All about cycling in the Netherlands
In 2018, 678 people lost their lives in traffic in The Netherlands. That is 10.6 % more than in 2017, the largest increase since 1989. This reported Statistics Netherlands (CBS) today. The steady decrease of the number of fatalities that started in the 1970s ended in 2014. With this year’s figures the Netherlands is back on the level of 2010.
Both more men and women were killed in traffic. In private cars 233 people died. Of them 173 were drivers and 60 were passengers. The other largest group of traffic fatalities are people cycling: 228 died in 2018, compared to 206 in 2017, a 10 percent increase. The largest increase with traffic deaths for people cycling was in the age group of 50 to 60 years of age. Finally 54 pedestrians, 44 people using mobility scooters and 38 moped/scooter riders were killed in traffic.
One third of all traffic fatalities was caused by a crash with a private motor vehicle or van, almost 14% by a lorry or bus and for 21% the crash was against a tree or other solid object. Over 22% of all the people killed were not involved in a crash. Of those more than half were cycling or using a mobility scooter.
The Minister of Transport, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen reacted to this increase, she calls it “bad news, that was unfortunately not unexpected”. This fall the results of an analysis of the cause of the increase are expected. “We see that it is becoming busier on our roads and cycleways” stresses the Minister who feels these figures make clear that extra measures have to be taken. At the end of last year she presented a plan to reduce the number of traffic casualties.
The director of SWOV, the Institute for Road Safety research is critical. In a newspaper Peter van der Knaap said: “You can strive to have zero road deaths, but then you need to take concrete measures”. While the national government has a budget surplus, he says, the local municipalities economize on infrastructure. He argues that the cabinet should invest more in municipal and provincial roads, where by far most people are killed.
The province with most road fatalities is again North-Brabant with 150 deaths in 2018 (98 in 2017). This is one of the larger provinces with the longest road network. Like the minister a local expert seeks explanations for the higher fatalities in the increase of traffic. “We drive more and we own more cars. This makes it busier and that increases the risk of crashes” he explains in the local press. “On top of that we are increasingly distracted, usually by mobile phones.” This is a very bad combination “Because it is busier there is less room for errors caused by distraction”.
The director of the Cyclists’ Union, Saskia Kluit, also responded to the figures. She says: “What needs to be done to make the cycleways safer has been known for a long time. It is time for action. This is possible when the investments for cycling infrastructure would be related to the share of cycling in our mobility.”
The Cyclists’ Union reminds that the recently presented “Strategic Plan Traffic Safety” reports 115 deaths could be saved annually when all cycling infrastructure would be designed completely safe. The Cyclists’ Union urges to take up this task with more priority. To further improve the safety for cycling the Union proposed concrete measures in their Vision 2040. Most important is reducing the maximum speed in the built-up area from 50 to 30km/h and building three different cycle networks, that would make it possible that all types of people cycling would return home safely.
The Cyclists’ Union notes that it is striking that the casualties on e-bikes remained stable: 57 in 2018. The electric bike is not so dangerous as some portray it. Most people who are killed while cycling are seniors. Two thirds of all cycling fatalities are between the ages of 50 to 85. It is remarkable that the biggest increase was in the age group between 50 and 60 years of age. The number of deaths over 60 remained stable. This is something the Cyclists’ Union would like to have investigated. Saskia Kluit: “People in their fifties are usually fit and they are not part of a risk group. Do they take more risks on racing bikes or have they taken up cycling to work much more? To do something about this increase we need to know more about the crashes.”