Tips for first-years: Be careful where you bike!

To make the transition to a new life in a new city a bit smoother, UKrant’s student editors give their top tips over the next three weeks. Today: be careful where you bike.

When I first moved to the Netherlands, my biggest fear was navigating the traffic on my small city bike. After three years of biking the streets of Groningen, I feel like a pro, but I still wish someone would have saved me from the many embarrassing moments I’ve experienced on the road.

First things first: make sure your bike works properly, especially the gears and brakes. Trust me, this will save you a lot of trouble. Your bike needs a yellow or white light in the front and a red light in the back, otherwise you’re risking a fine of 55 euros. And don’t be like me – don’t hesitate to use your bell when necessary!

Google Maps

Also: be careful where you bike. When using Google Maps, double-check that the directions are set for bicycles. Every year, a few unlucky internationals end up on the ring road, where cyclists are not allowed – and believe me, there’s a reason for that. The ring road is super dangerous for bikes. 

So always follow the round blue sign with a white bicycle inside it indicating the compulsory cycle path. Remember the word uitgezonderd that you’ll see with a picture of a bike, meaning ‘except for bicycles’, usually under a one-way street sign or red stop sign.

In that case, the sign only applies to cars and you can continue biking in that direction. At a crossroads, you might encounter a green bike sign with four arrows arranged in a square that says tegelijk groen – simultaneously green. This means cyclists from all directions get a green light at the same time.

Bike parking

Watch out! Especially for those coming from your right. If you see a blue sign that reads rechtsaf voor fietsers vrij, it means cyclists are allowed to turn right without waiting for a green light.

And remember, park your bike properly and lock it with a chain. You’ll find plenty of bike stands on the streets or you can use designated bicycle parking (fietsenstalling). Failing to do so risks getting your bike stolen or removed by the municipality, requiring you to retrieve it at the Damsterplein within 24 hours, or after that at the AFAC Bicycle Depot, where you’ll have to pay 25 euros for it.

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