Scooters and hoverboards add to Dutch cycle lane hell

Police union chief says it is impossible to keep lanes safe due to variety of vehicles and rules

A rapid rise in the number of scooters, e-bikes, mini electric cars and hoverboards in the Netherlands and the complexity of regulations on their use is making it impossible to keep the country’s cycle lanes safe, the leader of the Dutch police union has warned.

Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam are rushing through different rules about the sort of vehicles allowed on their increasingly crowded lanes, leaving everyone confused, it is claimed.

On Tuesday Amsterdam announced that slower mopeds, known as a snorfiets, would be banned from the bike paths from April. Utrecht is introducing a similar ban at the end of the next year.

But Birò cars, four-wheeled electric vehicles with two seats side by side and a top speed of 34 mph, can still be driven on cycle lanes anywhere in the country.

The explosion in the variety of vehicles on the roads is already said to be a threat to public safety. In 2017, for the first time, the traffic death toll in the Netherlands was higher among cyclists than among occupants of cars.

The Dutch central bureau of statistics found that 57 e-bike riders were killed. The figure was up by 17 on 2016, accounting for more than one in four of all cyclist deaths.

“It is impossible for the police to maintain it,” said Gerrit van de Kamp of the ACP police union. “I wonder whether citizens themselves know what the situation is in traffic. Police officers do not always know it either. It is a completely unclear situation.”

Cycle paths in the main cities of the Netherlands have become intolerably overcrowded in recent years, particularly during the rush-hour periods, and the range of vehicles on them has increased.

In the past decade, the number of mopeds in the Netherlands has more than doubled to about 720,000. Since the 1 July, the four major cities have been allowed to implement their own rules.

On 8 April 2019 mopeds will no longer be welcome on most bike paths within Amsterdam’s A10 ring road, and Utrecht is set to follow, but Rotterdam has said it will continue to give them access as they are too slow for the fast traffic on the city’s roads.

Amsterdam has produced a digital map for moped drivers, as they are allowed on the cycle paths in some parts of the city, but not in others. But the Dutch police union’s president told the FD newspaper that the municipality had created a confusing mess of policies.

“If you make rules, you also have to think about their enforcement,” Van de Kamp said.

The changing nature of transport in the Netherlands became a national talking point this autumn following the deaths of four children who were in an electric cargo bike known as a Stint.

The children were hit by a train on a level-crossing. Stints became popular in recent years with schools and nurseries after the government approved them in 2012, but were banned after the tragedy in Oss, a town in the south of the country.


Daniel Boffey in Brussels

The GuardianTramp

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