|Children riding to school cross a device designed to reduce the speed of a slow class of moped which is permitted to use this cycle-path|
These speed bumps are larger than might be obvious from photos (especially photos with no cyclists in them). I measured this one at 10 m long by 3.75 m (32' x 12 '). 3.75 m is of course also the width of this cycle-path. Note that pedestrians have their own separate path.
|A drain built into the gutter prevents|
At normal cycling speeds, you barely notice that you've ridden over a speed-bump like this. If you cycle faster, then you do need to be aware of them.
I've found that 35 km/h is on the edge of being uncomfortable over this speed-bump. That's quite typical. I guess at that sort of speed the speed-bump ought to warn me as well as the mopeds about the upcoming road junction (behind the camera).
Note also the lighting to preserve social safety at night-time. The upcoming tunnel, which gives cyclists a short-cut under the railway line, is always lit.
|Another set of speed-bumps at the junction of two main cycle-paths in Groningen. You can see this speed bump in action, slowing mopeds, in a video here|
It is quite often the case that people from outside the Netherlands, not to mention those born and bred here, greatly overestimate the danger posed by bromfietsen and snorfietsen - the small mopeds / scooters which are allowed on some cycle-paths.
There are two classes of mopeds. The slow ones can travel at up to 25 km/h, the same speed as an electrically assisted bicycle, and don't require the rider to wear a helmet. These are allowed on the cycle-paths in just the same way as are electric assisted bicycles. The faster mopeds are limited to 45 km/h and require the rider to wear a helmet. These are not allowed on urban cycle-paths but are allowed on some rural cycle-paths, where they occasionally provide entertainment for faster cyclists.
How many are there ?
It's also worth reflecting on how few mopeds there are. Due to being noisy and smelly and attracting attention as well as criticism, people often greatly overestimate the number of mopeds in the Netherlands. Actually their numbers are much smaller than people think.
- At the main railway station in Groningen which currently has parking for more than 11000 bicycles, there is space provided for only about 10 mopeds.
- In the most remote suburb of Assen, where for every 100 people there are 116 bicycle trips per day, just 3 trips per day are made by moped.
- In a video which shows cyclists crossing a bridge, one moped makes more noise than several hundred bikes
Mopeds are about as common as bicycles are in the UK or USA. They are exposed to much the same bias against them, including claims that they are dangerous, as are bicycles in the UK or USA.
Who rides mopeds ?
Who rides mopeds ?
Mopeds are largely ridden by elderly people who generally ride responsibly. In general mopeds are not considered to be particularly aspirational and they're not really very fashionable. This is reflected in their relatively low numbers. You'll rarely see mopeds parked outside a school which caters for higher educational standards so there's a degree of snobbery about who might be seen on a moped. In some areas they're ridden more often by immigrants so we also can't rule out a degree of casual racism.
Mopeds ridden by teenagers are, perhaps unsurprisingly, not always ridden responsibly. Teenagers also quite often make simple alterations to the machines which remove the speed restrictions (similar models are sold in other countries without the speed restriction devices fitted here). This is quite a good way to get pulled up by the police and the machines can be confiscated as a result.
In the Netherlands, moped riders are an out-group just as cyclists are elsewhere and they are subject to similar prejudice.
How lethal are these mopeds ? Almost certainly less so than you think.
I've not been able to find any data to support the hypothesis that injuries due to badly ridden mopeds are a really major health issue in this country. As Toby Sterling put it, "scooter deaths (amazingly!) were a rounding error." as well as pointing out that you are "more than twice as likely to be murdered in Amsterdam than killed while riding your bike." and that as the US murder rate is four times that of the Netherlands you are "certainly more likely to be murdered while living in the United States than to die while biking in Amsterdam."
Note that Amsterdam is not all of the Netherlands. It's the largest city and quite busy and in fact it's probably one of the most dangerous parts of the country with regard to mopeds as well as other dangers. Most of the country, including Assen where we live, has a far smaller "problem" due to mopeds.
Something to complain about
To summarise, mopeds are one of the things that people get upset about in the Netherlands. But you have to put this in context. This country is very safe and there is very little to get upset about. A bit of perspective is required. What is complained about here are things that would not be complained about elsewhere. In fact, I'd go further than that: the Dutch quite often complain about things which in other nations might be a reason for boasting. You're not actually at any great danger from mopeds even though they are a nuisance and they are disliked by so many people. Nevertheless, mopeds need some control because this has become a subjective safety issue and I'd not suggest that other nations follow the Dutch example of allowing mopeds of any class onto cycle facilities because of that subjective safety issue.