Living in Amsterdam is great! There are tons of cafés, restaurants, clubs, museums, and parks all over the city to explore, each with its own charm and personality to discover! And, the vehicle that connects you to them all? The bicycle.
Cycling has been a priority for the Dutch for decades. Even the insurmountable allure of “progress” in the form of cars in the 1960s and 70s was stemmed by bicycle-riding activists who successfully lobbied for greater safety for cyclists throughout the country. Nation-wide, more than a quarter of all trips Dutchies take outside their home are by bike. In Amsterdam, this increases to almost 40% while in the northern university town of Groningen, 59% of trips are taken via bike! People in the Netherlands go everywhere by bike: grocery-shopping, to get a haircut, doctor and dentist appointments, to go out for an evening, and more. What is sometimes shocking to international students is that the Dutch will even go on a date via bike! One person will swing by the other’s home on their bike and both will cycle to their destination together.
Due to a high occurrence of accidents in the mid-20th century involving cars and bicycles, the Dutch have invested heavily in bicycle paths and other infrastructure to keep cyclists safe. Now there are over 22,000 miles of cycle paths in the Netherlands which is pretty impressive in a country the size of the US state of Maryland. To put this in perspective, all the cycle paths in the Netherlands could wrap around the country’s borders almost 24 times!
International students coming to the Netherlands will very quickly discover the joy of biking around wherever they need to go. While it takes a few days to get used to getting through the city by bike, most CIEE students who bike say it’s one of their favorite things to do and one of the best parts of their day. Pro tip: don’t listen to music while biking but it may be a good idea to have one earbud in with Google or iOS with directions. That way you don’t have to stop and look at your phone while trying to get somewhere in a hurry. Since the city doesn’t follow a north-south street pattern, it can be difficult to get around. But, with a little practice, new residents of the city will be out cycling circles around the tourists with the rest of the Dutchies in no time!