Fact sheet

Moped and light-moped riders

Summary

Moped and light-moped riders run a relatively high risk of becoming crash casualties. Although a trend can be observed in decreasing fatalities, the number of serious road injuries does not decrease and even seems to increase. The high risk is mainly due to the high riding speed in relation to the riders’ vulnerability. In the Netherlands, it is compulsory for moped riders to wear a helmet but not for light-moped riders. In recent years the number of light mopeds has been increasing, whereas the number of mopeds, on the other hand, has been decreasing. Limitations in the data prohibit making a clear distinction between the separate risks of mopeds and light mopeds.

The Netherlands have taken various measures to increase the safety of moped and light-moped riders (moped from the bicycle path to the carriageway, measures to prevent tuning up mopeds and light mopeds, mandatory vehicle registration, moped driving licence and moped riding test). Moving the moped to the carriageway was found to have had a positive effect on the number of moped and light-moped casualties. No clear effect on the risk of (light) moped riders could be determined of the introduction of the moped riding test. However, after the introduction of the measure, moped ownership, and consequently the number of crashes decreased considerably.

Background and content

In comparison with other countries, many people ride mopeds and light mopeds in the Netherlands. However, (light) moped riders are at high risk of being involved in a crash. This fact sheet will go more deeply into the causes of this and the measures that have been taken – and could be taken – to prevent these crashes.[i]


[i] Together with mopeds and light mopeds, mobility scooters are classed in the RDW category ‘mopeds’, but they are not discussed in this fact sheet.

Facts

What is a moped and what is a light moped?

Mopeds have a maximum design speed of 45 km/h. An approved helmet and at least an AM licence are mandatory for riding a moped. The AM licence can be obtained from the age of 16, after having passed both the theory and the practical test. Riding a moped is also allowed with an A or a B licence. Under current legislation, the Road Traffic Act (WVW, 1994), moped riders must ride on the carriage way within urban areas (since 1999), with a speed limit of 45 km/h. On bicycle paths within urban areas the speed limit for mopeds is 30 km/h. In rural areas, moped riders should ride on the bicycle path, with a maximum speed of 40 km/h. On rural roads without bicycle path the speed limit is 45 km/h.

The Road Traffic Act (WVW. 1994) places light mopeds in the same category as mopeds. It characteristics are very similar and the maximum design speed for light mopeds is 25 km/h. Without tuning up, the maximum speed can in fact be more than30 km/h. The AM licence is also required to ride a light moped, unless the rider already possesses an A or a B licence. It is not mandatory to wear a helmet. Light-moped riders should ride on the bicycle path both inside and outside urban areas, with a maximum speed of 25 km/h.

A scooter is not an official vehicle category, but a design variant: legs together instead of one leg on each side of the vehicle. A scooter can be a moped, a light moped, or even a motorcycle. However, in the Netherlands, the word scooter often refers to a light moped.

What are the distances travelled on mopeds and light mopeds?

There is different data on the annual distances travelled by mopeds and light mopeds. According to the mobility surveys OVG/MON/OViN [i], the distances travelled initially declined from 1.1 billion kilometres in 1993 to 0.8 billion kilometres in 2008, but have since risen to about 1.2 billion kilometres at present (margin of approximately15%). A recent panel survey carried out by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) indicates that during the period 2007-2012, the distance travelled by (light) mopeds increased from 1.7 to 2.3 billion kilometres (margin of approximately 1%; CBS, 2014a; 2014b). Although these estimates vary considerably, the share of the moped in traffic can be estimated at a maximum of 1.5 percent.

The OViN data are insufficient basis for a reliable distinction between the distances travelled by mopeds and by light mopeds (De Craen et al., 2013). Table 1 therefore presents the size of the vehicle fleet for vehicles with a moped licence. The table shows that in recent years there mainly has been an increase in the number of light mopeds and a decrease in mopeds. In 2013 the number of light mopeds exceeded the number of mopeds for the first time.

Table 1. Fleet data of vehicles with a moped licence; Fleet size on 1 January of the given year (source: CBS).
 

[i] OVG: National Traffic Survey; MON: Netherlands Mobility Survey (MON); OViN: Study of distances travelled in the Netherlands.

What can we say on the basis of the available data?

Before we take a closer look at the safety aspects of moped and light moped, it must be noted that the available data of crashes, vehicle fleet and mobility is limited, particularly for this category of road users (see also De Craen et al., 2013). The crash register, for example, does not distinguish between mopeds and light mopeds; this entails that it is not possible to make an accurate estimation of the real number of crashes involving mopeds and the real number involving light mopeds. Data is also lacking about the real numbers of crashes and how they occur. Furthermore the estimates of the number of journeys with these vehicles probably are very unreliable and also cannot be divided into moped or light moped. Unfortunately, it is therefore impossible to make reliable individual estimates of the risk for mopeds and the risk for light mopeds.

How unsafe is it on the road for moped and light-moped riders?

The Netherlands has an annual average of 47 fatalities and 2 500 serious road injuries[i] among moped and light-moped riders in road traffic crashes[ii]. This means that after the car (264 fatalities and 2 600 serious road injuries) and the bicycle (186 fatalities and 9 200 serious road injuries); the (light) moped has a large number of casualties.  Another large group are the pedestrians with 69 fatalities and 900 serious road injuries.

Figure 1 shows that the number of fatalities among (light) moped riders has been decreasing steadily in recent years. This is not the case for the serious road injuries; their number even seems to be increasing since 2008. As previously mentioned, it is barely possible to distinguish between serious road injuries for mopeds and for light mopeds.

Figure 1. The estimated real numbers of fatalities (left) and serious road injuries (MAIS2+) (right) among (light) moped riders, divided into moped and light-moped riders wherever possible (Sources: CBS, Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. Dutch Hospital Data, SWOV). Due to unreliability data of serious road injuries after 2009 are lacking.
 

Figure 2 compares the risk (per billion kilometres travelled) of (light) moped with that of some other modes of transport.[iii]  Unfortunately it is not possible here either to distinguish between mopeds and light mopeds. It is clear, however, that (light) moped riders have a higher risk than other transport modes of being involved in a serious crash.

Figure 2. The number of fatalities and serious road injuries (MAIS2+) among cyclists, (light) moped riders, motorcyclists and car drivers divided by distance travelled (kilometres travelled in billions). Average over the years 2004-2009. Sources: CBS, Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, Dutch Hospital Data, SWOV.
 

[i] Serious road injury: seriously injured road traffic casualty (MAIS2+)

[ii] Real numbers during the period 2008-2012 (Source: Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment)

[iii] These risk estimates are based on the MON information about mobility, because this contains estimates of the kilometres travelled for various categories. However, there are indications (CBS panel survey, 2014a; b) that the distance travelled by powered two-wheelers may in fact be twice as high as reported by the MON data. If this is indeed the case, the risk for motorcyclists and (light) moped riders is about half of that shown in Figure 2.

At what speed do light-moped riders travel?

The legal maximum speed for light mopeds is lower than that for mopeds; for this reason a helmet is not mandatory for light-moped riders. However, the actual speed of the light moped often exceeds the maximum allowed speed of 25 km/h. Frequently, the measured speed is even close to 35 km/h, the speed from which criminal prosecution follows. Measurements carried out by the Dutch Cyclists’ Union with rented light moped scooters show that they often reach speeds of 35 to 40 km/h (De Lange, Muller & Faber, 2011). Furthermore, speed measurements show that 94% of the light mopeds in Amsterdam exceed the allowed speed of 25 km/h (De Lange, Muller & Faber, 2011). The average speed of the mopeds on a particular route was 37 km/h. The highest recorded average speed on that route was as high as 59.2 km/h. In 2010, the Centre for Transport and Navigation (DVS) carried out a study in the cities of The Hague, Woerden and Apeldoorn (Methorst, Schepers & Vermeulen, 2011). Light mopeds were found to travel at an average speed of 34 km/h (around 20% rode even faster than 40 km/h).

To what extent does the interaction between cyclists and light moped riders affect road safety?

Signals from large municipalities and the Dutch Cyclists’ Union about problems concerning light mopeds on the bike path led to a study carried out by DVS (Methorst, Schepers & Vermeulen, 2011). The study also investigated whether the (subjective) unsafety caused by light mopeds that cyclists experienced (see, for example, De Lange, Muller & Faber, 2011), is also supported by objective data on unsafety in the form of fatalities and serious road injuries in bicycle-light moped crashes. Because of the previously mentioned shortcomings in the registration (see also De Craen et al. 2013), however, it is hard link this with objective data. Methorst, Schepers & Vermeulen (2011) conclude that the annual average is approximately 50 fatalities and serious road injuries in crashes between bicycles and light mopeds, part of which occur on the bicycle path. This is 0.5% of the total number of 9 000 to 10 000 serious casualties using these modes of transport.

What are the risk groups among (light) moped riders?

Within the moped and light-moped rider group, there are two categories with a higher than average risk: the young and the elderly. Figure 3 shows the casualty rates of the various age groups among moped and light-moped riders and among cyclists. The vertical lines in the figure indicate the 95% reliability margins. The greater unreliability of the risk of powered two-wheelers (slow mopeds, mopeds and motorcycles) is due to the mobility study containing considerably fewer observations of these categories. However, although young people have a higher risk when riding (light) mopeds, this is not the case when they ride a bicycle. The explanation may be that bicycles have a lower speed and because they have more experience as cyclists. After all, most children have already learned to cycle at a young age in a safe environment.

Figure 3. The risk of fatal or serious traffic injury for cyclists, moped riders and light-moped riders by age group. Averages over the years 2004-2009. Sources: CBS, Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, Dutch Hospital Data, SWOV.

 

For older road users the consequences of the crash present the most important problems; this is certainly the case due to the vulnerability when riding a (light) moped. As a result of their lesser physical condition, older people will more easily sustain serious injuries; they are therefore more likely to require in-patient treatment and are also more likely to sustain fatal injury than younger people (Table 2; see also SWOV Fact sheet The elderly in traffic).

Table 1. The proportion of fatalities and serious road injuries among (light) moped casualties for various age groups in 2004-2012. Sources: Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, Dutch Hospital Data, SWOV.
What legal measures have been taken in the Netherlands and what effect do they have?

Mandatory helmet use

Since 1974, Dutch moped riders must wear a crash helmet; this is not mandatory for light-moped riders. Wearing a helmet does not prevent crashes, but it does help to reduce the severity of injuries. An international review of 61 studies on the use of motorcycle helmets indicates that the risk of serious head injury decreases with 69% when a helmet is worn (Liu et al., 2007). The risk of fatal injury decreases with approximately 42% (see SWOV Fact sheet Motorcycle and moped helmets). It is unknown whether the moped helmet, which is used at much lower speeds, is equally effective.

Until 2008, the Bureau for Traffic Enforcement of the Public Prosecution Service carried out annual measurements to monitor helmet use, and also correct helmet use. At the last measurement, in 2008 (Henkens, Ermens & Hijkoop, 2008), 96% of the moped riders was found to wear a helmet; this percentage has been fairly constant during previous years. Vehicle fleet data shows that since 2013 slow mopeds outnumber mopeds. Helmet use is not mandatory for slow mopeds even though they engage in speeding  (>30 km/h).

 

Moped on the carriage way

For considerations of safety, the policy is to get the speed of mopeds to match that of other users of the same section of the road. This benefits both homogeneity (of speed) and predictability. Before 1999, many crashes occurred at junctions because moped riders rode on bicycle paths at a higher speed than expected, and were noticed too late or not at all. For that reason, moped riders have been required since 1999 to ride on the carriage way in urban areas. A year after the introduction of this ‘Moped on the carriage way’ measure, it was found that the number of crashes involving mopeds and light mopeds in urban areas had fallen by 31% About half of this decline (15%) was the result of this measure (Transport Research Centre AVV, 2001); the other half (16%) could be ascribed to the general decline in casualties among moped and light moped riders.

 

Measures to prevent tuning up

A moped has a design speed of 45 km/h and a light moped has a design speed of 25 km/h. In 2007, 22% of the (light-)moped riders stopped on Dutch roads were riding tuned-up vehicles. This percentage was the same as in 2006, but lower than in 2005 (28%) and 2004 (31%). These figures are based on approximately 15 000 test rig measurements per year (source: Bureau Traffic Enforcement of the Public Prosecution Service BVOM). The police perform these measurements by spot checks at the roadside. If the number of (light-)moped riders encountered is small, the police can stop them all; the check is then non-selective. If many are encountered, there may be an element of selectivity because the police prefer to look out for offenders. This means that the percentages of tuned-up mopeds and light mopeds for the entire population will probably be somewhat lower than the figures quoted here.

It is fairly easy to tune up a moped or light moped; tuning-up sets can be bought via the internet and fitted by anyone who is reasonably handy with tools. In 2004, the Moped Self-regulation Accord including Advertising Code (‘Akkoord Zelfregulering Bromfietsen inclusief Reclamecode’) was signed by RAI  (the Dutch Association of the Bicycle and Automotive Industries) and BOVAG (the Association of Motor Car Garage and Allied Trades) (BOVAG-RAI, 2004). It is a declaration by the industry that they will no longer tune up any mopeds or light mopeds, will actively inform customers about the law on tuning up, and will not advertise tuning-up sets. It was also agreed that moped and light-moped riders will always be presented with a safe image in advertisements (models with helmet on etc.) There has been no independent evaluation of this covenant. However, various checks by RAI Association in 2008 led to some businesses losing their RAI Association and/or BOVAG membership for infringement of the covenant (RAI Association, 2008).

 

Mandatory Vehicle Registration

Since 1 January 2007, every moped and light moped is required to have a registration number. This distinguishes between light mopeds and mopeds in that light mopeds are issued a blue number plate instead of a yellow one. It is expected that the registration system will make it easier to enforce regulations and make vehicle theft more difficult. The effect of mandatory registration on the road safety of moped and light-moped riders is unknown.

 

Moped driving licence

In 2006, the moped certificate was replaced by the moped licence for mopeds and slow mopeds. Initially the test only had a theory section, from 1 March 2010 it has also included a practical section. In addition to training and testing, the introduction of the moped licence has the advantage that it becomes simpler to hand out penalties, and that a penalty point-based licence, like that already in existence for car drivers, can be instituted for first-time moped riders.

The evaluation of the moped practical test shows a positive development of the number of serious road injuries among (slow-)moped riders in the age group 15-17 year-olds (Goldenbeld et al., 2013). The number of casualties among 15-17-year-old  (light-)moped riders shows a relatively fast, but not statistically significant decline, whereas the number of casualties among 18-24 year-olds, on the other hand, has risen. It must be noted that the decline in the number of casualties seems to be the immediate result of the decline in the number of young (light-)moped riders that was caused by the threshold action of the practical test and the simultaneous introduction of 2toDrive, the accompanied driving measure that allows 16-17 year-olds to take driving lessons. This made it impossible to prove that the moped practical test had a positive effect on the crash rate of (light-)moped riders.

What additional measures could be taken?

Improving helmet use

The use of crash helmets has a major positive effect on the safety of moped riders. An effort to enforce 100% helmet use will therefore contribute to safety. If light-moped riders were also to wear helmets, this would make a positive contribution to the reduction of head injuries. Further research will give an indication of the benefits of helmet use by light-moped riders.

 

Light moped on the carriageway

A recent estimate that was made for the municipality of Amsterdam of the road safety effects of moving the light moped to the carriageway  is an annual reduction of 261 casualties (-38%) (Wijlhuizen et al., 2013). The largest safety gain can be attributed to an expected modal shift: light-moped riders choose a different, a safer vehicle when the measure is introduced. Based on the great uncertainties due to lack of factual information about safety effects in estimating the effect, SWOV recommends not to move the light moped to the carriageway without mandatory helmet use. Furthermore the measure must be evaluated thoroughly, with explicit attention for the difference in speed between cars and slow mopeds in the carriageway.

 

Light moped back to ‘bicycle with auxiliary engine’

Inherently safe road traffic calls for clearly recognizable vehicle categories. Although the registration system has introduced a better distinction between mopeds and light mopeds, the difference can only be seen when the rear of the vehicle is visible. This makes it difficult to enforce speed limits and helmet use. for a possible measure could be to return to two clearly recognizable categories (Wegman & Aarts, 2006): the current moped and the ‘bicycle with auxiliary engine’, which is how the light moped was originally intended. This is a motorised bicycle with pedals and a light engine that cannot be tuned up.

Conclusions

Riding a moped or light moped involves a relatively high risk of becoming a crash casualty. This is primarily due to the speed of mopeds and light mopeds in combination with the vulnerability of the rider. Although the trend is towards fewer fatalities, this is not the case for serious road injuries: their number seems to be increasing. Younger and elderly moped and light-moped riders are at particularly high risk. Younger riders have less experience of riding a motorised vehicle; older riders are physically more vulnerable.

In recent years the number of light mopeds has been growing, whereas the number of mopeds, on the other hand, has declined. Since 2013, the light mopeds outnumber the mopeds. Unfortunately, data limitations make it impossible to give details on the specific risks of mopeds versus light mopeds.

Several measures have been taken in the Netherlands to improve the safety of moped and light-moped riders: mandatory use of the carriageway instead of the bicycle path  for moped riders, prevention of tuning up the vehicle, vehicle licencing, moped riding licence, practical riding test. The effectiveness of two of these measures was investigated. The ‘Moped on the carriage way’ measure was found to have had a positive effect on the number of crashes. Although evaluation of the practical moped riding test shows a positive development of the number of serious road injuries among (light-) moped riders in the age group 15-17 year-olds, the test could not be shown to have had a positive effect on the risk of a crash. However, the number of (light) mopeds, and consequently the number of crashes, was found to have declined considerably following the introduction of the measure.

Publications and sources

AVV (2001). Evaluatie verkeersveiligheidseffecten 'Bromfiets op de rijbaan'. Directoraat-Generaal Rijkswaterstaat, Adviesdienst Verkeer en Vervoer, Rotterdam.

BOVAG-RAI (2004). Akkoord Zelfregulering Bromfietsen inclusief Reclamecode. 24 juni 2004. Stichting BOVAG-RAI, Amsterdam.

Craen, S. de, Bos, Y.R., Duijvenvoorde, K. van, Norden, Y. van, et al. (2013). De veiligheid van gemotoriseerde tweewielers in Nederland; enkele actuele aandachtspunten uitgelicht. R-2013-15. Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid SWOV, Den Haag.

CBS (2014a). Verkeersprestaties en jaarkilometrages bromfietsen en motorfietsen. Geraadpleegd september 2014 op www.cbs.nl.

CBS (2014b). Methodologisch rapport verkeersprestaties motorfietsen en bromfietsen. Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, Den Haag.

Goldenbeld, Ch., Wijlhuizen, G.J., Vlakveld, W.P., Commandeur, J.J.F., et al. (2013). Evaluatie van het bromfietspraktijkexamen; Onderzoek naar de werking van het bromfietspraktijkexamen en voorbereidende theorielessen op de verkeersveiligheid. R-2013-6. Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid SWOV, Leidschendam.

Henkens, N.C. & Hijkoop, S. (2008). Monitoring Bromfietshelmen 2008. In opdracht van Bureau Verkeershandhaving Openbaar Ministerie. Grontmij Verkeer en Infrastructuur, De Bilt.

Lange, M. de, Muller, S. & Faber, G. (2011). Blauwe brommers op fietspaden : rapportage van een onderzoek naar de hinder en het gevaar van snorfietsen op fietspaden. Fietsersbond, Amsterdam.

Liu, B.C., Ivers, R., Norton, R., Boufous, S., et al. (2007). Helmets for preventing injury in motorcycle riders. In: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, nr. 4.

Methorst, R., Schepers, J.P. & Vermeulen, W. (2011). Snorfiets op het fietspad. Directoraat-Generaal Rijkswaterstaat, Dienst Verkeer en Scheepvaart DVS, Delft.

RAI Vereniging (2008). RAI Vereniging en BOVAG zeggen overtreders 'bromfietsconvenant' de wacht aan. In: RAI Voorrang, vol. 13, nr. 16, p. 2.

Wegman, F. & Aarts, L. (2006). Advancing Sustainable Safety; National Road Safety Outlook for the years 2005-2020. SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research, Leidschendam.

Wijlhuizen, G.J., Dijkstra, A., Bos, N.M., Goldenbeld, Ch., et al. (2013). Educated Guess van gevolgen voor verkeersslachtoffers door maatregel Snorfiets op de rijbaan (SOR) in Amsterdam. D-2013-11. Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid SWOV, Den Haag.

WVW (1994). Wegenverkeerswet 1994. Geldend op 01-11-2012. Geraadpleegd op http://wetten.overheid.nl/.

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Updated

12 Feb 2016