If you are reasonably fit, and the weather is suitably clement, there is no doubt that cycling is the handiest way to get around Amsterdam, it really is a bicycle city, and there are plenty of places where you can hire a bicycle for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks.
In the case of the Red Light District, however, there are a number of things you may want to consider before getting there by bicycle.
1. Junkie Bicycle Thieves
Red light districts always tend to attract unsavoury types and, in the case of Amsterdam, bicycle theft is almost considered a form of charitable subsidy for junkies. Locals, most of whom are passionately attached to their bicycles, know that the easiest way to recover a stolen bicycle is to rush up to a notorious bridge near the university where junkies traditionally sell their ill-gotten bikes and simply buy it back for around €20.
Obviously, giving money to the shifty, scruffy bastard who just stole your bike sucks like a wind-tunnel in reverse, especially when the locks they cut through probably cost you three times the amount you are now handing them, but the Dutch are a pragmatic lot and see little point in making a fuss and the only thing you really do is try to make sure that, next time, your bike has at least one more lock than the bike next to it. Alternatively, when visiting the Red Light District, leave your bike at home and come by tram.
2. Deaf, Dumb and Blind Tourists
Once you have lived in Amsterdam for a few months, you develop a sixth sense for bicycles but, until you do, there is a very real danger that you will walk straight into the path of a speeding bicycle. The Dutch are so psychologically melded with their bicycles that they have developed a cycling style that leaves no margin for error. They don’t even blink as they weave through tiny gaps in moving crowds of pedestrians, simply trusting that no-one will suddenly step in an unexpected direction. It is a wonder that they don’t have accidents more often, some sort of cartoon physics seems to be in force, and almost every visitor to Amsterdam will have at least one story of their close shave with a lunatic cyclist. A particularly annoying variant of the species is the haughty blonde Dutch girl with one hand on her handlebars and one on her mobile phone, deeply engrossed in conversation while she turns blind, at high speed, around a corner and straight into a pedestrian. Instead of profusely apologising and asking if the victim is okay, she will angrily curse you, in robust terms, for being in some space that she needed and cycle off again to continue her conversation.
HOWEVER … the other side of the problem is that some tourists seem genuinely unable to understand the concept of bicycles and cycle paths. All too often in the Red Light District and other busy tourist areas, you see a tourist happily walking backwards into a cycle path in order to take a photo, or standing right in middle of one and curiously wondering what that furious ringing sound is. It seems that humans need a very specific form of “training” before they are fully qualified to become bicycle-aware pedestrians … and, sadly, that training involves being hit, very hard, by a bicycle.
To find out how to skip the most crowded times, be sure to read our useful article “How to Avoid the Tourist Swarm in Amsterdam's Red Light District” and don’t forget that our [special maps of all 3 of Amsterdam’s Red Light districts] will help you to intelligently route around the worst of the crowds.
Again, you have to weigh up the pros and cons but, particularly at busy times, it may make sense to avoid the frustrations of dealing with untrained tourists and leave your bicycle at home when visiting the Red Light District.
3. The Incredible Sinking Red Light District
The roads and canals of Amsterdam’s Red Light District seem to be in a permanent state of repair, largely because of the sheer age of this part of the city and, of course, it doesn’t help that, like much of the city, it is based upon land reclaimed from the sea - beneath those roads is yellow sand, as you can so often see when they are in the process of being dug up.
Even without the constant roadworks, these twisty, narrow streets were designed three centuries before cars were even invented, so, the one way system is a nightmare to navigate and the driver behind your bicycle is almost guaranteed to be an impatient asshole. Meanwhile, large crowds of tourists will often block the entire road while they admire the awesome natural beauty of silicon breasts.
4. Unimpressed Hookers
It is not uncommon to see visitors to the Red Light District wheeling their bicycles around from window to window, from street to street, and wondering why none of the prostitutes seem to be bestowing cheeky smiles upon them or even looking at them. This sudden invisibility can certainly be a hit to any man’s ego but, fortunately, there is no need to take it as a personal slight - the hookers of Amsterdam are still avidly interested in your money, you sexy man, you have simply made a small, trifling strategic mistake and we will clear it all up right now.
The apparent lack of interest comes down to their split-second impression of you: standing in a window for long hours every day (be sure to read our article “[“The Life" - What is it Like to be an Amsterdam Red Light Prostitute?]”), watching hundreds upon hundreds of people passing by every hour, the Red Light District sex workers become extremely expert at filtering those who are and who are not likely to become a customer. There is absolutely no point in them wasting their energy on making eye contact with you if you are just window shopping, with no real intention to buy. They need to hold their fire and save that flirtatious mojo because the next person who walks into their field of view might actually be a potential customer.
So, what does this have to do with you and your bicycle? Well, clearly, if you are wandering around with a bicycle in your hands, you are in no position to actually walk through those curtains and give her money (be sure to read our article “The Red Light Experience - What is it like to visit an Amsterdam Sex Worker?”). Sure, you could go up to the window and negotiate a price but, then, what were you planning to do? Leave your bicycle parked right outside? Ask to bring it in? Ask if, perhaps, you can include the bike in a threesome? No, as the hooker well knows, you would have to go off, spend about ten minutes finding a good place to lock it before scuttling back, by which time a gentleman from Turkey will already be up to his balls in her.
So, even if you do have no intention of actually becoming a customer, do yourself a favour and either lock up your bike or just leave it at home when you visit the Red Light District - you will have a lot more fun if the hookers don’t immediately write you off as a time-wasting bum.