Can everyone please stop telling tourists to hire bikes in Amsterdam

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0 (Take note: this woman is clearly Dutch.)

I’ve had this as a draft post since 24/05/2016… I checked. So when I saw a post on Facebook this morning “Geef toeristen geen fiets meer” (Don’t give tourists bikes anymore) I was like… damn, Gina! Someone got in my head!!

I agree with Sarah Ouwerkerk, the author who wrote the post, completely. But also “Damn, Gina! Why have you written it in Dutch? How are tourists ever supposed to read it??”

So here’s my post, from 3 months ago, which offers some of the same points as the article above, but with a little more ranting! 😉

I’ll say it again: can everyone please stop telling tourists to hire bikes in Amsterdam!!!

It annoys the living shit out of me.

I work for a travel publisher, and mentioning no names, in our Amsterdam guide on page 6 the first thing it says to do… and I quote: “Cycle through the city on a fiets. Rent a bicycle and peddle through the Grachtenring, the narrow streets in the Jordaan district, across the Dam or along the banks of the IJ at your own pace. Do as the locals: cyclists are allowed to ride side by side and the wrong way down one way streets here.”

No, no, no, no, NOOOOOO!!

I love the company I work for and I love our guides, but this is the most idiotic tourist advice I’ve ever heard. I was so infuriated, I emailed our editorial department immediately and asked them to remove it from the next edition of the guide.

It’s not just us though, I’ve seen the same advice offered in other guidebooks, on countless blogs and even on the official Iamsterdam website.

Seriously people!! What is wrong with you?

The average tourist probably hasn’t ridden a bike since they were 15, they also don’t know their way round Amsterdam (because, duh… they’re tourists) they probably want to take photos and they might also like to drink some Heineken (other beers brands are available) or maybe even smoke some weed.

I know what! Let’s give them a bike!

Why, why, why?

Quite simply: it’s dangerous, and above all: stupid.

So, they’re riding along on bright red (or yellow) pristine bikes, at a snails pace, with a map in hand or perhaps a selfie stick (personally, I prefer to call them wanker sticks) with no idea where they’re going… and they’re probably also tipsy and / or stoned.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of accidents and near accidents I’ve seen, and I only visit Amsterdam about once a month! I cannot begin to imagine the amount of carnage that tourists cause on a daily basis. I’ve seen them holding up traffic, just because they’re cycling so damn slowly… or because they’re fussing with a map or phone, holding up other cyclists and just generally being a nuisance to other road users (and pedestrians for that matter!!) I see this as a visitor myself, so the locals must be tearing their hair out!

Who thought this was a good idea again?


So, here is my plea to tourists visiting Amsterdam:

Unless you are a highly competent cyclist and you are with someone who knows Amsterdam well – PLEASE do not hire a bike in Amsterdam.

You are a liability!

Amsterdam isn’t that big, but you’re gonna get lost. You know why? Because a lot of places look kinda the same… even if you’re sober. And if you’re drunk, or stoned, or both? Much, much worse.

Do yourself and everyone else a favour and walk. Please. Pretty please… with a cherry on top!

Walking is so much more fun! You’ll be going at a slower pace, so you’ll see more, it’ll be easier to take pictures and selfies – if that’s your thang. It will also be SO much easier to navigate because you can hold your map or phone in your hand and not have to worry about wobbling, crashing or falling off your bike.

For your own personal safety and for others around you, it’s just not a good idea.

And d’you know what else happens when you don’t hire a bike? Happy Amsterdammers. It’s a beautiful city, Amsterdammers are proud of their city… but do you know what they’d like even more?

If you get the fuck out of their way while they’re trying to get to work, pick up their kids, or are running late to meet a friend.

Make Amsterdam happy. Stay on two feet.

Hayley x



  1. PREACH. Although a more general problem seems to be a lack of awareness of biking lanes (don’t walk in them, look before you cross!) and of the speed of the average Amsterdam cyclist. Last week I almost caused an accident myself, as I narrowly avoided a tourist who had wandered unto the biking lane to – wait for it – take a selfie.


  2. This absolutely infuriates me, before you make comments about the way tourists ride bikes in this city one needs to look how locals ride their bikes. I use my bike daily from the Amstel to RAI, and I follow the rules of the road and use common sense as I do when driving a car. However the amount of cyclists (locals) I see on their phones, texting, having conversations, on Facebook, messaging and jumping red traffic lights and with no regard for the rules of the road is actually astounding. I have seen and experienced myself some near misses or potential accidents with other cyclists riding unsafely like this.
    I agree that saying that it is ok ride up the wrong way of the street is just purely irresponsible and stupid and if a tourist is told this they will do it and think it is ok – after all it is a local who is normally telling them and it is not the tourist’s fault.
    The hiring of bikes here in the city needs to be more regulated and proper advice given to the people that hire them – simple. But all to often there is someone wanting to make a quick buck out of an unsuspecting tourist with no care for their safety. The Amsterdam economy would collapse if it weren’t for tourism so why deny them the right to ride a bicycle in the city – what makes locals so much better that they are the only ones who should be allowed to ride a bike – I have not heard of anything more intolerant, selfish and stupid in my life. I thought that the Dutch way was to be tolerant and welcoming to visitors after all they have money in their pockets that they are spending in this city.
    Look in front of your own doorstep before you start commenting about someone else’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Calm down Shaun. I don’t think anybody is talking about BANNING tourist bike rentals. Just stop encouraging people who DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING to go out and exponentially increase the risk and inconvenience for everybody. You’re right—I lived for a long time in Amsterdam, and behavior by local cyclists is often absolutely cretinous, which to my mind makes it even more dangerous to throw inexperienced visitors into the mix.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I think the problem both comes from Dutch people who believe they are the only one in the world and chicky enough to pretend they are right when bumping into you because you are turning on the right (putting your hand to indicate you are doing so, wooah how outrageous!) but decide still to overtake you on the wrong side but still shoot at you a nice stome trut or something and fronm the rourist who let’s face it wether on bike, by foot on a beer bike in West in Zuid even up to de Baarjes and Biljmer are overflooding the city and standing still looking at a map in the middle of the fietspad. And not menitonning the stupid scooter riding way to fast on the wrong side on the cycling path…So if everybody was nice and respectful enough in this world tehre would be less problems in Amsterdam and anywhere else.


  3. Tourists don’t seem to realize Amsterdam is a real town and not a fairground ride. Not really their fault, they aren’t told the cars are real and you can can get hurt or even die if you don’t follow the (unwritten) rules. The unwritten rules are probably the most important and hardest to learn. There are no build-in safety features and even local cyclists get hurt. But then, tourists even go bull running in Pamplona!


    1. It’s true that tourist are obviously less experienced then locals.However eventhough locals are capable cyclists they don’t always behave as such. Reason why I find this complaining about cycling tourists quite annoying.Even more annoying then a group of Mc bikers in front of me 🙂


  4. Complaining about tourists on bikes while many Amsterdammers are more busy with Whatsapp then with the traffic while cycling. What an arrogance…
    By the way..I am an Amsterdammer.


  5. Interesting, I could relate to your story until the last bit. It’s sounds too easy to shove your own responsibility to be on time to the tourists.

    Anyways, if I am a tourist in a foreign country, I would definitely try something I haven’t done before. Perhaps they want to cycle through the city, let them. I understand some could frustrate you, but hey, even locals used to frustrate me (still do sometimes). For example, no lights on, or cycling side by side in a trio. Nevertheless, you should deal with it because you cannot really expect that everyone follows the rules. And even if they do, they still frustrate you, so it is never good enough!

    Also, I do not agree about the part on what they should/would rather do. I believe that an average tourist (person) should enjoy their stay wherever they are. If they choose to cycle through the city, do not take that away from them. Personally, I quite enjoy the view when tourists pass me by when I am sitting on a terrace or walking through the streets. They seem to enjoy themselves quite good. Thus, I do not see any reason to take away their joy.

    In the end, everyone has to adapt to each other in traffic.May it be a tourist or local, it does not matter. You either piss yourself off and gain nothing from it or you try to find a solution, or at least communicate.

    Stay positive!


  6. thats why we have (or used to?) bicycle exams on elementary school in NL. maybe they should give an exam like this to tourist (and some of the locals who just don’t seem to know the rules…


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