You are more than welcome to visit the Netherlands this summer for cycling. Many foreign visitors have done the same before you. For one or two each year the journey doesn’t end quite the way they planned. So if you don’t want to be stopped by the police and end up in the headlines it would be a good idea to know at least something of the traffic signs.
There are two types of road signs in the world. The Netherlands (like most of Europe, including the UK) uses the type that is mainly blue and red as opposed to the mainly yellow and black that the US, Australia and Ireland use (among others).
But even though the shapes and colours may differ, the pictograms on the signs are generally similar. So it shouldn’t be too big a problem to understand them, even if you are used to the other system. Compare the above two situations in the Netherlands and Australia. It is very clear that both mean cyclists cross here from both sides and you have to yield to give them the right of way.
So where’s the catch? Well in the Netherlands there are some specific bicycle signs and especially supplementary plates that make things a bit more complicated. A supplementary plate meaning ‘cycling excepted’ under a ‘no-entry one way street’ sign suddenly makes entering that street by bicycle allowed. A ‘cycling permitted’ sign under a ‘foot path’ sign allows you to cycle there, but the pedestrians come first in that case. It means cycling should be done carefully without hindering the pedestrians.
One of the signs that is misunderstood is the ‘no parking for bicycles and mopeds/scooters’ sign. A site even explains it wrongly as a no entry sign.
The video gives a quick overview of the situation in the Netherlands.
The most important signs you may encounter as a cyclist are listed below.
You can find a lot more information in the brochure Road Traffic Signs and Regulations in the Netherlands (PDF in English) on the site of the Dutch Ministry of Transport. The current design of the Dutch traffic signs is from 1990 which gives the signs a very modern and clean look. But not all the signs in the streets were changed right away and even now, 22 years later, you will still sometimes find the old signs that had a very 1940s feel to them. Those are the signs I grew up with and the ones that were taught at school. I therefore have a great fondness of these older signs. Which explains my avatar.