Wednesday, 11 November 2009

"Motorbikes" on the cycle path


Here in the Netherlands, low powered motorbikes called bromfietsen are allowed to use rural cycle paths. These include many of the cycle paths on which I commute. In the middle of the countryside they're allowed, while at each village along the way they are sent back onto the road.

These things can be a minor irritation, but it's actually quite advantageous to faster cyclists that these bikes also use the cycle paths. It means that the cycle paths have to be designed to be suitable for speeds of 45 km/h - the legal limit for these bikes.

They also provide a bit of sport. On a good day, I overtake them:

This is the opposite side of the road from the photo above. There's a unidrectional 2.5 m wide cycle path on both sides of this road. This video must be played on a computer and not a mobile device if you want to be able to read the textual captions

May 2011 update. Amusingly, the Guardian (who normally ignore me) linked to this post and seem to have taken it a bit out of context. There is really no similarity at all between the wide rural cycle path I show in this post and urban cycle lanes in the UK.

"Brommers" limited to 45 km/h are also rather different to "motorbikes" in the UK. I should also point out that here in the Netherlands, these brommers are a nuisance sometimes, when ridden irresponsibly in the wrong place at the wrong time. . However, they're not really a major hazard. This is also covered on this blog.

Lastly, people cycle in the Netherlands far more than in any other country. If you want to know what makes this possible, click here. For a list of reasons why you might think it's impossible for this to happen in the UK, and why they are wrong, click here.

There are also posts about The Guardian, which often looks in the wrong direction where cycling is concerned.

9 comments:

álvaro said...

Here in Amsterdam broomers take on the cycle paths throughout the entire city, and it's really disturbing. I don't mind them so much in rural areas, but they a real hazard once in town. (I know some are not allowed to use the paths in the city, but it is never enforced).

Abhishek said...

just brag away!

townmouse said...

Off topic but just seen you on ITV! Not the most searching and in-depth of programmes, but it was better than I feared

henryinamsterdam said...

I'll second what álvaro wrote: In Amsterdam the scooter riders on the bike paths can really be an annoyance. Some younger people ride quite fast on the paths, beeping away and buzzing cyclists. A few months ago I was riding with my then 9 month old son in his front child seat, signaling to turn left. A scooter rider passed on the left anyway, screaming "Idiooooooot!" as she squeezed past me with centimeters to spare. I remember the evening well since it was the third such incident within one ride though town.

David Hembrow said...

Alvaro, Henry: I think the difference is that you're talking about illegal use of bromfietsen in cities. That's not quite the same as their use legally on rural paths designed to accommodate them.

From what I've seen around the Netherlands, brommers on urban cycle paths are a bigger problem in some areas than others. It would seem more of an issue in larger places than smaller ones.

Also, it must be kept in context. As Henry pointed out last year, even Amsterdam (which is the busiest city in the country) is extremely safe by world standards. Also, one of the blog posts he linked to reported that "scooter deaths (amazingly!) were a rounding error", despite the admittedly sometimes rather stupid behaviour of some of their owners.

henryinamsterdam said...

David,
Agreed that the bothersome motorbike riders on the bike paths are probably mostly illegal. As you know the light motorized bike/trike/cars are broken into slow and fast categories, the slow ones being limited to 45km/hr max and the faster ones I'm not sure about. The problem is that in the cities a high percentage of both types are ridden by kids and are modified to go faster than the legal limit. Its not always possible to identify which is which (aside from the yellow or blue license plate (which can be cheated too). So in extreme cases we have 50cc scooters capable of 120km/hr on the bike path. I've heard other cyclists complain but it doesn't seem to be a concern for the police.

I've also ridden a lot in rural areas and never experienced this problem there. Everything gets magnified in the density of the city.

Taliesin said...

I recently did a short cycle tour of NL(The Hague, Haarlem and Amsterdam) and was a bit surprised by the little motorbikes.

Can't say I ever felt they were an extreme safety risk, but the exhaust fumes did get up my nose. They seem prime candidates for a switch to battery electric power.

Peter said...

We rented some of these for a day while visiting Holland. It was a great way to see a lot of the countryside in one day. It was funny when we were passed by someone on a bicycle or tried to pass one but couldn't keep up... they must have sped up :)

Here in Ontario we can use electric scooters on the bike paths and bikeways (although I think they've been banned on off-street paths in some places), but they are limited to 32 km/hr so you can get passed a lot :D

Kevin Steinhardt said...

There's a hill on my commute down into Hilversum with a shared fiets-bromfiets cycle path... trust me: there is nothing more satisfying than overtaking condom escapees on mopeds. The way they honk their pathetic horns and expect you to squish right into the fence to let them pass; putting up with that the rest of the time is worth it solely for the look of confusion on their face as you pedal effortlessly pass them at 50 km/h.