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.
UPDATE JUNE 2018
It seems that now – finally – the scooters will be sent off the cycle paths of Amsterdam (and other cities in the Netherlands) from 8 April 2019! Read more here.
Amsterdam published a map of the cycle paths that will be scooter free (green lines).
46 thoughts on “Why are all these scooters here?”
I’ve been reading a lot of your articles and find them very informative. I’m compiling a playlist of videos explaining road design for cycling, to share with an urban planner at a large development in Jakarta who is interested in adding in cycling infrastructure. In Indonesia, in addition to cars we have a lot of petrol-powered motorbikes (very lightweight ones – you would probably call them scooters), but very little cycle infrastructure. Motorbikes and cars are not separated (except on highways/tollroads) and cars will often be completely surrounded by motorbikes when in traffic. With this kind of existing transport culture, do you have any thoughts on how protected cycling infrastructure could be implemented that would reduce conflict between cyclists and motorcyclists?
I know this is so late and as an outsider lack the proper context but feel bad for the pro moped rights people. Hopefully they adapt or switch to bikes.
“They should never have been allowed on the bicycle paths in the first place. Better late than never.”
Those scooters and other combustion motorcycles do poison the air (often a major source, including some seriously carcinogenic substances) and for many people cause sickness, suffering and premature death.
Just one example of scientific research on this: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms4749
That’s not to mention the noise and causing direct injuries to normal bicycle users.
And somehow a lot of people were complacent enough to normalize this.
Given how ridiculously dumb it is using those poisoning motorbikes, they should have never been allowed at all since electric alternatives exist.
The truth is that we the car, truck & motorcycle drivers and riders are the ones that pay road taxes to circulate, and everyone that rides an scooter should have a driver’s licence, cyclist are dicks period!!! As a retired mountain bike pro rider i can tell you that the Dutch cyclist are the most aggressive riders on this word, not even racing cyclist get that aggressive on the end of a race!!!!! If everyone was a bit nicer & polite on the street to each other & respect the traffic code, there would not be so many accidents! And stop blaming it on other ethnic groups, the dutch themselves drive and ride like shit!
My Brother and his friends attended a Scooter rally in the Netherlands a good few years ago as part of the Lambretta club of Scotland. They were told in no uncertain terms by the police at the ferry terminal that they were not allowed to used the cycle lanes as with 150cc, 175cc, and larger engines on a full size frame, they were classed as motorcycles, the same as in the UK. This did not stop car drivers honking at them, shouting and pointing and one epic wankspangle in Amsterdam jumping out of his car to attack one of them (attacking a 114kg Scotsman in armour and helmet ended exactly how you would imagine for the driver), as they just saw a step though and thought moped.
I imagine that many of the newer (going back to the Helix of the 80s) Maxi scooters would have caused just as much confusion.
The problem is that these motor scooters are considered “snorfietsen”, which is a category of mopeds that are allowed to travel at a maximum speed of 25 km/hr. From what I recall, I was still a teenager at the time, snorfietsen whete introduced in the 1970s as a slow speed alternative to “bromfietsen” (mopeds) when the manditory helmets for motor bikes an mopeds were introduced. Women in rural areas still wore traditional lace head coverings in those days and could not wear those under a crash helmet. So they switched to snorfietsen, on which they could still proudly wear their lace bonnets and brass ornaments. Nowadays rural women drive cars or ride e-bikes, so the snorfiets has become obsolete for them. Change the law, abolish the snorfiets, change motor scooters to the motorbike/moped category and move them off the bike path for once and for all!
There should be a ban on low-speed scooters (blue plate) with a combustion engine. They can be fully replaced with electric ones.
Moreover, the low-speet scooters are the most polluting.
How about banning all cars in the city and letting the scooters have the roads?
Scooters are nuisance in Amsterdam, not just because of the inherit dangers on bike paths, but because they’re disruptive to bicyclists who travel in pairs while in conversation. There is also a certain demographic that rides them recklessly, likely as a result of a need-for speed-complex. It’s no wonder when there is a serious accident in Amsterdam, it usually involves a scooter and anything else.
These glorified wheelchairs are suitable for delivering pizza, but get them off the bike paths. E-bikes are even worse because as a bicyclist you can’t hear them. There is no reason why a young, able-bodied person would ride a scooter in Amsterdam unless you’re a little touched in the head.
“E-bikes are even worse because as a bicyclist you can’t hear them. ”
just as silent as bicycles then…
Exactly. Why is there a problem with people cycling a little bit faster then others? I mean if you overtake carefully, where is the problem? An E-Bike (Pedelec) has the same silhouette like a regular bike and yes, they are silent and not stinky.
Not in Amsterdam, I often hear bicyclists riding with a rattling loose fender, rusty chain, dislodged kick stand or having a conversation on the phone. You won’t get any of that with an e-bike.
Doesn’t make any sense to have scooters using cyclopaths! Why not allowing them to the Motorway as well!
When I visited Amsterdam years ago, scooters are used by old people and they were at the same pace as bicycles. Now, old people all ride an e-bike and scooters are used by young people who drive dangerously with noise. Yes, it’s time to get them out of the bicyle paths
Sure it is not safe to send scooter-riders on the road, it’s same as sending cyclists on the road. They should have their own place on the street. On videos I see that on many Dutch boulevards car take up really a lot of space, so I believe some reallocation is possible, with space-sharing only in quieter streets.
Ask the speed pedelec users in the Netherlands, how safe it is to cycle around 30 km/h on the road. Yes, they have an electric motor that supports up to 45 km/h but I myself usually cycle between 25 and 35 km/h. This is too slow for a regular road (unless it is a 30 km-zone) and I have seen videos of speed pedelec users where motorists are getting angry and aggressive against the “cyclist on the road”. I mean, speed pedelecs look exactly like a regular bicycle, they are not so wide like a scooter, they are not polluting and not noisy like a scooter. I would rather suggest to cancel the 25-km-scooter category, make them normal scooter with a speed about 60 km or so. Then they are safe and fast enough for the regular road. But speed pedelecs should be allowed on the cycle paths when they keep a speed limit, let’s say 25 km (like a slow pedelec). Then the scooter users could buy a speed pedelec instead and still feel safe on your cycle paths.
I agree on cancelling the 25 km scooter category, but this isn’t going to happen over night. There’s over 1 million users right now, too much push back. So instead taking measurements like these makes sense, it should decrease popularity in time and increase safety for cyclists. And hopefully eventually lead to it’s complete cancellation some day.
Speed pedelecs are a bit of a non issue to me personally, as I never really see them really in the Netherlands, not popular at all and I’m fine with use being discouraged. They require helmets and small license plates here, and indeed are banned from cycle paths. However, your suggestion of a speed limit for speed pedelecs makes no sense to me. I don’t think speed limits like that are enforceable, or will be obided by. But if speed pedelecs can’t go faster than 25 km, then what is their use over normal slower ebikes? Actually makes more sense to just cancel speed pedelecs aswell, there’s not really a place for them in Dutch traffic with so many other safer options. Not to mention that slower ebikes already pose enough risk, cycling injury and death rates are really going up because of them.
Also, European law prevents that from happening at a national level.
With my speed pedelec we make wonderful travels outside the city and where there is space and an empty cycle path, I can got faster, between 30 and 40 km/h. But only if the cycle path is good and empty (no pedestrians)! 30 or 40 is still too slow for a road where cars make 80 km/h, to cycle there it would be much too dangerous. People don’t overtake safely here. Speed pedelecs are made for long distance commutes, you can commute 10 km, 20 km instead of taking the car or train. That’s what people like me are using them for. Replacing the car for distances 10 km and more. But the infrastructure has to be good enough for that.
Excellent suggestion Helena!!
You know you can cycle slowly with a speed pedelec… every Porsche is allowed to enter a 30-km/h-area so sending the speed pedelecs on the road, where it is dangerous of course you will not see many of them now.
But I understand your concern also. I mean the excellent bicycle infrastructure in the Netherlands was made for bicycles in the first place. Usually – as far as I can see as a foreigner – for slower cyclists not making more than 20 km/h.
Pedelecs and also speed pedelecs are a great tool to replace a car or public transport on longer distances. This new kind of electric supported mobility cannot be stopped anymore, I think the best thing would be to enhance the infrastructure even more so that slower cyclists still feel safe when a faster one wants to overtake.
I mean, what about a racing cyclist? They make much more than 25 km/h very easily but is still allowed on the cycle paths! Yes, they adapt on their surroundings and will not race inside a city for example – but a (speed) pedelec user can do that too!
Of course you cannot compare my country (Switzerland) with the Netherlands. We have lots of hills and the infrastructure is still car-centric. Every 3rd bicycle sold here soon will have electric support; 3/4 of them is the slower version. This is the future here, people want to use them, now it is the time to make the infrastructure better. But cycling on the street with 30, 35 km/h where cars make 50 or more is simply too dangerous, no matter if your bike has electric support and a license plate.
More ebikes are sold in the Netherlands per inhabitant than anywhere else, so I think we’re progressing fine. And cyclists have been getting more and more space over the years here, a trend that will continue. But nothing you’ve said convinced me that speed pedelecs need to be part of progress or have to play a major role in Dutch traffic. The majority of Dutch cyclists don’t want speed pedelecs on cycle paths because they’ve experienced the effects that ebikes have on cycle paths. But even before helmets were made mandatory for speed pedelecs and before they were banned from cycle paths speed pedelecs were not popular at all here, about 1 in 100 ebikes sold here was a speed pedelec. And now the helmet law alone will ensure they’ll never be popular, even if they’d be allowed on cycle paths, as Dutch cyclists don’t like to wear helmets. So as I said previously, I think speed pedelecs are kind of a non issue here, and never will be of any relevance.
The main problem with these 25 km scooters/mopeds exists within city limits, there are no car boulevards there with extra space, besides the already existing cycling infra. Especially not in a city like Amsterdam with it’s old city centre, the space is limited as it is.
Haha apparently you have never been in Amsterdam. We only have 1 boulevard and the rest of the streets are too narrow to have 3 seperate lanes for cars, mopeds and bikes (let alone a sidewalk for all the tourists).
In no other European country that I am aware of do bikes share bikepaths with motorscooters. In every country I’ve been to motorscooters share the roadway with cars and wear helmets. Why should it be any different here? As you would know if you have been here, we simply do not have the physical space in our dense, compact cities for an additional lane dedicated to motorscooters. Out of the question.
In Denmark, the slow type scooters also share the bike paths with cyclists. But there are way, way fewer people using scooters there so it’s not really an issue. In Zeeland, there are not so many of scooters overall, compared to places like Amsterdam or the larger cities. However, most of them seem to have removed the limiter because they always go way faster than 25 kph. I hope they try and come up with some real solutions because the noise and smell of them are just awful. Especially if you are riding on a country cycle path against the wind and get overtaken by one. Then you really are breathing in the exhaust for the next several hundred meters. Some people (kids especially) also modify it in a way that it becomes extremely loud and obnoxious. If they ever do ban scooters completely from bicycle paths and areas prohibited for motor vehicles, I wonder how that will be enforced because you can’t just prevent entry using simple fixes like bollards.
The moped (Nederlands: bromfiets), with the 50 cc motors, yellow license plates and a helmet requirement, have always been allowed on certain rural bike paths, because they cannot, obviously, ride on the highway. I’m OK with that, although I do as a cyclist hate breathing the exhaust. Along with phasing out the abused “snoerfiets” category they also definitely need to phase out the smelly, polluting 2-stroke moped engines.
Yes, I’m aware of the two different classes of mopeds. Here in Zeeland, there are many more blue-plated ones so the faster ones are actually less of a nuisance. In the larger cities however, I often see the yellow-plated ones illegally using bicycle paths. Getting rid of the 25 km scooter class would be a big start, though that in itself without any enforcement probably won’t solve the issue of scooters using bicycle paths where they shouldn’t. I totally agree that eventually they should work towards eliminating these extremely-polluting engines altogether. Especially since more and more cities around northern Europe are trying to ban older diesel engines from the city centers.
I also don’t mind occasionally sharing the cycle path with motorized vehicles. I’m fairly certain there will always be some sharing the more-rural roads It would be unrealistic to think otherwise, unless this country decides to ban the usage of all motorized vehicles not suitable for highways.
Yeah, that’s what many people around the world say about bike infrastructure.
How can you have place for cars and not have place for scooters which are a few times smaller ?
They still did on rural bikepaths only in Germany when I was there, they were called mofas then.
Sadly I missed it. I was riding around Amsterdam blissfully enjoying the finally-sunny weather when I realised it was after 5pm and I was too far away to make it in time.
Scooters are horrible and noisy things – keep them off the fietspad.
Fascinating to see this conflict over space in what to us in North America, seems like utopia.
Also fascinating / tragic, that even in “utopia” (to North American eyes) scooterists/motorists still frame things in a way that assumes high speed travel. The scooter operators main claim of danger seems to be that they will slow down cars and the drivers will get angry/irrational, but never gets to .. “.. and therefore the danger is coming from the cars and they should be restricted in space & velocity to make life safer for scooters”
Thanks for posting
Also quite ironic that scooter riders are complaining of the exact same danger from cars that they pose to bikes!
Thanks for reporting on this issue. These scooters’ riders should get in a bike like everyone else, or buy an electric bike.
I agree, because most scooters riders are overweight/ obesity.
I don’t know where you live, but in Amsterdam easily 90% of the scooter riders are young 20 or 30 somethings with no weight problems at all — they probably ride to the gym on their scooters 😉
Recent polls seem to indicate that many would be rather less enthusiastic about travelling by scooter if they had to wear a helmet. So, the sooner helmets are required the better.
What is the government waiting for? Why is this taking so long? The scooter plague has been an issue now for many years.
Interested from afar, only wishfully dreaming about have crowded enough cycleways to be concerned about such things in my part of the US, but that is beside the point of this post. I am curious to know where electric bicycles fit into the mix, especially as they become more powerful and faster? Thanks for all the great work you do!
It becomes important to differentiate between different kinds of electrically powered bicycles, there is some information on wikipedia:
Just as the classifications of mopeds and light quadricycles differentiates them from their faster vehicles which require licenses etc, there are electric bicycles which would require registration and licensing as a motorcycle.
There are 2 types of E-bikes: the fast pedelec and the normal E-bike. The pedelec has a top speed of 45 kmh/ 28 mph, but in reality they do just over 18 mph/ 30 kmh. The Dutch government has classified them as mopeds and must drive on the carriage way inside city limits. The normal E-bike is regarded as bicycle and drives on the cycle path. The speed is on average 25 kmh/ 16 mph. Outside city limits, mopeds, pedelecs, E-bikes and bicycles drive on the cycle path, when there is one. Also the pedelec cyclists must wear a helmet and the pedelec has a blue licence plate. The cycle paths are becoming more used by higher numbers of cyclist and bakfietsen, velomobiles and retro scooters are wider then the average cyclists and take up more space on the cycle path.
We are beginning to see problems with faster e-bikes in Minnesota. Similar to mopeds in Amsterdam they are much faster than other path users and are often less considerate. They are particularly a problem on Shared Use Paths where they may be going over 20 MPH passing, often too close, older people walking 3 MPH.
There seems to be a difference in how much power an e-bike has and how inconsiderate the rider is. People on lower power e-bikes that require pedaling tend to be much more considerate than those with higher power motors or that don’t require pedaling.
I am a big fan of e-bikes, particularly for older folk or those with disabilities, but they need to be regulated on paths. My preference would be a limit of 150-200 watts max and a power assist that tapers from perhaps allowing 70% assist at 8 MPH tapering to 0 assist at 16 MPH.
A pedelec or a speed pedelec is a bicycle with electric SUPPORT where you have to pedal to get support. An E-Bike is something different and usually has a throttle to move without pedaling. This is something we do not have here in Switzerland. Or they are licensed as motorcycle with motorcycle helmet and must use the road.
“Shared used paths” is also something very very bad. Pedestrians and cyclists needs to be separated. We have this plague in Switzerland as well and it is never working. Every cyclist and pedestrian hates them!
In the Netherlands the blanket term for all electronically assisted bicycles is E-bike. The word pedelecs isn’t used here unless we talk about speed pedelecs specifically. The European Cycling federation also uses the blanket term E-bike in their reports to describe all electronically assisted bicycles. So it’s probably different depending on what country or region in the world you’re from.
Same here, actually. I always say “I have an e-bike”. But the real e-bikes can be used without any pedalling at all, that is the difference to a “pedelec”. Real e-bikes have a throttle like a motorcycle but still also pedals. I see them as useless because most of them cannot be used legally here. E.g. there is a brand called “B2G”, they look like a bicycle but can make up to 60 km/h!