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The moped; the forgotten alternative

This article is a translation from the original Dutch article that can be found here.

The moped is often forgotten when looking for alternatives to the car. One thinks of public transport and the bicycle. But except for the young, the moped attracts relatively little interest. People don't like the moped for commuting; it's actually wrong and understandable at the same time. Because the moped offers good possibilities, but the jubilant tones that have been eliciting the bike again, especially lately, have never become part of the moped. A moped driver is therefore "someone else".

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The government has also had quite some trouble in a legislative sense with the arrival of the moped in 1947. First not on the bike path, then on, then not always afterwards. Initially no speed limits, then it was, and rightly so. Also that difficult distinction compared to light motorcycles and therefore the yellow picture in front. There was talk about a "driving license", a provisional one that initially everyone would get, but that didn't work out. And so on.

 

The ANWB warned in its "Bromfietskampioen" in 1953: "The emancipation of the moped will be unstoppable". That was true. In 1953: 283,000 mopeds. In 1960 the million was passed. In 1969 almost two million. And now 1 million. So considerably less.
Yet the moped is a practical and cheap means of transport for commuting, weekend tourism and larger holiday trips. It is also important for young people aged 16-18 who, weather permitting, need their moped to transport them to school or other work. That's about 500,000. And let's not forget the importance of mopeds in "the countryside"!

 

One sometimes gets the impression that the possibilities of the moped as an attractive partner among the respective means of transport have been underestimated over the years. That is why we have made a comparison with some ANWB employees, who usually went home and to work by car, bicycle and public transport, with the commute they had maintained with a moped for six months. Of course, the moped has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages are almost universally known. However, the advantages deserve to be mentioned as well. And to be considered!

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Energy problems and traffic jams

There are two main reasons for the renewed and even completely new interest in mopeds, especially abroad. These are the energy problems and the increasing traffic, especially in urban areas. Especially in America, where the moped only experienced its introduction a few years ago, there is a very strong growing interest in mopeds for these reasons. And there too the government is not very sure what to do with it.

The increasing traffic density, especially in the Randstad conurbation, prompted us to take a closer look at mopeds as an alternative to commuting.

Six ANWB employees, varying in age from 22 to 50 years, were provided with a moped for this purpose, of course with suitable clothing, a helmet and, if necessary, special moped bags. For these people, the distance between home and work, the ANWB office in The Hague, varied from 6 to 27 km (NB: the average length of journeys made by car for commuting is 15 km). The agreement was that each person would decide for himself when and when not to use the moped.

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As the most important disadvantage Wim mentioned the fact that the moped is not taken into account in any way. The traffic facilities on his route were such that he even had to drive a different and dangerous route at a few points, for example due to one-way traffic. The moped had to spend the night in the open air at home because there was no parking space available. This test therefore came to an end because the moped was stolen within two months.

The people and the rides
The greatest distance was covered by Wim van Tilburg (27), traffic expert at the Traffic Department. He lives in Rotterdam and had to drive 27 km before he was at the ANWB office in The Hague. Because of the distance, Wim had access to the most expensive and comfortable moped. A Zündapp KS 50 with four gears. He had always ridden Zündapp before so this was a new acquaintance. The most important difference with the past was the maximum speed of 40 km/h and wearing a crash helmet. Usually Wim went to work by car, an average travel time of 30 to 45 minutes, but this could increase considerably due to traffic jams. The main advantage of the moped was the constant travel time of 50 minutes. So not faster than by car, but with more certainty about the journey time. Furthermore, he managed to achieve the formidably low fuel consumption of 1 : 50.

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Poor visual guidance on bicycle paths

Ton Hendriks (25 years old), also a traffic expert at the ANWB, travelled more than 2000 km by moped at the commuter traffic between Leiderdorp and The Hague, distance 20 km. He rode the only four-stroke moped in the company, a Honda SS50 Z with four gears. Mostly Ton, who strives to use the car as little as possible for commuting, took the bus to The Hague. Because of traffic jams, the journey time, normally 30 minutes, could be as long as over an hour.

When the weather is good, he takes the bike and pedals for three quarters of an hour on a sports bike with 10 gears. He only does this when it is dry and the wind is not too strong. He did not have this limitation on the moped. Rain and wind had no influence because of the good clothing, a Belstaff two-piece motorcycle suit, leather gloves and a full face helmet. Ton greatly appreciated the moped in relation to the bike because of this weather insensitivity.

The most important advantage over the bus was the constant travel time, namely 35 minutes. He didn't mind changing before and after the ride, you get very experienced in this. In good weather the pants of the motorsuit were taken in a small tank bag. The route of Ton consisted for the most part of fairly good (moped) bike paths. Over short sections he had to drive on parallel roads where there was quite a lot of traffic. Here Ton had an accident when a car, coming from a driveway, drove him by splashing a very long bonnet between the parked cars to stabbing. This incident did not prevent him from continuing to ride a moped. The main objection came when the days became shorter. In darkness you are often so seriously blinded on the moped that you lose your orientation completely. Visual guidance on cycle paths is so poor that you regularly end up on the verge or ride over bus stops, for example. This was reason enough for Ton to stop buzzing when he had to ride in the dark both in the morning and in the evening.

Constant travel time

Wim Zonderop (50), head of the household department, also lives in Leiderdorp. When he goes to work by car, he is very dependent on the amount of traffic and traffic jams. The 20 km between home and work takes at least half an hour to travel, which can sometimes exceed an hour. With the Sachs Optima, a fully automatic moped, he always manages to cover the distance within 35 minutes. This very constant travel time is the most important advantage for him. Only in very bad weather he took the car because he also experiences the poor visibility that a moped driver has as very unsafe. Wim generally has good cycle paths with good road surfaces on his route. He does not like the traffic behaviour of others, there is little or no consideration for you.

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Unsafe, remote route
Karen Westhoek (22), is an employee of the Literature department Traffic and Recreation and lives in Zoetermeer. The distance between Zoetermeer and The Hague is 17 km. There are basically four travel options: train, car, moped and bicycle.
Karen chose the car and could then cover the distance in 20 minutes. Sometimes she went by train but had to count on an hour of travel time. She thought the distance was too long to cycle.
Karen got access to a fully automatic moped, the Puch Maxi, and was very enthusiastic in the beginning. This enthusiasm decreased quickly and strongly when she had made the ride by moped several times. She mentioned a few important causes for this. The route was unsafe, uncomfortable and was very remote so she was afraid of bad luck. With the rather small tank it was not impossible that she would be stranded on the way. And the travelling time with the moped was longer than with the car, namely 30 minutes. This was mainly caused by detours, long waiting at some traffic lights and waiting at two dangerous intersections, one at Nootdorp and one at Voorburg. Moreover, Karen did not like to have to take the mode of transport into account when choosing her clothes. In Zoetermeer itself, moped riders are not allowed to ride on most bicycle paths, so Karen had to drive between cars. She also found rain very difficult because of the risk of slippage and poor visibility.

Preference in the city
Thijs Tuurenhout (30 years) is a photographer at the ANWB and lives in Rijswijk at a distance of 8 km. He usually sails along with heavy camera cases and then goes by car. A journey in busy rush hour traffic that takes about 20 to 25 minutes. When the weather is fine Thijs cycles when he doesn't have to drag his equipment along, it takes him half an hour at a leisurely pace. With a moped this doesn't go much faster, travel time about 20 minutes, because most traffic lights have to be waited for, which causes a lot of delay. Thijs got a fully automatic moped, the Batavus M 56 with a large sturdy luggage rack, so he could take his cameras with him. This went well on asphalt paths, but on tile bike paths there was a fear of damage to the equipment.

Thijs chose the moped over the car and the bike when he didn't have to take much with him and when he quickly had to pick up or deliver photo work in the city. For this shopping in busy city traffic, the moped is a good means of transport. The fuel consumption is then, with a lot of stopping and accelerating again 1 : 35.
Thijs found very negative the fact that other road users and road administrators hardly take the moped driver into account. For example, it was decided for a new cycle path in Rijswijk that mopeds are not allowed on it because the residents do not want to. And there you stand between trucks and buses and especially in the dark Thijs did not feel safe there at all.
Storage in the flat was a bit difficult because the box was difficult to reach and already quite full. The moped was therefore placed in the stairwell.
Even more than the others, Thijs experienced the reactions of the environment. You have become "unrecognizable", your friends no longer greet you and they find it very strange that you ride a moped Thijs had a simple remedy for that by immediately telling that it was a "test" and then they found it all very interesting.

More and more detours
Marianne van Wijk (29), employee of the Travel Conditions department, who has been consistently riding mopeds for 13 years, has the most experience with mopeds. She was the only one in the company who only had to exchange a moped, got a Sparta Rocky, also a fully automatic moped, lives in Wassenaar and has been travelling the 6 km with the moped for years.
Asked why she doesn't cycle this distance she mentioned the fact that you can dress better on a moped, so you sit dry and warm; the helmet with visor also provides shelter. Furthermore, she can take a lot of luggage on the moped that she needs on other visits after work. In all weathers she goes to work on the moped and uses the two-wheeler for all other movements. She needs one litre of lubrication for 45 km. In recent years, her range on the moped has been limited to the region of The Hague because the connections with other places in the area have become increasingly poor. Any change in favour of motor vehicles or rail traffic will result in more detours for bicycle and moped traffic.
The connections are becoming increasingly remote, the road is difficult to find and there is a fear of breakdown on the way.
In the evening, even on familiar routes, orientation is very difficult. Marianne asks for lighting of important bicycle and moped connections and planting between motorways and adjacent bicycle and moped paths. In recent years, the willingness to take helmet and clothing with you has diminished. Marianne recently started with driving lessons.

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The advantages of the moped over the car are:
- low fuel consumption namely 1 : 35 a 1 : 50
- no parking problems
- constant travel time
The advantages over public transport are:
- constant travel time without waiting times
- no pre- and on-carriage
The advantages over the bike are:
- Larger ride distances possible
- less sensitive to wind and weather
- more luggage options

Final remarks

When looking for alternatives to commuting by car, in addition to public transport, the main focus is on cycling. However, bicycles are quite sensitive to distance and weather conditions. With distances of 5 to 10 km, the maximum of what most people may want to cover to get to work or home has been reached. Certainly someone who has a car at his disposal has quickly made the choice between car and bike. The moped appears to be less sensitive to distance and weather influences. For distances of 10-20 km, mopeds may play a greater role in commuting in the future than is currently the case. The moped is also suitable for shopping in the city; it is not for nothing that many city delivery services use the moped in particular.

The moped, however, has a lot against it. About a third of all mopeds ride too fast and make too much noise. And in current traffic, mopeds are not exactly a safe means of transport, just like bicycles. With the increase in traffic in urban areas, it is certainly not impossible that mopeds will play a greater role in functional use. Especially now that the moped will develop into a more comfortable means of transport and will also become more environmentally friendly due to better exhaust attenuation and cleaner engines (modern mopeds will consume half the amount of oil in their petrol), this should certainly be taken into account. The advantage of a constant travel time, not hindered by traffic jams, may appeal.

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Bron: De Kampioen, Pagina 146, 147, 148 en 149
Datum: Februari 1980

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