Jane from Amsterdam fell off her bike a few years ago when an oncoming car on a small, wet street in the de Pijp neighbourhood made her swerve out of its way.
She broke her elbow, which took months and one operation to heal, although she still has limited movement. It took her another year to get back on her bike.
“I hardly cycle since my accident,” says Jane, who did not want her full name to be used.
“But the situation has for sure deteriorated over the years. Especially because of the increasing use of bakfiets (cargo bikes) and electric bikes.”
Jane is just one of an increasing number of Amsterdammers who feel less safe in traffic.
According to the latest annual survey by data agency Cyclomedia, only 59% of Amsterdam cyclists feel safe while cycling, down from 72% a year ago.
In its 2023 Urban Road Safety Index, Cyclomedia asked 7,515 road users in 25
European cities how safe they felt on the road.
While the majority of people still feel safe, many feel the roads are not as secure as they used to be.
‘Souped-up cargo bikes’
Amsterdam has joined Vienna, Stockholm and Berlin as cities where cyclists feel
People in Tallinn and Oslo feel safest, while Istanbul, Rome and Milan are at the bottom of the list, with the majority of cyclists in those cities feeling unsafe.
Amsterdam ranked fifth when it comes to road safety.
The biggest culprits are e-bikes. According to the survey, four out of five Amsterdammers say the speedy vehicles—once the exclusive domain of the elderly, but now the must-have trendy transport of longer-haul commuters, delivery services and fashionable urban mothers zooming their kids around town in three-wheeled cargo bikes—leads to more accidents.
Jane agrees: “Definitely, because you don’t hear them coming and they go very fast. Many people have souped-up versions that go faster than the legal limit.”
Electric bikes—which accounted for some 50% of bike purchases last year—were involved in 74 Amsterdam accidents in 2022, twice as many as in 2021.
Recent research by a local broadcaster also found that 75% of the city’s residents think e-bikes have made biking less safe.
Alderman Melanie van der Horst, who is responsible for traffic, has said some people have stopped cycling as a result.
She wants to see a speed limit of 20 km/h introduced for e-bikes, but that requires legislation to be passed in The Hague.
“Those souped-up ones ruin it,” Florrie de Pater of cyclists’ union Fietsersbond told Het Parool newspaper. “For years, a lot of effort has been made to get mopeds off the cycle path.
“Now that is finally done and cyclists with pedal assistance are racing past everywhere. That often just doesn’t fit on bike paths.”
In a city that has more bicycles than people, Amsterdam officials say safety is imperative to keep people cycling and the city moving sustainably.
The safety index found that almost half of cyclists sometimes take different routes to avoid dangerous intersections, while one-third of respondents say they feel unsafe because of inadequate street lighting.
Although Amsterdam led Dutch cities in reducing accidents at intersections over the past year, with the removal of mopeds from cycle paths playing a crucial role, 53% of its residents still say the municipality is not doing enough to make traffic safer.
“We must prevent people from switching to other means of transport, also because cycling with walking is one of the healthiest ways to get around the city,” said Van der Horst.
The survey also found that Amsterdam had the highest percentage of people saying they would likely cycle less if helmets were made compulsory required for cyclists over 18.
“I try and avoid rush hour,” says Jane. “And I am not so keen to take my bike into the city. There’s nowhere to park, it’s too busy with all the road works, and I don’t want my bike to be stolen.”
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