BICYCLE DUTCH

All about cycling in the Netherlands

The Moped Menace in the Netherlands

More than half of Amsterdam’s over 25,000 so-called ‘light’ moped riders admits they ‘almost always’ ride too fast. That was the news of this week. But it wasn’t really news. The Cyclists’ Union had already published a report last November 2012 that showed that 94% of the ‘light’ mopeds speeds. Some up to 60km/h where 25km/h is permitted. More than double the maximum speed! The average speed is 37km/h, that is 50% above the speed limit, yes, on average! The number of ‘light’ mopeds in Amsterdam grew at an astonishing rate, from 8,125 in 2007 to over 25,000 in 2012.

light-moped-cycle-path

Cycle paths in the Netherlands are heavily used. Here we see a bakfiets, an elderly woman, children on bicycles and a light moped. It is very dangerous when light mopeds are speeding on cycle paths like these.

The current liberal minister for infrastructure remains deaf to the very reasonable complaints. Amsterdam wrote a letter to the ‘Tweede Kamer’ (“The Dutch House of Representatives”) asking to implement a helmet obligation to make the mopeds less attractive. But the minister does not want to do anything about this problem. And it is a problem, especially for cyclists, because these ‘light’ mopeds do their speeding on the cycle paths. The minister says the laws are there and she feels it is up to the municipalities. They only have to make sure the ‘light’ moped riders stick to the speed limits and everything will be fine.

graphic

This graphic shows the differences between the two types of mopeds, e-bikes and normal bicycles. The fourth column shows that both types of mopeds require a ‘riders-license’, not required for e-bikes and bicycles. The last three columns show the access to a non-mandatory cycle path, a cycle path and a combined cycle-moped path respectively. There are calls to change the two highlighted options. Light mopeds should also get a helmet obligation and they should be banned from the mandatory cycle paths. (Info graphic created after the example by De Persdienst in the news this week)

But why are those ‘light’ mopeds on the cycle path at all?

Dutch law makes a distinction between motor cycles and mopeds. Two wheeled motor vehicles with an engine displacement over 50cc are motor cycles, which are treated as a motor vehicle and can use the motor ways. They are never allowed on the cycling infrastructure. Anything with an engine displacement under 50cc is a moped or scooter. Since 1974, a third type of two wheeled motorised vehicles was introduced into Dutch law, the ‘light moped’, in Dutch ‘snorfiets,’ which is a euphemism meaning ‘purring bicycle’. Those first light mopeds were indeed little more than a bicycle with an additional purring little motor. All mopeds had to have pedals and the light type had smaller wheels to distinguish it from the heavier type of moped. It was felt this light and slow vehicle would be dangerous on the road mixed with fast motor traffic, and so the ‘purring bicycles’ were supposed to mix with the normal bicycles on the cycle paths. The heavy type got a yellow license plate and the light type a blue one. But the laws evolved and so did the machines.

Riding on the heavier type of moped means you have to wear a helmet (since 1975). That is not the case for the lighter type. For the latter the smaller wheels were not mandatory anymore since 1976 and the pedal requirement for both was dropped in 1985. Without the pedals, mopeds looked the same as scooters, especially the heavier type. The scooter version of the moped was much wider, and that width increased over time, so they became increasingly unfit for the cycle paths. They were too wide, too many and too fast. Since the speed for heavy mopeds is 45 km/h they could easily mix with the city traffic on the main carriage ways that drives 50km/h. This became law in 1999: the heavier type of moped was sent to the main carriage way. But from then on the lighter type became unexpectedly attractive. People didn’t want to mix with the car traffic, and they didn’t want to wear helmets, so they switched to the lighter type in high numbers. Suppliers saw that new demand, and they also noticed the light mopeds that looked like the heavy type sold best. Today there really is no difference anymore. Both types are generally exactly the same machine, but one is controlled to not go over 25km/h and the other has a limiter that prevents it from going over 45km/h. That limiter is easily disabled and that is what most riders do. That makes they can ride 60km/h on a machine that is supposed to not go faster than 25km/h on a cycle path where mothers ride with their children. A very unwanted situation, especially because cycling is also so on the rise.

moped-speed-test

If police stop a speeding moped rider they must check whether the limiter was disabled.

The number of accidents with mopeds is high and increasing very much. Amsterdam has analysed the crashes from 2001-2003 and from 2007-2009. In the first period there were 33 serious casualties per year on average (99 in 3 years) and in the second 3 year period there were 73 (219 in total). Moped riders endanger themselves most. From all serious injuries 19% is a moped rider, while their model split is only 2%. Percentage-wise the risk for cyclists seems low, the other party involved in a crash is only a cyclist in 9% of all moped crashes, but considering there were 50,000 mopeds (light and heavy in total) and 550,000 cyclists in Amsterdam at that time, it is a ratio which causes concern. Foremost, cyclists feel unsafe around all those mopeds. Of all cyclists, 14% say the mopeds are what they hate most in traffic.

Early 2013, Amsterdam started a pilot project, in which they ban also the ‘light mopeds’ from some of the city’s cycle paths that go through 30km/h zones. Arguing that this type of mopeds go 25km/h and can therefore easily mix with motor traffic going 30km/h. But they wear no helmets, so you can’t send them off the cycle paths going through 50km/h areas, for which they are also too slow. The Dutch policies of separating vehicle types, so different in volume and speed, forbid that. (Sustainable safety regulations). But people wanting change argue that under the same regulations you cannot go on mixing the big fast ‘light’ mopeds with much smaller and slower bicycles. For some years, experts have been calling for scrapping the whole light moped concept from Dutch law and to have all moped riders wear a helmet and have them all ride the same speed of 45km/h on the carriage ways. The city of Amsterdam asks exactly the same now and it is something the Cyclists’ Union would also welcome. Spokesperson Arien de Jong of the Cyclists’ Union said: “All the reasons for sending the heavy mopeds to the carriage way in 1999 are now valid for the lighter type too. They are too wide, ride too fast and cause a lot of pollution”. Indeed, the ‘purring bicycles’ from the past, to give people the ability to go slightly faster than a bicycle with little effort, do not exist anymore, and this law was meant for people who wanted to do that. Instead, there are now electric assist bicycles for these people who don’t want to go fast, but do need some help in cycling. There is no need for a ‘light moped category’ anymore. Scrapping the whole category from the law would end the terror of the mopeds on the cycle tracks.

scooter-overlast

Stop the scooter nuisance! This poster by the pressure group against scooter nuisance on the cycle paths of the Netherlands, shows a lot of Dutch have had it with the scooters.

Although the minister of transport doesn’t want to consider either yet (helmet obligation or riding on the carriage way), the producers of (light) mopeds now admit that it is perhaps too easy to disable the limiters. They also said the models are the same, because they do not want to produce a different type of machine for only the Dutch market. That would cost too much, but they are ready to reconsider. So it is perfectly clear the machines out there on the streets in the Netherlands, light or heavy, are really no different. The only visible difference is the blue or yellow license plate. People using ‘light’ mopeds with the limiter disabled are really only using a loophole in the law to be able to use the cycling infra (safer than the carriage way) without a helmet at speeds that infra wasn’t designed for. Society doesn’t take this anymore, pressure is building up. There is a pressure group with a website called: Scooter nuisance.nl who get ever more visible. But the heat is also building up in politics. The minister of safety and justice has announced he’ll look into the very low fines for people who get caught after bypassing the speed limiter. He was forced to do so after questions from representatives. It is very difficult to fine people, because the police have to actually test ride how fast the mopeds go. There is still hope something will change in the time to come. Until then, the Amsterdam alderman has proposed to implement speed cameras on the cycle paths to measure and record the speed of mopeds. That way the chance of getting caught when speeding on your ‘slow’ moped is at least increased.

A compilation of heavy and light mopeds at different locations in the Netherlands. Some are breaking the law.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS

In May 2014 the Minister of Transport announced legisation that will make it possible for municipalities to send mopeds to the carriage way. Read more in this blog post.

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43 comments on “The Moped Menace in the Netherlands

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  3. Montero
    22 March 2014

    I live in Warsaw , Poland .I have 25 km to my job place.Using bicycle ,need shower and 1 h rest at least :-) .Using car ,waste of fuel and nerve.Moped ist an ideal solution.AND: there is big problem with law ,definitions and production.For example Hercules Prima have pedals , but its impossible to use like bicycle.MOPED: Should have a real bicycle ability to muscle propulsion.Next step , on some bicycle paths engine should be not allowed , and marked as quiet zone, but if you have pedals , no problem.Every other things like scooter ,light motorcycle( light if you mean cc :-) ) not weight , every are over 100kg ,every other is motorcycle .Speed limit is no too good idea.I think weight limit is better.By the way i don have spedoo on my bicycle , somtimes go pretty fast.
    Regards

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  10. Alexander Pas
    18 May 2013

    First of all, there’s a significant error in your post:

    Light mopeds are allowed on the non-mandatory cycle path when they have their engines turned off and use the pedals.

    This reduces the difference between e-bikes and light mopeds to a single thing: You don’t have to pedal on a light moped.

    In addition, the width, of a (light) moped including mirrors, should never exceed 100cm, according to dutch law.

  11. Andrew
    16 May 2013

    I live in China and we have bike lanes, which are used by bicycles, pedal ebike, moped ebike and petrol scooter. Most Chinese Citys have banned petrol scooters and you cant get them registered. No speed limits but generally 30 to 40KPH is the traveling speed. Other cities have also banned ebikes.

    Simple rule in an accident when the Police turn up. Bicycle vs ebike – ebike at fault dont care for the reason or what happend, two of the same bikes then you sort it out your self. All bikes a registered with plates and there are plenty of cameras. I see very few accidents.

    Most people use a bicycle or pedal ebike, you dont see to many over weight (FAT) people because of that.

    • crank
      28 November 2013

      I was quite amazed on my time in Beijing (I rode everywhere) – people quite responsible on scooters, and they are so quiet! I guess they are pushing coal polution elsewhere though.

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  13. Johan
    28 March 2013

    Ban light mopeds completely, only have the 40 (45 in reality) version, and add a 80kmh category, just like in Germany. These are not allowed on cyclepaths of course.

    For cyclepaths you can only use normal bikes or e-bikes with a limiter at 20kmh.
    E-bikes are both allowed to be pedaled or non-pedaled. Non-pedaled for those who formerly used light mopeds, or those who just don’t want to pedal.

    The noise and pollution from mopeds is gone from the cycle paths while the ease of a light moped is being kept by the e-bike.

    • Monty
      2 April 2013

      “For cyclepaths you can only use normal bikes or e-bikes with a limiter at 20kmh.”

      It would be pointless at capping the speed at 20 kmh as, after mopeds, ironically the next biggest danger is pelotons of sports cyclists streaming past at 25kmh (which also happens to be the current maximum permitted speed of e-bikes).

      • Johan
        3 April 2013

        The problem with e-bikes is that those are generally used by the elderly. The bikes are heavier and these people cannot always cope with the speed and weight of the e-bike. Also 20kmh is fast enough for ‘normal’ cycling. Sports cyclists generally have more control of their bikes and are less prone to have severe injuries after falling. Riding fast is the purpose of the sports bike, it’s not the purpose of the e-bike.

  14. Neil
    22 March 2013

    Hi Mark, you are right , these scooters are the threat to cycling as a whole. the first time I saw those in fietspaden in your videos, I was very surprised, like, what are they doing here? not only they are dangerous, but they reject highly toxic gaz (much more than cars! see the studies) just right on our face and kids face. I know that as most of the time I have to stop breathing when a scooter pass me. I am very surprised politics in Netherlands do nothing about that (I am sure they are not cycling…) people of Netherlands must stop that!

  15. Vitalia
    21 March 2013

    Thank you, Mark! So when a bicycle is hit by a moped, and the owner of moped lies and imputes the accident to the other party. What will happen in this case, please? My friend (bike rider) is experiencing this story. It happened several days ago. And the moped rider is trying to cheat money from my friend.. Can he call the police to solve it?

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  19. Danilo
    25 February 2013

    As always, excellent post, Mark. Not being bigoting here, or trying to raise any polemic ethnic question, but when I was in Amsterdam I’ve noticed that scooters are more related with non-Dutch natives, i.e. immigrants. Is the ‘anti-scooter movement’ having the risk to be xenophobic? Maybe because immigrants were not raised with Dutch education (like learning to cycle since children), for them it is easier to get a scooter? Perhaps the solution won’t be educational programs for ‘newbies’ in the Netherlands, to get immigrants included to the Dutch society?

    • bicycledutch
      26 February 2013

      What you say is true. The scooter does appeal relatively more to people from non-Dutch ethnic backgrounds, but it also appeals to the Dutch of lower social classes. Which is – in a way – a good thing: that makes that it is not seen as xenophobic when you are against scooters. This also explains why this is a ‘big-city-problem’. In the larger cities there simply are more people of different ethnic backgrounds and lower social classes.

      • rrustema
        26 February 2013

        I am looking for a survey that supports the anecdotes about scooter drivers being motorists who choose for the scooter because Amsterdam is unattractive for cars (high parking fees).

        • bicycledutch
          26 February 2013

          Never heard that anecdote and find it highly unlikely. Since motorists need to be 18 yo and moped riders only 16 yo. That 16-18 age group cannot even be a motorist. I have heard that estate-agents in Amsterdam use mopeds a lot, but not motorists in general.

        • Koen
          24 March 2013

          I live in a car-friendly village in the Netherlands, and ‘even’ here there are those mopeds. So goodbye to the car-unfriendliness myth, then.

      • Danilo
        26 February 2013

        So, we can say that the problem is with social inequality? Perhaps the target would be to find more about the nature of scoot drivers to understand more this class-division? It is ironic that in most countries motorized vehicles symbolize upper-class while in Amsterdam seems to be the reverse in this case. Maybe that is one of the issues, that the lower-class in Amsterdam, being social excluded, use motorized vehicles to get some self-esteem? I think this is a wonderful topic for social studies to be researched,,, and solved!, with real proposals of social inclusion and real attempts to get rid of social inequality.

      • rrustema
        26 February 2013

        I tried to write that there are motorists who now get themselves a scooter as an alternative way to go into the center. They already own a car, they live within a few kilometers from the old center. Before they would take the car, but now they take the scooter. In other words: there are no bicyclists going to scooters, but they used to be motorists. And public transport users. There are always a lot of advertisements for scooters inside the tram at least.

  20. fonant
    25 February 2013

    I was under the impression that the Dutch invented smooth sinusoidal speed “humps” for this problem: the humps are designed so that they’re comfortable to cycle over, but if you go too fast on a moped it’s very uncomfortable. Are they used much, and do they work?

    • bicycledutch
      26 February 2013

      Yes, those exist, but I only know them from the town of Houten. I don’t see them in the centers of larger cities. Infrastructure is a very local, so what you see in one municipality, you do not necessarily also see in other municipalities.

      • raj
        11 October 2014

        I have seen them in Gröningen as well.

    • Monty
      2 April 2013

      I know there are plenty of sinusoidal speed “humps” in Zoetermeer. Do a google image search for brommerdrempel and you will find them in cities all over the Netherlands. And I find they are not comfortable to cycle over unless I stand up on the pedals.

  21. Dennis Hindman
    23 February 2013

    The same problem of excessive speed could occur with electric bicycles. Here’s a link to story and video demonstration about a recent electric bicycle design which its manufacturer wanted to be the “fastest and best e-bike ever” (top speed 45km/hj) that is sold in Europe and made by the U.S. bicycle company Specialized:

    http://www.bikeradar.com/news/article/video-specialized-turbo-the-worlds-fastest-electric-bike-33568/

    A powered bicycle that is equiped with pedals is limited to 32km/h in the U.S. Beyond that speed its classified as a motor vehicle and must meet additional safety requirements, along with requiring a drivers license and registration.

    Research results at three Universities have demonstrated the ability to increase lithium-ion battery energy density to ten times what is available now. When any of these technologies are manufactured in mass it should make electric bicycles and vehicles much more desirable in the next few years and excessive speeds on bike paths even more difficult to control.

    • Sabin West
      5 March 2014

      The way many e-bike manufacturers in The States get around the 32km max is to market the bike as an “off road vehicle only”. I believe this is also how Specialized gets around it in the US and shops that offer this model require the consumer to sign a separate waiver releasing the shop and Specialized from legal action in the event of wrongdoing or accident from its use, so there’s always a way to bypass the law. I go through this in Amsterdam. I can pedal my sport bike at speeds up to 50-60 kmph and am constantly telling both blue and yellow plates that they are breaking the law if they have the ability to pass me as my average speed is 32 kmph. Most of the time I am ignored. I now just block them in so they cannot pass, especially if there are elderly and children present.

  22. nuernberg2rad
    23 February 2013

    These mopeds are the worst thing that happened on Dutch cyclepaths in the last few years. Every time I visit Holland the number has increased. More than once I have been hit by a moped that passed me on my bicycle. No excuses, no looking back. I hate these people.

    • Jon Hill
      17 May 2013

      I have regularly cycled in the Netherlands. I have no problem with light mopeds on the fietspads. It’s yobbish behaviour that causes the problems.

  23. rrustema
    23 February 2013

    Two colleagues at work (University of Amsterdam, in the centre) have been hit by a blue plate scooter. Both cases did not end up in the statistics. One only found out some days after the crash that his spine was dislocated. It took weeks of recovery and it was extremely painful. The scooter did not stop after the (frontal) accident in a small street (just after a canal bridge), pointless to go to the police. The other colleague hit the pavement face down after she was hit from behind with a scooter. Her entire face was scratched and bruised for weeks (quite painful for students to watch in class also) and other muscle and bone pains depriving her of normal sleep for a long time. The scooter escaped, no point in going to the police. She is not going to use the bicycle anymore, she feels ‘too old’ (she is around 60) to use the bicycle to go to work if it is this dangerous.

    I remember the era just after the moped was banned from the bicycle lanes (1999) and before industry reacted with the heavy scooter models (2008 +). During that decade it was extremely pleasant on the bicycle in Amsterdam. You could even drive next to each other on most lanes.

    An alternative solution to getting rid of this category of moped is to add one extra criterium to the light category: the weight of the scooter should be the same as the average bicycle.

    • Koen
      23 February 2013

      I was thinking just that, this morning. Seems like an excellent solution: max 30 or 35 kgs, and anything above that falls in the fast moped category, and therefore needs to be helmeted and on the road

  24. Har Davids
    23 February 2013

    I ride a bike myself, and I used to own a motor-cycle. Why people on mopeds would want to use the cycle-paths is beyond me. It’s either to dangerous because of your speed and size, or you have to hold back all the time, meaning you only drive as fast as the slowest cyclist. Whether walking, cyclling or driving a car, I always want the room the be able to do so safely. If you’re scared of driving on the carriage-way, get rid of your moped and join the cyclists.

  25. i love biking SF
    23 February 2013

    Hi Mark, has there been accidents between mopeds and cyclists? It does look dangerous when there are kids on bikes mixed with mopeds. Maybe when accidents occur, mopeds might restricted to the streets where they belong.

    • bicycledutch
      23 February 2013

      Thank you for pointing out this omission in the post! The number of crashes involving scooters is very high and increasing rapidly. Though they don’t often crash with cyclists (relatively) they do decrease the feeling of safety very much. In that they are a threat to cycling as a whole. (If people feel unsafe they will cycle less.)

      I updated the post by adding a paragraph about a crash analysis by the city of Amsterdam, just under the picture of the police testing a moped.

  26. Koen
    23 February 2013

    Ironically, the very fact that fast moped riders sometimes illegally use the bicycle path, because they prefer it over the main road, even though they should be riding on the carriageway, is in itself an indication of the quality of this separated bicycle infrastructure.

  27. Richard Tulloch
    23 February 2013

    Another excellent post, Mark. My small personal contribution to the campaign is to make using the cycle paths unappealing for moped riders who want to speed.

    If I hear one revving behind me I don’t deliberately slow down and block the cycle path, but neither will I get out of the way to avoid inconveniencing a rider who wants to speed past.

    Pardon, meneer (of mevrouw), but if you’re sharing the cycle path, you’ll have to ride at bike speed.

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