How Amsterdam became the cycling capital

How Amsterdam became the cycling capital

Amsterdam wasn’t always a bike city. As in many other cities, cyclists came under pressure due to the rapid increase of car traffic. It was through a combination of grassroots activism and municipal policy that the bicycle managed to make an astounding comeback. The book “BIKE CITY AMSTERDAM – HOW AMSTERDAM BECAME THE CYCLING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD”, by Fred Feddes and Marjolein de Lange, is the first comprehensive inside history of sixty years of successful bicycle activism, policy and culture in Amsterdam.

As any visitor knows, the bicycle is omnipresent in the streets of Amsterdam, in the rhythm of its people's lives, and in the city's image. To many outsiders, Amsterdam comes close to being a cyclist's paradise. It wasn't always that way. As in many other cities, cyclists came under pressure due to the rapid increase of car traffic in the 1960s. It was through a unique combination of grassroots activism and municipal policy, supported by advantageous circumstances and driven by smartness and perseverance, that the bicycle made this astounding comeback.

Bike City Amsterdam recounts the story of this long-term transformation of a city that made way for the bicycle, while the bicycle in turn helped make the city liveable again. It highlights the accomplishments of the bicycle city, as well as its setbacks and its counterforces. Its story ranges from the everyday bicycling culture, to policy choices and street design, to the notorious battle for the Rijksmuseum bicycle passageway.

Written from the inside, Bike City Amsterdam acknowledges the uniqueness of the Amsterdam bicycle city, but it does so without romanticizing, analysing its success with a keen eye on all its imperfections. By telling a detailed case history of Amsterdam, it allows its international readers to distinguish the universal lessons from the local specifics, and to draw inspiration from both. Finally, it looks ahead to the next half century in which Amsterdam can contribute to tackling global urban issues as a 'bicycle laboratory'.

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About the authors

Fred Feddes writes about spatial issues and urban history. His previous books include A Millennium of Amsterdam, as well as books on the Dam Square, De Dam, and on the future of the Amsterdam metropolitan landscape, Het volgende landschap.

Marjolein de Lange is an expert in bicycle planning and road safety and is actively involved in the Cyclists' Union of Amsterdam.

More information

More info about the book, and a selection of key documents used for the book can be found at:


  • Bike City Amsterdam was released in April, 2019, by Bas Lubberhuizen, part of Nieuw Amsterdam Publishing house.
  • 223 pages, with 120 illustrations
  • ISBN: 978 90 593 7534 5
  • A Dutch language edition is published simultaneously as Fietsstad Amsterdam.


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