mac Bikes." Some other places will put license plates on the back of their bike--another dead give away you are a tourist.
But if you DON'T want to look like a tourist, rent from Holland Rent-a-Bike. Their bikes have no distinguishable rental features on them either. A local friend of mine, Ania, checked it out too. Nothing. So when you are riding down the street on their bikes, and ring your bell for people to move, they think you are a local! It was funny watching the "tourists" dodge my swift maneuvers :)
Service was good too. I had a flat one day and they replaced my bike at no extra cost on the spot. Each bike comes equipped with a chain lock and a special lock that latches between the spokes on the wheel. And just like cars come with horns, their bikes come with bells.
Renting requires a refundable 150 euro deposit. Credit Cards are accepted and when you return the bike, they give you back the credit card slip so you can shred it.
Rates in euros as of August 2005:
1 day 6.50
Next day till 11 am 9.25
Next day till 7 pm 12.75
3 days 17.50
4 days 22.25
5 days 26.50
6 days 30.50
7 days 34.50
every day after 7 4.00
Well this isn't so much about getting around the Netherlands or even getting around Amsterdam. It's more about getting across the road from the hire bike place and getting to the park without getting hit by a tram or me not running down another dizzy tourist.
So Petra says "We really should hire a bike while we are here in Amsterdam. Everyone does - it can't be that difficult".
Me "Why would we want to do that? - the cars drive on the wrong side, we are unfit - there are trams coming at you from all directions - We WILL die!"
P - "Oh come on Maria! - It'll be fun - we will stay off the roads and just go to the park - have a cycle round and eat icecream afterwards to reward ourselves for being so brave and fit"
Me - "Tut. Ok then.......But I know I'm gonna hate it".
So off we went to the Mac Bike Hire place in Leidseplein and hired bikes. It was luuuuverly (and we didn't get killed by speeding trams).
We went to the Vondel Park - saw flocks of parakeets - ate icecream - drank coffee, watched skaters, joggers, walkers, and other "proper" cyclists keeping fit in one of Amsterdam's few green spaces.
The first thing I will always do after I get off the train at Centraal, is walk to frederic on Brouwersgracht and rent a bicycle. In Sept. '03 they were only 40 Euros/week (yes, I know you can buy one for 10 Eu from a junkie, but I'll pass..)
Especially during good weather, what could be more fun than to rent a bike and go for a ride in & around Amsterdam?
There are lots of places to rent an affordable bike all over town.
Frederic rents the plain, simple old black bikes most Hollanders ride in the city, so you don't stand out like a tourist on your bright orange MacBike, inviting the junkies to trash and/or steal your transportation.
The VVV tourist info office outside Centraal station has bike path maps.
Even some hotels rent them to pick up and return it to the lobby (hopefully.... bicycle theft is so common in ADam it's almost comical... ).
In Amsterdam, bikes are given respect, their own lanes & traffic lights.
Just be cautious/careful as the tourists not used to bike traffic won't see you comin'.
If the sun's out and the wind isn't blowing hard, you will be in Nederlands-bicycle heaven.
The "frederic" website listed below is where I rented mine (BROUWERSGRACHT 78).
Make sure to get a couple good locks and lock it up tight to a bridge or something very sturdy
Doei. Pedal 2da metal.......ching!.... ching... ching....
I am amazed by the amount of bicycles here. Coming from a place where its a Death wish to ride a bicycle in the city, I am totally in awe of how the bicycle is THE main mode of transportation within the city / town.
One of the fondest memories I have of bicycles in Amsterdam is the many times I came close to getting run over as I was totally unaware of the lanes specially for bicycles. **grin**
Everywhere you go in Holland you'll see people getting around by bike. In Holland bikes are given a status accorded few modes of transportation. Bike paths exist next to every major road through the countryside into the center of the big cities. You can explore all of Holland by bike if you choose. For the Dutch it is not just a recreational sport, it is a primary means of transport to work, school, even the market.
-taken from http://www.hiptravelguide.com/amsterdam/php/article-29.html-
There are MANY places around town to rent a bike. There are bike lanes on all roads....bikes are EVERYWHERE!! This is probably the easiest way to get around, but it looks a bit dangerous with all the other bikes around....and sharing the lane with motor bikes! It seems for every automobile there are 10 bicycles!
The major mode of travel in and around Amsterdam is the bicycle. To those who have not been in cities heavily populated with bicycles it can be somewhat challenging. Most people are tuned to look both ways for automobiles, but not behind them on the right and left for bicycles. For tourists in Amsterdam this can be a real problem. People who are not accustomed to pedestrian AND bicycle lanes don't think about which lane they are in. That can lead to an emergency room visit for the unsuspecting. The bicycle rider has a warning bell on his handle bars, but when he rings the bell, he has no idea ow which way the pedestrian will jump. It's called, "Take your best guess and pray." "Oops." It can take a long time to learn about bicycles or a short time. The harder the pedestrian is hit, the faster the learning process. One also has the rider to worry about because they can get hurt too, and guess who has the right-of-way? Right! The pedestrian doesn't if he is in the bike lane. If that is you, it will be a "bought" lesson. There are 5 rules:
1. Look left, right, and behind you, especially on your right side.
2. Bicycles traveling at at 15mph exert more force (and damage, of course) than you do at walking speed.
3. Bicycles have right of way, period.
4. It is always good to check your map or guidebook well away from ANY kind of traffic.
Since you are still reading, I may as well recommend seeing Amsterdam by bike. It is character-building but fun. In fact, take a bike tour with Mike's Bikes. The tours are easy, and the most fun, I have found. They will also teach you the "rules of the road" in Amsterdam. Have a ball!
Note: After looking at the pictures of the parked bikes, remember that there are another 100,000 or so being pedaled too.
Since Amsterdam is a plain city, cycling around is an easy and healthy option for everybody, even those who don't practice any sport regularly. Through the city you can see bicycles "parked" in so many places and major streets have proper lanes for bicycles, making cycling a safe activity. This is, in fact, a good option for moving around faster. Although photo is dark it shows a bicycle lane on main street.
The Dutch make 40% of all trips by bicycle and based on my observation, that percentage may be higher in Amsterdam. It's a great way to see the relatively concentrated city core. Plus, it truly is a cultural experience, so why not give it a try? Of course, when I was there, the weather was cold and it was pretty icy. It's unbelievable how slippery the bridges get, so I opted to skip the bikes as a matter of safety. It didn't seem to stop the locals, however. It was strange to see people biking alongside the canals over snow and ice.
See http://www.yellowbike.nl/en/ and note:
"A lot of hotels work together with the Yellow Bike delivery service. Order your bike at the reception and your bike will be there early in the morning before 9.00h. Easy as it is: no need to go out looking for a rental point, no waiting, no leaving your identity card and no extra costs. Ask your reception for the Yellow Bike Hotelservice"
This website also offers two cycling routes that start daily at 11 am. One in the city of Amsterdam, the other a Countryside tour.
Once you arrive in Amsterdam and begin mulling around, after seeing all of the people on them, you might think that every bike in the world has somehow made it's way to this city! There are people on bicycles everywhere in this town! And the ones that are not actually in use at a particular moment are parked in huge gaggles around some of the major venues such as Dam Square and Centraal Station. If you are a tourist, it is a great way to get around and see the many sights that Amsterdam has to offer. There are a slew of bicycle rental shops throughout the city, as well as companies that offer group bike tours. But if you do choose to tour Amsterdam by bike, or on foot for that matter, just be careful of some of the local riders. They tend to ride a little aggresively, and getting in their way may cause some shouting or tremendous bell ringing! :)
There are several locations where you can rent a bicycle:
Mr Visserplein 2
Nieuwezijds Kolk 29
Lange Leidsedwarsstraat 103
Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 101
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 167hs
-Mike's Bike Tours
I recommend the following addres for buying a cheap bicycle:
Cycling routes at Amsterdam North
A good way to get around in Amsterdam is by bike, that way you have the upper hand on the pedestrians. Do make sure you are a competant cyclist, to avoid a nasty accident, as there is nothing more fustration for the dutch then to be stuck behind someone going at snails pace.
Various places rent bikes charge rates on a sliding scale the more days you hire for.
3 Speed bike Euro 13.50 - 15.50 24hr bike city
Euro 43.50 - 45.50 5 days
68-70 Bloemgracht 1015
+31 (020) 6263721
Euro 9.50 - 14.25 Mac bike
Euro 26 - 39 5 days
Weteringschaans 2, Leidseplein
+31 (020) 6200985
In Amsterdam I consider cyclists as a deadly threat!
No problem with cars, there are very few in the centre, the trams are somewhat dangerous but you hear them coming, they have a strong bell and the ground vibrates.
But the cyclists are the silent tourist killers of Amsterdam especially when they don't respect the pedestrian paths. Normally the paths reserved for cyclists are made of red asphalt or marked with a painted bicycle on the ground. When that paint has faded the tourist doesn't know anymore if he walks on the right path.
The cyclists of Amsterdam are busy with many other things than cycling: talking to each other, flirting, phoning or consulting their IPhone. I must say they are very skilful drivers, I saw no incident at all.
They don't wear protection helmets, fluorescent jackets or even anti rain clothes.
They don't mind about the rain for themselves or for their bikes which are parked outside day and night.
A good point of all that biking is that there are no fat Amsterdammers, they are all slim and have muscled legs.
When in Amsterdam you can't miss the bikes, they're everywhere. Why not do as the Dutch and ride a bike yourself?
There are many places in Amsterdam to rent a bike, and if you're staying for several weeks you could even by a used bike.
The Dutch have made it very easy to get around by bike, with bike paths everywhere and even special bike traffic lights.
A very easy and short trip along the Amstel River will take you into the Dutch countryside where you'll ride past a couple windmills and see sheep, cattle, and maybe even a shetland pony or two (well we saw them). All this in a round trip of less than 10 miles.
We rented our bikes from MacBike, but there are many more agencies to choose from.