When in Amsterdam, start pedalling

The Life: Amsterdam's reputation as a bicycle friendly city is well-deserved

Renting a bike in Amsterdam makes commuting a pleasure. Ruud Taal / AFP
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Amsterdam's reputation as the world's most bicycle-friendly city is more than tourist bureau hype.

Q&A:Can any city compete with Amsterdam?

Are bikes the only way to get around? Not at all. The city's fabled trams provide a simple way to navigate the central area. More than a photo op, they are easy and efficient, quickly connecting to the bus and metro routes.

Is it expensive to get around? The I Amsterdam city card covers trips on all the city's public transport, including trams, buses and the metro, as well as a free canal cruise. The city card may appear a bit pricey--39 euro for one day, 49 euro for two days or 59 euro for three days--but it includes admission to most of the big museums and discounts at many restaurants.

But what if I'm there on business and don't care about the museums? Then a GVB ticket may be a better deal, ranging from 7 euro for a 24-hour pass to 30 euro for seven days. The 24-hour cards can also be purchased onboard trams and buses.

What about taxis? Taxis can be expensive, with rates as high as 7.50 euro for the first 2 km and auto traffic can be slower than public transportation.

Business travellers may smirk, but anybody spending more than a day in the capital of the Netherlands will quickly find it's better to join than fight the droves of cyclists. Renting a bike for a few euros a day makes commuting a pleasure, not a chore.

Everything about the city's road systems seems set up to accommodate cyclists. More than 40 per cent of the population regularly cycles and there are more than 400 kilometres of wide bike lanes and paths.

There are also plenty of areas to park bikes, including a multi-level lot with space for more than 7,000 bikes at Central Station, making it easy to park and grab a train or the metro to outlying areas.

On a recent trip I quickly learnt the city's bike etiquette. Cycle lanes are clearly marked with white lines and bike symbols, and are usually separated from pedestrian paths by a small curb.

Bikers also have their own traffic signals and usually have the right of way, except for trams.

The Dutch have a well-deserved reputation for politeness, but that can be quickly abandoned for infractions in the bike lanes. Bike lanes are also used by scooters and motorised bikes, which can shatter an idyllic tour of the streets.

To avoid the clamour of the busy streets, I quickly learnt to navigate the side streets and paths bordering the city's picturesque canals. Although it was tempting to slow down and enjoy the sights, I soon realised it was better to go with the flow.

Top 5: Hotels in Amsterdam

1 Mauro Mansion, €119 (Dh621) to €189 per night.

2 Seven Bridges Hotels, €90 to €260 per night.

3 Fusion Suites, €245 to €275 a night.

4 The Toren, €143 to €406 a night.

5 Hotel Fita, €104 to €163 a night.

Source: TripAdvisor

At first I was sceptical of using the bike in bad weather. But when it rains, commuters in business suits and dresses simply pop out the umbrella and continue on.

The Quote: "Mass transportation is doomed to failure in North America because a person's car is the only place where he can be alone and think." Marshall McLuhan, scholar and philosopher