All about cycling in the Netherlands
Although it is now rapidly changing for the better, we are still in the dark season. From early November to late February the hours of daylight are so few, that it is hard to film anything for you during the week. Simply because most of my free hours are in the dark. But, in an attempt to embrace what you cannot change, I decided to film the morning rush hour and the evening rush hour in that very dark.
One of the main shopping streets in ’s-Hertogenbosch doubles as a main cycle route outside shopping hours. Most of the shops open around 9 or 9:30 in the morning. Rush hour takes mainly place from 8 to 9 in the morning, so before these shops are open. That means there are few pedestrians and there is no problem combining walking and cycling. Cycling is also allowed in this street during the day, but at those hours there are much more people walking than there are people cycling, so it is still no problem to combine the two. This is not too common in the Netherlands, I recently wrote that Utrecht has problems even with streets just outside the shopping area, but in ’s-Hertogenbosch combining the two works perfectly fine.
Thanks to the bright lights that are already on in the many shops – even before they are open – we can see the people cycling in this street a bit better than in a street with only street lights. The light reflection of the wet street surface enhances that even further.
Morning rush hour in the dark in ’s-Hertogenbosch.
To compare and contrast I also filmed the evening rush hour in Utrecht. At an intersection that was also nicely lit by all the shop fronts. It is a lot busier at this location, because this is an intersection in one of the busiest cycle routes in the Netherlands. When you focus on the number of people cycling with lights, I think it is safe to say that on average fewer riders have lights in Utrecht than in ’s-Hertogenbosch, at least in these particular locations while I happened to be filming.
Evening rush hour in the dark in Utrecht.
Isn’t it mandatory to ride with lights then? Yes, it is, but people are people and many simply don’t always abide to the laws. That could cost them if they are caught and in recent time more people did get a fine than before. The fine is considerable. If you have no working front light and/or back light you risk a €55 fine and another €9 added for administrative costs. That is a mid-range fine (see info box). Just a few days after I filmed the morning rush hour in ’s-Hertogenbosch, I did see a crackdown in another street there, where everybody without lights was stopped and fined. So the rules are enforced, but people have too much the feeling they can get away with it. And when you look at the figures they may have a point.
The figures for 2017 are not known yet, but in 2016 the police issued 34,671 fines for riding without lights, up from 26,000 in 2016. But remember: this is for the entire year in a country where people make 15 million rides per day. So yes, the chances that you are caught are slim. They also vary a lot by municipality.
On average only 20 people on 10,000 inhabitants were fined for riding without cycle lights in 2016. That is the average for the entire country, but in the municipality of Katwijk this figure was 94; exponentially higher. Leiden (88), Tilburg (87) and Vlissingen (82) are some other better known municipalities with a much higher average of fines issued than the national average. When we look at the four largest cities in the Netherlands there are also big differences. Rotterdam (5.5) is way below the average. Utrecht (17.6) is close to the average, but still below it, while The Hague (29.9) and Amsterdam (32.7) are above average. To compare, ’s-Hertogenbosch had a rate of 9.6 fines per 10,000 inhabitants in 2016.
In 2013, the (then) Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment investigated how many people cycle without lights. This turned out to be around 40%. In the four largest cities it was much higher at 60%. When we look at my videos, Utrecht seems to be on that latter average, while ’s-Hertogenbosch seems to have more people riding with lights, even more than 60%. Again, judging from my own images and observations. I don’t know if it was ever investigated why these differences exist.
Some Dutch fines for cycling traffic misdemeanours
With regards to illumination
- No pedal reflectors € 35.00
- No rim (wheel) reflectors € 35.00
- Inadequeate red rear reflector € 35.00
- Inadequate lights € 55.00
- Riding with flashing lights € 55.00
Lights may be attached to torso, bag or bicycle, but not to legs, arms or head. (That would cause too much movement of the lights.)
Some other fines
- No working cycle bell € 35.00
- Inadequate brakes € 55.00
- Ignoring a red traffic signal € 90.00
- Ignoring red signals at a train crossing € 90.00
- Not keeping right as much as possible € 90.00
- Failing to give priority to a pedestrian on/near a zebra crossing € 140.00
- Failing to give passengers the possibility to enter or leave a tram or bus € 150.00
- Using the motorway as a cyclist € 150.00
From: Auto en Vervoer info