Traffic & safety rules

The Netherlands is the safest place in the world to ride a bicycle but this doesn’t mean there are never accidents. Bicycle infrastructure is designed to prevent accidents. At the same time cyclists must understand the rules of the road, their own abilities and be aware of others around them. Having a good understanding of basic traffic rules and road signs can go a long way to making sure you’re safe as you start to cycle in Delft. The following sections have been selected to cover the basic safety information around cycling 

  • Where to cycle
  • Right of way and traffic lights
  • Road signs
  • Safe behavior and good practice

Where to cycle?

As a starting point, traffic in the Netherlands travels on the right-hand side of the road. This rule also applies to bicycles. Due to the countries extensive bicycle infrastructure, you will often find separated bike lanes. These cycle lanes cater for bikes and scooters that travel at a maximum speed of 25kmh. Many cycle lanes are a recognizable reddish brown colored road surface which makes them easy to identify.

Segregated bike lanes generally are found in two different forms. Some bike lanes are built for one direction traffic, these will generally be found on the right-hand side of the road. Others accommodate traffic going in both ways. It will be easy to spot these lanes as they have a dotted line down the middle to divide the traffic flows or have a sign showing arrows pointing up and down.

There is not always a specialized cycle lane available and you may have to cycle on the road with cars without a curb between yourself and motorized traffic. Make sure you stick to the right-hand side of the road to allow vehicles to pass to your left.

This also applies when you’re in a cycle lane, if you stick to the right-hand side, faster cyclists have space to overtake you. Whilst cycling, if you hear a bell chime behind you, this means that a bike behind you requires space room to overtake to your left. Simply change your position in the road and move closer to the right side of the lane.

When you find yourself cycling in a situation where there are parked cars to your right-hand side, it is good practice to keep a bit of distance between yourself and the cars. This can protect against someone opening a car door when you don’t have enough time to get out of the way. 

Two direction cycle lane, segregated from road

Suggested cycle lane

Right of way & traffic lights

Unless it is clearly stated to do otherwise, you must give way to traffic approaching from the right-hand side. This rule applies for all traffic. When you are in a situation when it is your right of way it’s always a good idea to exercise caution, make sure other road users are going to give you the right of way. Just because you know the correct rules doesn’t mean everyone else does.

When you get to a junction that doesn’t have traffic lights it is likely there will be a row of white triangles painted on the ground. These are referred to as ‘shark’s teeth’, for obvious reasons. If the triangle points towards you it means you must stop and give way to other traffic which may be approaching.

When it comes to traffic lights, as is the case around the world, red means stop and green means go. Often at junctions you will see specific traffic lights for bicycles, obey these as you would do in a car. At some traffic lights, they may make exceptions for bicycles which are turning right even if the light is red. A sign saying ‘rechtsaf voor fietsers vrij’ will appear next to the lights, this basically translates to ‘right turn for cyclists is free’.

Occasionally, cyclists will have a button next to the traffic lights which they can press.

When cycling at night some junctions have traffic lights where every light will flash amber. This means that you may cross the junction if nothing is coming. This ensures that you aren’t sat at red lights for a long time late in the evening when there’s little traffic on the road.

With all of the above rules it is important to remember that not all road users will follow these rules all of the time. A key tip is to be vigilant, keep your eyes open and look what others around you are doing. Following the signs and road markings blindly could also get you into accidents if you aren’t looking out for others.

Rechtsaf voor fietsers vrij

Sharks teeth’ apply to cars too

Button at traffic lights

Triangle pointing towards you

Road signs

To help you feel more confident when cycling in Delft, this section contains some of the common road signs you will see when out and about. Each is accompanied by a short explanation so you understand what they mean. 

Cycle Path – Mandatory 

No cycling

No parking for mopeds and bicycles 

Path for mopeds and bicycles

No entry – One way street 

Give way to passing traffic

Cycle path – optional 

No entry, except for bicycles and mopeds

Stop to give priority to other traffic

Path for pedestrians only 

Parking for bicycles 

Priority road ­– You have priority over traffic joining this road

Types of Junction

Roundabouts

You’ll find many roundabouts in Delft. Just as you cycle on the right-hand side, you travel rightwards around roundabouts.

As you approach a roundabout you must give way to traffic which is already travelling around in. There should be shark’s teeth on the floor which indicate that you should stop. Once you get onto the roundabout safely, you have the right of way and traffic trying to join will stop for you. When you wish to exit the roundabout, you should stretch your right arm out to indicate to other traffic you intend to exit the roundabout. This means others do not have to unnecessarily wait for your actions.

Some roundabouts have a two-way cycle track which is segregated from the road. Be cautious here as some drivers may not expect traffic to be coming from their left as well. As always be vigilant and watch what other traffic is doing to avoid accidents.

Refuge

When crossing busier roads there may be a section for pedestrians and bicycles in the middle, this is known as a refuge. It provides a place to stop and take temporary ‘refuge’ while crossing the road. These are helpful features of the road as it means you may only have to cross one lane of traffic. This means you only have to watch for traffic coming from one direction before reaching the refuge. It is important to remember that just because a traffic light shows green you should keep a look out for more traffic lights on the refuge which may not be green. Always keep an eye out and check the road ahead of you.

Safe behaviors and good practice

Clearly indicating to other road users which way you are going to turn is an important way to avoid collisions. By holding out an arm at a 90 degree angle, in the direction you intend to turn, will help those around you anticipate your movements. This does not mean you need to turn a corner with only one hand on the handlebars, you can make your signal before you begin to turn. Many road users do not indicate clearly or at all, which can often be frustrating.

When you’re cycling, you are in control of a vehicle, just like you are when driving a car. So yes, cycling under the influence of alcohol is illegal. If your blood content exceeds 0.5promille (0.5g of alcohol per liter of blood) you can be fined or banned from cycling. This law is not often enforced but riding your bike after drinking means you run the risk of legal consequences and injury to yourself or others. 

It’s likely that you will see people using their mobile phones whilst cycling. At present this is not illegal but the government are going to change the law to prevent people from doing so. If you are looking at your phone, you won’t be looking at the road which will certainly increase your chance of getting into an accident.

It is possible that while you cycle you might need to stop and check your mobile phone or put on your gloves, for example. When you need to do so, never stop in the middle of the cycle lane. This can disrupt other traffic behind you or cause an accident. Find a place where you can safely pull onto the pavement and dismount your bicycle before taking out your phone or gloves. Or go completely to the far right of the cycle lane, lower your speed slowly and make sure you are not suddenly obstructing bicycle traffic from behind.

Listening to music whilst cycling is not illegal. It could be a distraction and it will reduce your awareness of what is going on around you. If you wish to listen to music this is your own choice. The safest way to do so is by wearing one headphone in your right ear. This means you can still hear traffic coming which may be overtaking on your left-hand side.

Now you should be ready to test your knowledge and try the quiz!