BICYCLE DUTCH

All about cycling in the Netherlands

Amsterdam can send mopeds to the carriageway

Amsterdam will finally be able to send (light) mopeds or scooters from the city’s overcrowded cycle paths to the carriageway. The Minister of Transport sent a letter to the House of Representatives this week, in which she writes: “Amsterdam has convinced me it has done everything in its power to find possibilities to create space on the cycle path in order to keep the historic city centre accessible. I also conclude that Amsterdam has exhausted all means to enforce the law. I will […] change the regulations in such a way that municipalities get the possibility to make it compulsory for moped riders to wear a helmet. In this way I seek to create space for local tailor-made solutions. On behalf of the government I will not impose a nationwide helmet compulsion, but I offer municipalities the option to locally do this. It is expected that the relocation of light mopeds to the carriageway (combined with mandatory helmet regulations) will create sufficient space on the cycle paths to accommodate the growing numbers of cyclists.”

moped-amsterdam2014

Some moped riders in Amsterdam act as if the cycle path is theirs allone. (Still from my video for the Cyclists’ Union.)

What is this all about?

As I have written before there is a real problem, especially in Amsterdam, with the exploding numbers of light mopeds speeding on the cycle paths. Since 2007 the number of light mopeds increased with 275%. In 2007 there were 8,000 light mopeds in Amsterdam, in 2013 there were 30,000. In all of the Netherlands in the first 4 months of 2014 almost 13,000 new light mopeds were sold, a 14% increase compared to last year. When Amsterdam measured the speeds in 2012 it became clear that 81% of the moped riders go faster than the speed limit of 25km/h. This was 77% in 2012. This evidently leads to problems. There were 15 road deaths in Amsterdam last year and in 4 of these deaths there was some involvement of a light moped, wrote Volkskrant yesterday. A disproportional high percentage when you look at the model share of mopeds.

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. The minister now gives municipalities (in this case Amsterdam) the right to change the two highlighted options if the local situation justifies that. Light mopeds will also get a helmet obligation and will be banned from the cycle paths.

Early 2013 the minister still held the opinion that enforcing the speed limit was up to the municipalities and ‘all would be fine’. That is why Amsterdam did everything it could to enforce that speed limit. In his letter to the Minister the mayor of Amsterdam writes: “In 2013 4,000 of the 16,000 available traffic management police hours were dedicated to trying to enforce the speed limit for light moped riders. In 2012 50% of all moped riders was stopped one or more times. In 2013 this percentage had increased to 56%. In 2012 3,600 tickets were issued for speeding and red light violations to moped riders. In 2013 238 licenses were revoked.”

If people want to use a motorised vehicle at higher speeds they should do that on the carriageway says Amsterdam. On the cycle paths they endanger people cycling. This cannot be tolerated “because the bicycle is the most important means of transport to keep the city and the city centre with its narrow streets accessible and attractive also for other modes of transport. […] A third of all journeys is by bicycle and in the city centre that is almost half. In the past 20 years cycling increased with 40% and we expect another 10% growth by the year 2020. The light mopeds on the cycle path create accessibility problems for people cycling and thus for Amsterdam” writes the mayor. “On top of that they are annoying and even if they do not speed their exhaust fumes are a concern.”

That is why the mayor concludes: “Amsterdam sees a structural solution to the aforementioned problems: the relocation of the light moped to the carriageway. This creates space for the growth of cycling in the city centre. It also reduces the nuisance for people cycling.”

The Cyclists’ Union, Environmental organisations and the Lung Foundation supported Amsterdam whole heartedly. “This way we return the cycle path to people cycling, who are also less directly exposed to pollution. The cycle path becomes again what it was meant to be: a safe and clean space for all people cycling. People often tell us – especially the elderly and parents – that they no longer dare to cycle,” said Hugo van der Steenhoven, director of the Cyclists’ Union. The Cyclists’ Union had started a campaign “Return the cycle path to people cycling” for which they asked me if I could create a supporting video. Which I gladly did.

My video clearly shows just how bad the situation with light mopeds is in Amsterdam.

Most people and organisations reacted in a very positive way to this news. But a spokesperson of two organisations representing moped sellers called the measure: “Life threatening symbolism” and “no structural solution to the problems on the cycle paths whatsoever” they called on the members of the House of Representatives to vote against the Minister’s proposal.

It is expected that the measure in Amsterdam will be in place from the summer of 2015. Light moped riders will then have to ride with a helmet on the carriageway. But will safety really increase? Yes, that is to be expected, because there is a precedent. When the heavier type of mopeds was sent to the carriageway in 1999 there was a decrease of 15% in casualties on the cycle paths. This was investigated by SWOV, the foundation for scientific research regarding road safety in the Netherlands. Amsterdam asked SWOV also for advice with regard to the present plans and in their (English summary of their) “Educated Guess” SWOV writes “The measure SOR [light moped to the carriageway] with compulsory helmet use results in an estimated reduction of 261 casualties. This is 38% fewer compared to the situation in 2012 when the number of casualties amounted to 689.”

light-moped-cycle-path

Cycle paths in the Netherlands are heavily used. With a bakfiets, elderly and children on bicycles it is far too dangerous when light mopeds are speeding on those cycle paths.

So this measure will increase not only perceived safety but also real safety. And it will make using a light moped less attractive and cycling more attractive. That is a very good measure in my book, which was the reason why I supported the campaign with great pleasure. Of course there is still more work to do. This should eventually lead to striking the difference between light and heavy mopeds completely. The measure now only works for Amsterdam and should be expanded. There are numerous bollards, narrow paths and dangerous kerbs which should also be addressed. But this measure is one step in the right direction that must also be taken. Cycling in the Netherlands is not perfect, but this will make it a bit better yet again.

 

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27 comments on “Amsterdam can send mopeds to the carriageway

  1. Har Davids
    11 June 2014

    I really don’t understand why someone on a moped would insist on using cycle-paths. Some of those things are so wide you can’t really manoeuvre them when the paths are crowded by cyclists. I can only hope that, in good time, the other cities will follow suit.

  2. Quirinus
    7 June 2014

    A very positive development. I hope, other cities will follow. These (mostly tuned up) scooters have been a menace for cyclist safety for many years.

  3. Chris
    6 June 2014

    I am so happy for you guys over there!

    We have a light situation that is similar in certain streets of SF. When traffic gets heavy, motorcycles and mopeds come onto the bike lanes.

  4. paulmilnepoetry
    5 June 2014

    Oh dear, some of the vitriol sounds disturbingly familiar to that levelled at cyclists in this country (the UK).

    Perhaps a fourth tier of pathway is required? Pedestrians, cyclists, mopeds, cars/vans/HGVS.

    Or ban the sale of mopeds that go faster than 25mph?

    Or just ban the internal combustion engine altogether – it’s probably high time that happened anyway given the state of accelerating climate change.

  5. Pingback: Amsterdam: proposto il divieto dei ciclomotori sulle piste ciclabili

  6. Easy
    5 June 2014

    Do e-bikes cause similar problems? Or if not, what’s different about them?

    • bicycledutch
      5 June 2014

      If you look at the opening picture that must answer your question, E-bikes and mopeds are two completely different things. E-bikes do not pose problems because they cannot go faster than 25km/h, they are not wider than normal bicycles and they do not emit exhaust fumes. See also the graph for all the legal differences.

      • Jan
        5 June 2014

        At the moment, you are right. But snorfietsen (spartamet, etc) didn’t cause any trouble back in the 80s, couldn’t go faster then 25 km/h and weren’t wider or much heavier then normal bicycles.

        If the manufacturing lobby would succeed again in fighting the regulations, we might end up with heavy high speed electric ‘bikes’ in the future.

    • dzetland
      10 July 2014

      Also important: e-bikes are NOT cool or fast to accelerate (battery is for range), so teenagers will not like them so much. That said, as Jan points out below, the technology COULD increase speeds, and I already see “young couples” in the little handicapped cars (40kph) who seem to think it’s cool to drive around with a beer on the bike paths…

  7. Dave H (@BCCletts)
    5 June 2014

    Now in the UK we might likewise challenge the 8 mph mobility scooters using footways.

    • Jan
      5 June 2014

      By requiring them to wear a helmet?

    • paulmilnepoetry
      5 June 2014

      Once we have proper cycle lanes, the mobility scooters will be right at home there. Another reason to “bring it on”!

  8. Michel
    5 June 2014

    What I find interesting in this situation is that the problem (mopeds on the cycle path lead to problems) and the proposed solution by the minister (allow muncipalities to require moped riders to wear helmets) don’t seem to match up at all. What is the link between helmet compulsion and use of the cyclepath? Shouldn’t the change be to allow muncipalities to forbid mopeds the use of the cyclepath, rather then to allow muncipalities to require moped riders to wear helmets?

    Not having mopeds on the cyclepath should be wholeheartedly supported, but with helmet compulsion for cyclist hotly debated in most countries with a significant portion of cyclist fully against such a compulsion, perhaps cyclists shouldn’t be supporting helmet compulsion for other vehicles either?

    • bicycledutch
      5 June 2014

      That is not what the minister did. The minister gives the opportunity to send moped riders to the carriageway. The only way to do that safely is to also have them wear a helmet. Not her idea but that of SWOV and they should know: it has been done before and that turned out to be a good solution. It didn’t start with advocating for helmets, it started with where mopeds should best be. That turned out to be the carriageway, but with a helmet. Just like the heavy moped riders. Since they both go the same speed on average that seems only logical. There is no link between helmet compulsion and use of the cyclepath, there is a link with being in motor traffic at a certain speed (way over the speed cyclists go) and helmet compulsion. On top of that a very different helmet of course!

    • crank
      5 June 2014

      Perhaps predicated on the understanding that helmet use will totally kill enthusiasm for a mode of transport :) No, I think the minister is saying they will be relocated to carriageway anyway, and that municipalities have the choice to mandate helmet usage since they are now on the road, it’s not that clear.

      • bicycledutch
        5 June 2014

        No, the choice is this: have everything as it is: light mopeds on the cycle path without helmets, OR have them on the carriageway with helmets. There are no other options. Only Amsterdam has said it will do this. the other 3 large cities (Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) have said they will keep everything as it is.

    • Jan
      5 June 2014

      It sounds a bit confusing, but the problem is actually correctly addressed. The large cities, Amsterdam in particular, requested to but weren’t allowed to ban the mopeds from the cycle path, because using the main road would require a helmet, and helmet laws, unlike local exceptions on cycle path use, are national.

      The minister only has to give municipalities the right to require helmets, they can create their own solutions and will start moving mopeds to the road, either on all paths, or starting only where the problem is worst.

  9. Loïc Hatorze
    5 June 2014

    Pourquoi avoir mis le diable dans le confessionnal ? A exclure sans plus attendre.
    Salut.

  10. Richard Tulloch
    5 June 2014

    The sooner it happens, the better, Mark! Well done to all who have been fighting this battle.

  11. Paul
    5 June 2014

    This is probably the only thing that I despised about Amsterdam when I lived there. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to punch out a moped rider or kick them over when they honk then fly by at full speed, just missing you. This is great news! So happy to hear they’re taking steps at rectifying this nuisance.

    • dzetland
      10 July 2014

      YES. I lived here 3 yrs and mopeds were the “imperfection” on A’dam. (I’ve now turned to garbage on the streets. More underground bins, please!)

  12. crank
    5 June 2014

    wow, as per your prior post, you can’t really see the difference at all between ‘light’ and ‘heavy’. really damaging to the amenity of cycle paths, especially for children, families etc. urgh. hope that gets sorted out.

    • Jan
      5 June 2014

      In dutch law, there have always been the two types of mopeds: Heavier ones, 45km/h, with helmet and no bike path use, and the lighter ones, 25km/h, no helmet, on the bike path.

      The problem started when the registration of light mopeds got easier. A long time ago, they were required to be light, have larger wheels, and pedals. They looked like these:

      They would run on fuel, but where quite comparable to the modern electric bikes, and usually used by elderly and other people physically challenged to use a normal bike.

      When they dropped these requirements, manufacturers started to build ‘light’ versions of their heavy scooters, only restricted in speed. These became very popular, due to no requirements for helmet use, while the maximum speed was easily adjustable. Except for the license plate color, it’s nearly impossible to spot the difference.

      • Tim
        5 June 2014

        Thank you Jan. This answers the question I had. In both photos in this post the scooters look far more like the “heavy” version in the chart. In fact, the one in the top photo is almost more like a motorbike.

        I use the word scooter because the etymology of “moped” (motor-pedal) would indicate to me they have pedals, and the scooters pictured don’t, as you mention.

        And of course, if it’s impossible to tell the difference between light and heavy based on appearance how can the law be enforced (other than checking speeds all the time which is difficult).

        It sounds like some common sense is eventually being applied here. Good news.

        • fIEtser
          8 June 2014

          The law was still enforceable because the ‘light’ ones have different license plates. However, modern ‘light’ mopeds are usually the same as the ‘heavy’ ones save for a restrictor plate or some other means of limiting speed that can easily be altered. In practice, most of the ‘light’ mopeds were then taking advantage of this and operating under the same abilities as ‘heavy’ ones without any of the penalties (helmets, ride in the street, etc.)

        • Tim
          9 June 2014

          Thanks fIEtser. I suppose another potential measure to avoid the behaviour you describe would be enforcement to ensure “light” scooters are what they say they are – spot checks with heavy penalties for anyone who’s removed the restrictor.

          However I think keeping bike lanes for bikes is the best solution (until the eBikes get faster/heavier…).

  13. (I’m French and now live in Brazil)
    Why the hell are moped allowed to drive on cycle path in the Netherlandas? Even non-electric moped can drive there and polute cyclist? How strange and bad is that!! I didn’t know! When I was in Eindhiven in 1995, I’ve never seen a moped on any cycle path and that was just fine.

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This entry was posted on 5 June 2014 by in Original posts and tagged , , .
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