Dutch Quirk #132: Have a secret language when biking

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #132: Have a secret language when biking

Have you ever biked the streets of Amsterdam and watched as a cyclist stuck their left arm out into oncoming bicycle traffic? Or heard frantic bell chimes from out of nowhere?

Dutchies are practically born on top of their fiets, and there are lots of factors that make cycling easy as pie — like having an entirely different way of communicating while cycling.

What is it?

Just like driving a car, Dutch people came up with their own set of rules and regulations to follow when riding a bike.

Part of those rules is an effective way to communicate with others while biking. For example:

  • If you want to pass someone, ring your bell before you overtake them.
  • Use your hands as signals when turning, i.e. if you’re turning right, extend your right arm for a few seconds before you turn.
  • You don’t signal if you’re going to stop — most people will have no idea what you’re trying to signal (and definitely don’t suddenly stop on a busy bike path).

While it might seem like a top-secret language to newcomers to the Netherlands, it’s actually pretty intuitive.

Why do they do it?

It’s no secret that Dutch people are some of the best cyclists in the world, and it’s for good reason too.

Their whole infrastructure is suited to accommodate bicycles and their education even includes cycling safety and etiquette.

This ‘secret language’ serves to make sure biking stays as safe, easy, and popular as it is.

Why is it quirky? 

Well, who else would have an entire rule set to communicate while biking but the Dutch?

Cycling is so ingrained into their society that they can tell what the cyclist behind them wants, all based on a few bell rings.

READ MORE | 7 types of cyclings found when biking in the Netherlands

People have also come up with a few ways to follow the rules without really following them. One time, I was sitting on the back of my friend’s bike and they asked me to do the turn signals so they wouldn’t have to let go of the handles.

Even if they’re ‘breaking the rules’, they’re not really breaking them.

Should you join in? 

Definitely! Using this not-so-secret language will definitely make your cycling experience safer and easier.

Not to mention, cyclists (Dutch or not) will certainly appreciate you communicating clearly on the roads. Stay safe!

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Katrien Nivera 🇵🇭
Katrien Nivera 🇵🇭
Third culture kid Katrien has been working as a writer and editor at DutchReview for over two years, originally moving to the Netherlands as a tween. Equipped with a Bachelor’s in communication and media and a Master’s in political communication, she’s here to stay for her passion for writing, whether it’s current Dutch affairs, the energy market, or universities. Just like the Dutch, Katrien lives by her agenda and enjoys the occasional frietje met mayo — she just wishes she could grow tall, too.


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