Cycling is very popular in The Netherlands. There are many reasons for that, one of which is that most of the country is very flat. As a result of its popularity, there is in general a very good infrastructure for bicycles, with many separate bicycle streets and bicycle lanes inside and between cities. Also, car drivers are used to share the road with cyclists, so cycling in The Netherlands is generally quite safe.
In general the traffic rules in The Netherlands are the same as in most European countries. Most of the rules that apply to cars also apply to bicycles. However, there are a few exceptions, and there are other things you should know about Dutch traffic rules to enjoy cycling and be safe at the same time!
This text tries to compile the most important rules and mode of behaviour for bicycles, rules that would also apply unicyclists. Please read them.
We hope you have a safe ride!

 


Protect yourself


Safety vestHelmets are not (yet) required for bicycles, and hardly anyone uses them. For unicyclists, we do advise them even in normal traffic, as well as knee and hand protection and other protective gear. Wearing a helmet and protective gear also indicates you are vulnerable, so this may help car drivers maintaining proper distance.
Make sure you are seen, wear a safety vest (bright yellow, green or orange with reflective striping, see image) or light coloured clothing. Do not wear all black. Make sure you are seen!
Try to make eye contact with car drivers. If they do not look, they may not have seen you.
Not everyone obeys the rules. Expect the unexpected, stay safe.


Alcohol and drugs


The combination of alcohol or drugs and driving is prohibited, even when riding a bicycle or a horse. For new drivers, the alcohol blood value limit is 0.2 promille, for experienced drivers 0.5 promille. This means that one glass of alcoholic beverage is for many already too much! Do not drink and drive!


Unicycles


A unicycle is in Dutch traffic laws not recognised as a means of transport: it is simply not mentioned! For bicycles, there are rules that require e.g. having at least one brake, a bell, front and back lights and the correct type, colour and location of reflectors on your bike. All of these need to be working, but in daylight you don’t need to have your lights on. These items are seldom seen on unicycles, and that is another reason that unicycles are officially not allowed on public roads nor sidewalks. 
In real life, no one seem to have a problem as long as unicyclists behave like bicycle riders. If you ride modestly and in daylight, you should encounter little to no problems. 

Mopeds


Mopeds (< 40 km/h) share most of the rules and also the street area with bicycles, with a few exceptions. So you may encounter them on your cycle trip.


Traffic lights


As everywhere in the world, you must obey traffic lights. Orange (yellow in some languages) means: stop if you can! Dutch bike riders may think and behave differently, but on a unicycle it is simply wise to stop if you possibly can on orange lights, and just stop on red lights. In many cases car drivers completely rely on their “green light” and may not really look if the crossing is clear. 
In some cases it is allowed to turn right while the light is red. A sign with the text “rechtsaf vrij” (literally “turning to the right is free”) will be mounted under the traffic light in such cases. Otherwise, it is not allowed!


Riding in the dark


Riding your unicycle in the dark is strongly advised against: you are not well visible and may be hit by a car. If you decide to do so anyway (please don’t), make sure that at least you have continuously shining white (front) and red (back) lights on you, and wear a safety vest or light-coloured clothing. You may be able to find cheap LED-lamp pairs in a shop for around € 10. You are allowed to attach the lights e.g. to your clothing, but your unicycle will not meet the other requirements and you may have to face a police officer and get a fine.


Special traffic signs for bicycle roads


As there is a lot of infrastructure for bicycles, there are a couple of Dutch traffic signs you may not yet know:


Bord fietspad1   Required road for bicycles and mopeds

Bord fietspad 2   Required road for bicycles, mopeds prohibited

Bord fietspad 3

marked bicycle lanes (usually reddish colour)

  Optional road for bicycles, mopeds prohibited.
Bicycles should use them when they are on the right-hand side. 
In general, mopeds should use them too, but if they go faster than approximately 25 km/h, inside cities they are allowed in the car-area on the road.
Cars may use bicycle lanes if they cannot follow their own lane!


Your location on the road


•    If there is a separate bicycle road or bicycle lane, in general you MUST use that area. See traffic signs. 
•    If there is no designated area for bicycles, just stick to the right. 
•    Stick to the right! Cars and faster bikes may pass you on the left in the same lane. Just stay close to the right edge, maintain a steady pace and follow a straight path. Be predictable.
•    If there is a main road and a side road, use the side road. This is required for slower traffic.
•    Sometimes, a (separate) bicycle road for both cycling directions is on one side of the road, then you may find yourselves left of the cars. Don’t worry, there will be some kind of barrier. Just follow the signs.


Turning right or left

     

•    You need to indicate your direction if you need to turn left or right. Do this e.g. 5 – 10 seconds before the turn. You do this by sticking out your arm and hand sideways (maybe even pointing a finger). Cars will then know that you will turn, and in which direction. You can lower your arm once you clearly started making the turn. Tip: On roundabouts sticking out your hand in the proper direction (sometimes just forward of you go that way) is very useful to help car drivers give you right of way (if you have it ?). Be seen!
•    Traffic that is on the road you’re on before making the turn, and that stays on the same road, has right of way. Even pedestrians! 
Imagine you are the red car (bottom of image), all other traffic shown has right of way.


Kruising 1        •    If you need to turn right, stick out your right hand, and make a narrow turn to the right. Do not end up on the left, just keep to the right! 
•    If you need to turn left, you have 3 options to choose from, as described below. Check traffic from behind before turning left!
Option 1 (usually at larger roads): the road has all kind of barriers/dividers and/or bicycle lanes: follow the cycle lane that most closely matches the direction you need to go in. For cyclists this may mean you need to stick to the right and make two separate crossings: first ahead and then left.

Kruising 2        If you want to turn left here, you must use the bicycle lane at the right, and cross at the traffic lights (even a bit further to the right). Then, across the street, turn left and cross at the traffic lights there.
Option 2 (normal situation, small to medium size roads, not very busy traffic): first check if no cars are passing you (look behind you), then stick out your left hand/arm and move (while continuing cycling) to the middle of the road. You could do this e.g. 10-20 meters before the crossing or road to the left. Follow the line in the middle of the road, stay in your lane! Cars from behind can pass at your right. When you reach the crossing or road to the left, and if there is no traffic from ahead, just continue cycling and make the turn left (make a wide curve). If there is traffic ahead, stop just there in the middle of the road and wait until you can cross.

Kruising 3        In this situation your best option is to check traffic from behind, stick out your left hand and then go to the middle of the road (still on the right lane). Cross the street and turn left. 
Option 3 (busy traffic, small to medium roads): Keep right, and stop at the side of the road at the point where you need to go left. Check traffic. If all is clear, cross the street (walking or cycling) and enter the road on the left.
In the previous image, you would first cross the street and stop at the right-hand corner across the street. Then check traffic and turn left.

 



Conclusion: Keep safe!


•    Do cycle on the right-hand side! Follow the curb: make wide curves if you go left, tight curves if you go to the right.
•    Do use the bicycle lanes where available
•    Do obey traffic lights. 
•    Do wear light coloured clothing. Make sure you are seen!
•    Do not use sidewalks (these are strictly for pedestrians).


 

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