One key element to traffic safety in the Netherlands is separation. So cycle pathways can run on the street only if the street is limited to 30 km/h or lower.
If car traffic is faster, the cycle path needs to be separated in some way. That can be as simple as a curb and red posts, or it can be a separate road running an entirely different route from the car road. Some newer cities such as Lelystad (built only in 1967) have completely different networks for pedestrians, cycles and cars.
In general, this works really well, but it drops one type of transportation into a void, the bromfiets and its friends – anything that can go faster than 25 km/h and is limited to 45 km/h
The Netherlands, like any EU country, knows three types of two wheelers with motors:
- motorfiets, the motorbike. It can go over 45 km/h. You need a helmet to ride, a proper license plate and a A-type of drivers license.
- bromfiets, a motorbike, scooter or highspeed pedelec, limited to 45 km/h. You need a helmet to ride, a yellow license plate and any kind of drivers license.
- snorfiets, a motorbike, scooter and technically pedelec, limited to 25 km/h. With a combustion engine, a blue license plate is needed, for pedelecs nothing. No helmet required.
Snorfiets and normal pedelec ride on the cycle path, which is fine and fits nicely.
Motorfiets go on the regular street and also keep up nicely.
Bromfiets hardly exist, because of the inconvenience they pose. Also, all snorfiets are basically technically identical to bromfietsen, so people buy bromfietsen and manipulate them by removing the limiter. According to this interview there are zero legal snorfietsen in all of the Netherlands.
That’s a big problem, at least in urban Netherlands, and we are going to see many more legislative attempts like this one to handle this: Pushing bromfietsen and highspeed pedelec out to the road.
But of course roads in the Netherlands are not generally built with vehicles limited to 45 km/h in mind, and drivers are also hardly willing to handle them. Putting this kind of traffic into high speed car and lorry traffic may actually kill more people than keeping it on cycle pathes.