All about cycling in the Netherlands
Hundreds of people cycled together through the Amsterdam evening rush hour last Friday. They chanted “Cycle paths… Scooter free” and – in true Amsterdam style – “Why are all these scooters here? Dump that garbage in the canal!” Right, so what was that all about?
If you never experienced the big pro-cycling demonstrations in Amsterdam (and other cities in the Netherlands) in the 1970s, last Friday came really close. For a good reason the Dutch will still get out on the streets on their bicycles armed with flags, banners, whistles and horns. This was a very worthy cause: scooters and mopeds are still using the cycle paths in Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands. Endangering and annoying people who cycle there, with their volume, speed, noise and pollution. Strange, because Amsterdam had already convinced the Minister of Transport in June 2014 that that had to change. The minister had indeed proposed the legislators to decide to send scooters to the carriageway, but they did not take that decision. Stranger still, in January 2016, a motion to postpone the decision and do more research first was rejected, but still – almost two years later – no decision was taken.
To convince the national legislators they must act now, a demonstration was organised last Friday 22nd September. Several groups, such as the Amsterdam branch of the Cyclists’ Union and a residential group fighting for Clean Air & Space joined forces for this protest.
A well-known campaign is the one called (translated) “Scooter Nuisance”, “ with the slogan: “Give the cycle path back to cyclists”. I made a video for this campaign already in 2014. The problems have since only increased. The new website “Give the cycle path back” sums the current problems up very nicely on their English page.
- There are now four times as many scooters as there were ten years ago.
- 96% of the scooters drive far too fast and are often illegally tuned.
- Scooters are involved in accidents three times more often than all other road users.
- Scooters are very polluting and unhealthy, up to a hundred times more than old diesel cars.
There is a counter organisation too: “Scooter interests”. They also held a protest ride, two weeks earlier. On their website they report that “with a group of supporters” they rode under protest on the carriageway at 25km/h to show just how dangerous that would be and how much traffic would be held up. The Amsterdam TV news station AT5 was kind enough to mention the size of the group: 14 scooter riders showed up for that protest ride.
The Cyclists’ Union mentions that experts do not agree that sending the scooters to the carriageway would be dangerous. In a recent article they write:
Relocating the slow type scooters to the carriageway is not dangerous, says the Dutch Road Safety Authority SWOV. On the contrary: the preliminary conclusion from the 2013 SWOV report is: “Sending scooters to the carriageway with an introduction of mandatory helmet legislation will reduce the annual number of injuries by an estimated 261 victims. This would be a reduction of 38% compared to the situation in 2012 when the number was 689.”
Proponents of keeping the scooters on the cycle paths say the answer is simply enforcing the speed limit of 25km/h. However, in 2014 the Mayor of Amsterdam had convinced the minister by writing her that enforcement was not the answer. I quoted that letter before: “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%.”
The Cyclists’ Union now ads that this number has further increased from 77% to 81% in the subsequent years. In 2016 the percentage of speeding scooter riders rose to 87% (some research even claims to 96%). When such high percentages of people break the rules, intensive law enforcement has become even more practically impossible than it already was in 2014.
This scooter rider – wanting to cut through the protest – was stopped by the police. There is some enforcement!
Right now, in 2017, there are over 40,000 scooters in Amsterdam alone and over 700,000 in the entire country. Something must indeed change now: scooters must be sent off the cycle paths. That’s why I was at the protest.
Amsterdam protest to get cycle paths for cycling.