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Please be Careful Crossing the Streets in Amsterdam

Many of Amsterdam's major streets are composed of several parts. The bikes lanes, the car lanes and the tram lane. It goes like this: bike lane, car lane, tram lane (usually 2 tracks), car lane and bike lane. There are 3 traffic lights or crosswalk lights. One for each of the car lanes, and one for the tram lane. There are pedestrian islands next to each light.

I observed (in horror) as a woman with a small child took off from the curb trying to beat the lights. The traffic from the other side of the intersection was already moving when she reached the second (the tram) island. Thank god, her husband, who was still on the curb with the other child, yelled STOP, and she did, or she would have barreled into oncoming traffic.

Also to be noted, many drivers here hit the gas like the start of Indianapolis 500 as soon as the light changes. And the bicycles are often looking at a bicycle traffic light, so just watch out for them. And sometimes, most times, they will chose to disregard their traffic light.

Some intersections have no lights or signs. You just have to pay attention.

Posted by
115 posts

Whoa! thanks for the heads up! We are going there is late October and will heed your advice. From your description, it appears you have to cross the street in intervals - going from one pedestrian island to the next. Seems like all traffic should be required to stop at the same time, similar to here in the US.

Posted by
369 posts

You don't always have to cross in intervals. Sometimes the lights all go green at once. You don't have to run for it. They stay green for quite a while.

I haven't figured out why the lights are the way they are, but I'm sure the Dutch have their reasons.

As a PS, my daughter, who has lived her for a long time says the bicyclists view their traffic lights as more of a "suggestion".

Posted by
636 posts

I am sure the lights in both London and Paris work in stages as well so you wait on the traffic island in the middle of the road. No tram lines there, but bus and cycle lanes.

Posted by
4525 posts

Those bike lanes will get you! If not occupied by bikes they look like sidewalks to those of us not used to them. I think most of them have red surfaces -- whether to warn us or because of so many past collisions I don't know. ;-) And of course you don't hear bikes coming -- though I noticed some motorbikes using the lanes too.

The only thing worse is to consider how much car traffic there would be if everyone who bikes drove instead. Amsterdam is a great place to visit and uses its geography to great advantage, but for most Americans the bike traffic takes getting used to.

Posted by
227 posts

In Amsterdam I've heard the saying that many a tourist , just before s/he got ran over by a bike , heard the " ring, ring " of a bicycle bell .
Bike paths are a reddish brown and if you don't stay off them , you take a risk !
Crossing on a green light is not too bad as the lights are long enough to cross and when almost back on yellow or red they sound warning ' beeps' that get faster as crossing time gets shorter .

Posted by
10344 posts

Yes, we noted recently that it would be quite easy as a pedestrian to get hit in Amsterdam, because you have to watch for the cyclists and the cars and there are more cyclists than cars and they don't stop for pedestrians. Very worth noting for your personal safety.

Posted by
4979 posts

My experience with bikes in Amsterdam is that even at crosswalks where Pedestrians have the right of way (vehicles must stop) Cyclists feel they do not have to stop (maybe they don't have to) and you should yield to them as they barrel by at high speed. Besides the bells, if one gets close to you , you will be admonished with a hiss.

Posted by
23 posts

Another thing I noticed is that both buses and taxis are allowed in the tram lanes. So, just because you don't see a tram coming, that doesn't mean some other vehicle may not pop into it.

Also, it also seemed that moped/scooters and those tiny Smart cars were allowed in the bike lane.

Posted by
369 posts

Scooters have been banned from the bike lanes. Yay! They had become quite a problem. Teenagers + a vehicle under power. A few bad actors ruined it for everyone. And now, they have to wear helmets too.

Posted by
605 posts

on the other hand, #4's not bad

The Economist Intelligence Unit's 2019 Safe Cities Index (SCI) has ranked 60 destinations across the world in terms of their digital security, health security, infrastructure and personal safety.
Topping the list is Tokyo. The most populated metropolis on Earth earns a score of 92.0 out of a possible 100.

The world's safest cities for 2019, according to SCI:
1. Tokyo, Japan
2. Singapore
3. Osaka, Japan
4. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
5. Sydney, Australia
6. Toronto, Canada
7. Washington DC, US
= 8. Copenhagen, Denmark
= 8. Seoul, South Korea
10. Melbourne, Australia