For many visitors bicycle traffic in Holland looks like full chaos and anarchy, especially in cities like Amsterdam. But of course, bikes are supposed to stick to traffic rules just the same.
Although the Dutch traditionally have been flexible in this respect too, there's a growing tendency towards more strictness from the side of the police these days. You could say, matching the spirit of the time.
Also consider that not following the rules can result in being held responsible if something goes wrong. And if you're not used to local habits, the odds are simply against you.
A few things to keep in mind :
Bike lighting :
When it gets dark, and formally when the street lighting is on, your bike lights must be on. White or yellow in front, red at the back. Blinking lights are not allowed, officially.
Compulsory fixed reflectors : a red one at the rear, yellow reflectors on both sides of the pedals, white or yellow reflection on the side of the tires or rims.
Bike lights are an important item for the police. Tickets are 35 EUR per failing light.
No excuses, since nowadays you can buy simple removable bike lights everywhere for just a few Euros.
Alcohol & other stuff :
Contrary as you may perhaps think, cycling after drinking alcohol is not allowed. Although less strict than for car drivers, blood alcohol level must not exceed 0,54 (for cars that's 0,22).
Other drugs can be tested as well.
If you are caught, the fine is 110 EUR for a cyclist.
And much higher costs if you cause damage, of course.
Bike paths and bike lanes :
When there's a bike path, or a marked bike lane, you're compelled to ride on it. Cycling on a sidewalk or pedestrian path is not allowed.
Traffic lights :
At many intersections, there are special bike traffic lights for bike paths. The frequency of red and green light does not always match with lights for other traffic.
When there's no bike light, use the traffic light for cars.
Riding through a red light can be fined 60 EUR for a cyclist.
Traffic signs :
With all our different languages, traffic signs in Europe make use of pictograms, as much as possible.
Also the form and color has a meaning.
Below a few examples of signs and category.
Useful Dutch words in traffic :
fiets = bicycle
fietspad = bike path (see, it's not that difficult)
uitgezonderd = except
toegestaan = allowed
verplicht = compulsory
For more Dutch traffic signs, and their translation in English, on Wikipedia.
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