Every time I sit in one of the wonderful restaurants around the Vrijthof and follow the never-ending stream of passing bikes with my eyes, I wonder why Katie Melua in her famous song ‘Nine Million Bicycles’ from 2005 did not sing about our lovely student city in the south of the Netherlands. Maybe ‘There are nine million bicycles in Maastricht’ did not really fit into the rhythm of her song. Or she just gave up trying to capture the uncountable number of two-tyre vehicles in Maastricht. I guess, the second explanation is more likely, and I can really understand her. Looking at the massive movement at Vrijthof or elsewhere in the city, it is quite impressive that accidents between all the different traffic users – annoying pedestrians, fast scooters, noisy cars, big buses, old bikes, new bikes, stolen bikes and electric bikes – happen so rarely.
Anyway, bikers are by far the main actors in this field, especially in the inner city. That is why this article has the aim to give you all the necessary, useful and useless information you need to be well prepared for your own cycling adventure in Maastricht.
Interestingly, Maastricht has not always been such a bike-friendly city as it is today. The city has made a huge progress concerning the quality of cycling in the city and even reached the Top 4 of the best cycling cities 2016 in the Netherlands (‘Fietsstad 2016’). The effort had paid off and today many more interesting and costly projects are in the realisation such as the ‘Stad en Spoor’ project that has the aim to improve the infrastructure around the main station even further (more information see https://www.maastrichtbereikbaar.nl/en/bicycle/bicycle-projects).
Naturally, these efforts set great incentives for private enterprises to participate in this trend and thanks to that students today have plenty of possibilities. If you want to buy, rent or share bikes, this is all possible in Maastricht. One of the best addresses to buy a bike is for sure Student Bike Maastricht. Even it is a quite small shop not far away from Plein 1992 they do some excellent work there. They offer affordable and extremely reliable bikes starting with 50 € up to 150 €. Moreover, beside fixing your bike for you, they also rebuy it since they are aware of the fact that many students only spend a limited time here in Maastricht.
A great place to rent a bike is Fietsspecialist Aon de Stasieright at the main station. They sell, repair and rent many fantastic bikes for affordable prices. Especially the opportunity for a long-term rent is quite interesting for students. You pay 12,95 € per month and get a reliable bicycle for your daily life. Nice extra: necessary reparations within 24 hours with the possibility to get a substitution is included in the price. Apart from that, the shop also has a tandem bike for all the lovebirds out there with which you can romantically ride in the sunset together.
However, if you don’t need your own bike or, strange enough, don’t need it permanently, Nextbikein Maastricht could be your perfect alternative. With an app you can easily hire a shared bike from one of the currently (but expanding) nine stations in and around Maastricht. A thirty minutes ride costs you only 1,50 € and even memberships are possible
If you finally found the best-suiting bike for you, it is time to enter the traffic. Here are the most important traffic rules for you to survive the traffic jungle (all based on personal experiences). First rule is quite obvious but important. Never ride your bike in the dark without working front and back lights. It might happen that a police officer notices it, forces you to push your bike the entire way, let us say 1.4km back home and even monitors you to see if you really follow his order. SO GERMAN!
Second, be aware of the priority rules. Against the prevailing opinion it is not true that bikers are always allowed to go first. In most of the cases yes, but there are exceptions. Have you ever noticed the white triangles on the streets? No, they are not the product of Banksy`s latest street art project. If they point at you, you are supposed to wait. At least that is the rule for bikes and cars. The question if pedestrians on a crosswalk or bikes enjoy priority will perhaps remain forever an unsolved mystery.
Third, it is not compulsory to wear a helmet. However, since helmets are very effective safety instruments which can make in certain situations the difference between death and live, it is obvious what all students in Maastricht do: They DON’T where one. Why? Because it still looks ridiculous. Next rule.
I would like to mention finally that it is not allowed to cycle under the influence of alcohol if the blood alcohol content is higher than 0,5 per mill. Of course, it practically never concerns the student life in Maastricht since all students here are responsible, grown-up and highly intelligent academics, but for the purpose of clarity I had the urge to mention it.
For the time you don’t enjoy cycling through the city, there are plenty of possibilities to park your bike. The university provides bike sheds at most of its buildings (sometimes even monitored) and you are basically allowed to lock up your bicycle on every traffic sign or tree you can find. But be careful, there are exceptions and especially in terms of safety it might be better to look for a more appropriate parking lot for your bike. Which leads us to one of the negative aspects of the Maastricht cycling culture. Daily, many, many bikes get stolen and unfortunately the number has grown during the last years. Nonetheless, the city expanded the guarded bicycle sheds (some of them are even for free) in the city to prevent it and the Facebook Group ‘Stolen Bikes Maastricht’ offers a lot of helpful information if you end up as a victim.
After all what I have said so far, you are right when you assume that I am quite enthusiastic when it comes to cycling. However, there are also many objective arguments why bikes are better than other vehicles in Maastricht. Apart from the fact that taking the car daily for such short ways within Maastricht is horrible for the air quality, it is almost impossible to find a good and cheap parking lot near the city centre. Besides, the feeling you get when you can just pass an endless traffic rush with you bike is just wonderful. Additionally, the permanent fear to oversee a biker while driving a car is only bearable for a short amount of time. They are everywhere and appear out of nothing!
In comparison to buses a bike offers you much more flexibility. Fair enough, there are more comfortable things in life than cycling tipsy during a rainy night with temperatures around three degrees Celsius, but one must admit that it gives you quite a refreshing feeling when you finally arrive at home.
To sum it up, the bike is a wonderful vehicle especially here in Maastricht where everything is so close to each other. For those of you who can’t get enough of cycling I can highly recommend the many cycling routes around Maastricht such as the Gulpen Cycle Route (many more routes you can find on http://www.holland-cycling.com/where-to-go/day-trips/231-maastricht-gulpen-cycle-route).
That is all the basic information, I wanted to give you. Hope to see you soon riding circles in the next roundabout.