Why is cycling so popular in Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the metropolis of cyclists

Men in tight pinstripe suits with billowing ties, senior women in woolen coats with a lush floral pattern, young hipsters in tight jeans, parkas and colorful sneakers: Amsterdam on any working day between 7 and 9 a.m. Endless streams of cyclists run through the streets of the Dutch capital. 800,000 people live here and almost all of them seem to be pedaling at the same time. No matter how old you are, no matter whether your workplace is a law firm in the city or you cycle to the university to attend a lecture.

The city administration estimates that there are 900,000 bicycles in the metropolis - four times as many as cars. 32 percent of all locomotion takes place by bicycle, the "fiets", and only 22 percent by car. 400 kilometers of cycle paths run through the city - and there is a three-story car park, designated for 2500 bikes, at Amsterdam Central Station. All of this makes the metropolis one of the most bicycle-friendly in the world, as a Danish management consultancy has found several times.

If the traffic light shows red, the "Fietser" (cyclists) continue to paddle, mostly typing with both hands on their smartphone, their heads tilted low over the display, and many of them wear headphones as well. With a bicycle helmet, on the other hand, you hardly see anyone, not even small children. It looks breakneck for the tourist from Germany, who expects clashes between cyclists, pedestrians, cars or Vespa drivers on every busy street corner, who also cavort on the bike paths - also without head protection.

But the concern is unjustified. This is proven by statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD). The Netherlands is the safest cycling country in the world - with eleven deaths per million kilometers by bike, and driving more than any other nation, namely an average of 864 kilometers per person per year. In the USA, on the other hand, at the end of the scale, there are 44 deaths with only 47 kilometers driven. Germany has a pretty good safety record with 15 deaths over 368 kilometers driven - and is in third place behind Denmark.

Burned into the psyche

For the General German Bicycle Club ADFC, these numbers are no surprise. Studies have shown that the individual risk of injury and death decreases with increasing bicycle traffic. Awareness of cyclists on the road and the general traffic climate seem to have a greater impact on safety than wearing helmets. The conclusion of the lobby organization: The positive health effects of cycling, even without a helmet, offset the health risk from possible injuries.

That doesn't seem to be entirely true for visitors to Amsterdam. A website with insider tips even warns against guests on wheels: "Especially tourists without much experience who do not get a practice at home are responsible for bad cycling in the center." A problem that the Dutch don't know. Cycling is "burned deep into the psyche of all population groups". There are around 18 million bicycles for every 16.7 million inhabitants. On an average weekday between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. makes around two million bicycles on the country's roads. Particularly popular: The so-called "Omafiets", the Dutch bike without gear shift and with a coaster brake. The Dutch themselves have a simple explanation for why cycling is so popular with them: The country is small and flat and the climate is moderate - the bike is simply the ideal means of transport.