Navigating the busy, narrow streets of Amsterdam can be risky at times due to an unexpected hazard: tourists wobbling around on bikes carelessly breaking the rules of the road. A humorous video tells them how to survive.
Visitors wanting to enjoy the Dutch experience, but unused to two wheels or how to manage the clogged streets, can often be seen veering precariously into unsuspecting pedestrians and cars. Now, just before the busy Christmas season, local authorities have launched a three-minute humorous video on how to go with the flow without endangering life and limb.
Faking an atrocious English accent, well-known Dutch comedian and actor Maxim Hartman offers advice on Amsterdam's "traffic jungle". And what is one of his most important tips in the city known for its parties and tolerance of cannabis use? "No! Don't cycle drunk or stoned." Throw away your mobile phone. And don't forget, "the tram is your enemy," Hartman warns, telling cyclists to cross the tram lines on a diagonal to avoid being thrown off by getting stuck between them.
Built in the 17th century during the time of horse and carts, Amsterdam is now home to some 880,000 bikes and more than 58 percent of local residents cycle every day, according to the latest figures. Despite 17 million annual visitors, the rate of accidents in the city is fairly low. But more than half of the 900 people seriously injured in traffic accidents annually are cyclists.
And of the 15 to 20 fatal traffic accidents on Amsterdam's roads every year, between 20 percent to 30 percent of those killed are cyclists. The Dutch always jokingly warn that tourists and new expats who just don't understand the rules pose the biggest danger on the roads. They brake suddenly for no apparent reason, travel the wrong way down the dedicated bike lanes or - sin of sins - cycle along the pavements.
"We the Dutch people are so used to cycling, but often people from abroad are not. And the streets of Amsterdam are often crowded and compact," said Machteld Ligtvoet, communications manager for Amsterdam Marketing. "We thought it's a good idea to do something to inform visitors about how to cycle in Amsterdam," she said.
The video is being distributed to tourist information centres, bike rental stores and hotels in the hope visitors will pick up a few safety tips.