Push back on Amsterdam’s beer bikes

Photo: Bloodua
Edition 18 May 2017, by Cathy Leung

The expected ban on beer bikes from the centre of Amsterdam has been pushed back to 1st November 2017 following a court appeal. The ban is still on, the beer bike companies just have more time to find a new location (out of the centrum) to store their bikes.

What are beer bikes anyway?

Beer bikes (bierfiets) are mainly a tourist thing, seating up to 17 people along a bar fitted with fully functioning beer taps all along the centre, with each person sitting on a ‘bike seat’ with their own pedals. Each beer bike is steered by a nondrinking dedicated driver. Some beer bikes have also been fitted with electric motors to improve mobility. The beer drinkers typically have about 20 to 30 litres of beer to drink between them. A beer bike tour costs around € 350 for a group or € 30 per person on a shared tour and they are a popular activity for stag parties in particular. Obviously these bikes are really the size of a small tour bus and take up quite some space on the road. There are lots of companies offering beer bike tours in Amsterdam, they have been present in the city for over ten years and there’s been talk of a ban for almost as long.

Why ban them?

Unlike the widespread unhappiness over scooters in the bike lanes, there has been no significant public campaign that has prompted this action. Accidents involving beer bikes have been reported over the years, but not to any alarming degree. The Amsterdam municipality has said the beer bikes negatively impact on local residents and city centre traffic. However the plan was not to ban the beer bikes completely but to relocate them out of the congested centrum area, following the example of other Dutch cities such as Delft. Delft introduced their city centre ban on beer bikes about ten years ago so Amsterdam has taken their time to come out against beer bikes.

Appeal

The Amsterdam city centre ban was supposed to come into force in January 2017 however the tour companies launched an appeal. The beer bike owners argued that the council had not provided a corridor for the bikes to be transported from their storage locations in the centrum to the tour destinations further out, where they were permitted. In essence, this meant that they were not able to operate. Back in December 2016 it was announced that their appeal had been successful.

Still no corridor

Following the appeal ruling, rather than acquiesce to a ‘beer bike corridor’, instead the Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van de Laan, has put back the ban until November. Het Parool newspaper reports that although he considered it, the corridor proposal is a ‘no-go’ because he says it will still contribute to traffic in the centrum. Van de Laan says pushing back the ban until November will, however, provide the bike tour companies with enough time to find suitable new storage locations for their beer bikes, outside of the restricted areas.

Future for beer bikes

What appears to have been offered is a compromise that might appease both the city council and the beer bike companies. According to Het Parool, the ban from 1st November will cover the Haarlemmerbuurt, the canal belt, the station area, the Jordaan, the postal code area 1012, the nightlife areas and the eastern part of the old town. So this should be the last summer that those areas will have to suffer the nuisance of beer bikes. After that, they will be welcome in West instead. So they say.