Campaigners urge MPs to act on dangerous fatbike craze

Photo: Dutch News

Doctors, local authorities and traffic safety organisations have joined ranks to petition MPs to ban dangerous doctored fatbikes which are particularly popular among young teenagers.

Some 50 local councils, cyclists’ union Fietsersbond and the association of A&E doctors NVSHA also want a minimum age for fatbike riders and a national campaign to raise awareness about the risks of using a heavy two-wheeler, particularly if they have been tinkered with to go faster.

The call comes in the wake of an accident in which an 8-year-old and a 13-year-old were seriously injured after colliding with a car in Breda.

There are no age restrictions in place for fatbikes, and riders are not required to wear helmets or have a permit. The bikes are not supposed to exceed a 25kph speed limit but are often doctored to go as fast as 45kph.

In 2022, just seven fatbike riders ended up in hospital emergency departments, but last year that had soared to 59. In the first four months of this year, there were 33 hospitalisations, a trend which if continued would take the full year total to around 100.

Research by VeiligheidNL has also shown that half the victims of accidents involving fatbikes are aged 10 to 14 and a quarter of them end up with head injuries. “These figures make it clear that urgent measures are needed to protect children and all road users,” the petition says.

Amsterdam’s transport chief Melanie van der Horst, who also signed the petition, said it is time the government acted to stop the sale of doctored fatbikes. The council has been carrying out more controls but, Horst said, as long as they are still being sold the problem will continue.

The petitioners have asked for an age limit of 12 but would have preferred 16. That is not legally possible because the fatbike is considered an electric bike and a minimum age of 16 would mean youngsters would also be excluded from riding a regular electric bike.

“It’s too easy to hide behind the legal complexities,” Van der Horst said. “Children are ending up in intensive care and will be suffering the consequences for the rest of their lives.”

A national awareness campaign will help people to understand the rules around fatbikes, she said. “A doctored fatbike is not insured. But parents allow their children to ride them anyway.” Amsterdam schools have already received a letter from the council about this which they have sent on to pupils and parents.

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