Who else benefits from the Dutch cycling infrastructure

Every now and then one of my videos shows someone in a mobility scooter using the cycle paths. This is usually completely by chance and to most Dutch this is nothing special. People with disabilities can and do use all types of vehicles, from mobility scooters to hand-operated tricycles, legally on the cycle paths. It gets them from A to B safely without being dependent on someone helping them. In other words; the cycle paths offer people with disabilities a great freedom to travel where they wish.

The laws in Europe for what are old-fashionedly called ‘Invalid Carriages’ vary a lot. If you compare the UK with the Netherlands for instance there are huge differences. In the UK a mobility scooter may only go 8mph (12.9km/h) on the road. That is very slow and most people would think twice about getting on the road and mix with much faster heavy motorised traffic in such a vulnerable vehicle. In the Netherlands motorised mobility scooters have several options. They are allowed to go 45km/h (28mph) on the road, which is only slightly slower than motorised traffic (50km/h or 31mph). But they may also use the extensive cycle path network. On those paths, in the built up area, they are allowed to go 30km/h (18mph). This would be considerably faster than most Dutch cyclists. In reality, most people in mobility scooters use the cycle paths at about the same speed most Dutch cyclists go (20km/h or 12.4mph), so they blend in nicely.

Mobility scooters and other vehicles for people with disabilities on Dutch cycling infrastructure.

That mobility scooters are allowed to use the well-designed Dutch cycling infrastructure gives people who are not able to cycle (anymore) the freedom to travel from A to B in an independent and very safe way. Something which really enhances their quality of life. I know this from firsthand experience. When my father lost the ability to hold his balance after a series of mild strokes, and thus the ability to cycle, he switched to a mobility scooter to get to wherever he wanted or needed to be. He was for instance able to continue his voluntary work in the Utrecht cathedral where he welcomed tourists and where he did light administrative work. Because of the mobility scooter he was able to continue to make all sorts of short journeys by himself for almost 10 extra years until his condition made interacting with other traffic impossible altogether. These were 10 extra years in which he could make a valuable contribution to society, which is very important for someone’s well-being and thus for society as a whole. National health care supplies the mobility scooters to most people in the Netherlands, and sometimes local municipalities cover the costs or rent out vehicles for longer periods. Mobility scooters are especially made available to people who can still walk short distances. If you stop using them they must sometimes be returned.

Dutch law treats mobility scooters as mopeds or scooters. But the Dutch public sees the two very differently. While most people rightly complain about speeding scooters on the cycle paths you hear only few complaints about mobility scooters. I think many Dutch people have a parent, an aunt or uncle or they know someone else who is dear to them who is dependent on a mobility scooter. Once you see how important they are to someone, you are very happy to share some space on the cycle path with people in mobility scooters or in another specially designed vehicle.

Cycling next to someone in a mobility scooter is so ordinary that it is even used as an image in advertising, as can be seen in this video. In which people are persuaded to become a Maatje (buddy) of someone who can use one.

scooter club eindhoven
Members of the “Scooter club Eindhoven” testing the Eindhoven Hovenring.

There are clubs all over the Netherlands for people in mobility scooters. They make tours together and when the Eindhoven Hovenring was built the local ‘Scootmobiel vereniging‘ was requested to test the steepness of the entrances.

So good cycling infrastructure is not only good for people from 8 to 80 who want to cycle, the cycle paths also shield pedestrians from motorised traffic, and they offer quality of life to people with disabilities. In short: cycle paths are good for society.

Rules and regulations

For motorised vehicles for people with disabilities (electric wheel chairs, mobility scooters, and covered vehicles) the following rules apply:

The law treats the driver of a mobility scooter as a pedestrian when driving on the pavement (sidewalk) and as a slow moped/scooter when using the cycling infrastructure or the road way (it is not permitted to use motorways).

  • Third party liability insurance is required. Proof of insurance must be attached to the vehicle and be visible to all.
  • Vehicles may only be operated from the age of 16.
  • Vehicles may not be larger than the following dimensions
    • Width: 1.10 metres (3 ft 7 in)
    • Height: 2 metres (6 ft 7 in)
    • Length: 3.50 metres (11 ft 6 in)
  • Maximum speeds:
    • on the road way: 45km/h (28mph)
    • on the cycle path: 30 km/h (18mph) in the built up area and 40km/h (25mph) in the countryside
    • on the pavement (sidewalk): 6km/h (3.7mph, to protect pedestrians)

(note that the speeds are always adapted to the general speeds of the other road users in a specific place)

(Legal information from the site: Regionaal orgaan verkeersveiligheid Limburg)

43 thoughts on “Who else benefits from the Dutch cycling infrastructure

  1. A rollator can have a seat and handlebars that can adjust in height. Some of them have enough range to be sold as both adult and youth model. Having a rollators or walker with a seat can make life easier.

  2. I have been inspired to take action by this post, and the discussions I have had with people who use mobility scooters and wheelchairs. I’m on the City of Victoria (Canada) Active Transportation Advisory Committee and managed to get the following motion passed:

    Motion from the City of Victoria Active Transportation Advisory Committee meeting of March 28, 2017 (Passed Unanimously)

    Subject to the support of the Accessibility Working Group, the Active Transportation Advisory Committee recommends to Victoria City Council that:
    1. The use of mobility scooters and wheelchairs be allowed to travel on specifically designated AAA cycling facilities, on a 18 month trial and study basis;
    2. That if necessary, a formal request for changes in provincial legislation or regulations be made by the City to the appropriate provincial authority.

    I would like to see mobility scooters allowed on all bike lanes. But other committee members disagreed, so this was the compromise resolution. Will have to see where it goes . . .

  3. Hi Mark, could it be an item for a next post to write more about this subject, for instance how cycling infrastructure is designed for other categories of users as well? Or is that never a concern in the design?

  4. “On those paths, in the built up area, they are allowed to go 30km/h (18mph). This would be considerably faster than most Dutch cyclists.”

    Schrodinger has done some deep work here with these stats. My own experience with the hand cranked trike over 5 years was that I averaged 7mph over very long distances and that 13mph was a usual maximum; 20mph was too dangerous to consider on the front wheel cranked trike that I possessed.

    However a jogger going at a modest pace him/herself jogs at 9mph, going uphill with a jogger not that easy to keep up with at 9mph. A fast jogger does 13mph or more, so 18mph is rather; a very fast runner might be doing that much.

    I’m sorry we cant do the whole lot in m/sec.

    A campaign for a long overdue change in the road traffic signs, speed limits and so on might have a spin off side effect of better cyclist awareness, by him and for him. It is curious how changes in the law frequently has unanticipated consequences upon other laws/regulations, which may be one of Schrodinger’s problems.

    A 30mph limit thru this ‘ere Dorset village had the effect of making traffic go much faster thru it and near it. If there is no speed limit people think

    “Ah country lane! More care!only 25mph”

    If there is one they stick to it, if they can

    Hackney may have special problems of congestion, which no other borough has, so their local regs need to be different whilst supporting London regs in general.

  5. Reblogged this on Infrastructural and commented:
    Here in UK we are becoming so ‘tribal’ in our attitudes to different vehicles that we are in danger of forgetting that all of us are people wanting to move around by whatever means is safest and most convenient for us. This blog is a good reminder that infrastructure is, or should be, for the benefit of all of us, not just one or other group defined by the mode of travel:

  6. I am so happy after reading this post 🙂
    Even as a person who loves cycling like anything else, I think the necessity and benefits of cycling infrastructure are immense. Especially because it serves the need of people from different age group and circumstances. I agree with you that it is a mean of enhancing quality in life.

  7. One more post to show Vehicular Cyclists who argue against infrastructure. They say VC is more equitable, and safe but as many of your blog posts show, this is not true. You’ll never get the disabled, children, the elderly, etc to embrace daily cycling with VC. But then again VC’s call accommodating the vulnerable user crowd on our streets “being treated like incompetent children”.

  8. I SO appreciate each of your blogs! There is a tremendous amount of learning America and other countries can draw from the Dutch experience! Thank you for raising our collective awareness of the accomplishments made by the Dutch!

  9. On a recent trip to the Netherlands I noticed how many “silver cyclists” there were; many on electric-assisted bikes. It seems that people retain the cycling habit way into later life. And, if infirmatity and disability occur, you can still get out and about safely on a mobility scooter or wheelchair thanks to the excellent infrastructure.

    It’s yet another reason for the UK to go Dutch. We’re constantly being told that we have an ageing population, but nothing seems to be done to accommodate that population and to promote dignified, independent living.

  10. I had some fun a little while ago rescuing a gentleman in a Canta. Somehow he’d managed to ride onto the kerb where a cycle path split in two, leaving the front of his vehicle wedged on the ‘drempel’ with front wheels spinning in the air.

    A Canta is heavier than it looks, but eventually we got him free.

    Like you, I’m very happy to share the cycleway with disability vehicles, but not so happy with the motor scooters, especially those who speed and pass aggressively.

    1. The Canta’s are a bit odd. Looking like cars but even allowed on the sidewalk. You can see one in the video at about 1:28. I’ve heard that in some areas young people use them between the ages of 16 and 18 (before they are allowed to drive cars) as a substitute for cars. This is of course not what we want and the law will be changed. The Canta should only be used by people who really need it. Interesting to hear they are heavier than they look. It always seems you could lift them with one finger. Actually good (for safety reasons) that that is not the case.

      1. The manufacturer only sells Cantas to the disabled – he has been turning down offers from other parties for ages. He custom builds each Canta based on the disability of its owner, so he would know if the buyer were lying. However, the Canta has been around long enough for it to start appearing on the second hand market.

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