Dutch Railways and Uber Combat Private Car Use: Overview of Sharing Mobility Services in the Netherlands

The Dutch National Railways (NS) is cooperating with SnappCar en Uber, hoping to reduce the use of private cars. At the time of writing, it is the European Mobility Week, and NS tries to promote more sustainable modes of transport. According to Verkeersnet (in Dutch), preliminary research showed that two-thirds of Amsterdammers see apps like SnappCar and Uber as an alternative to owning private cars.

This campaign is an excellent opportunity to share some thoughts and concerns regarding the state of mobility sharing apps and initiatives in the Netherlands.

Taxi alternatives

Uber is quite big in the Netherlands. In the major cities, like Amsterdam and Rotterdam, you don’t need to wait more than few minutes to get a ride, and the fares are usually lower than those of the traditional taxis. However, Uber’s surge pricing system, in which the fares are rising when demand is higher, makes the rides sometimes almost unaffordable. Last week, the weather in Rotterdam was terrible, and no one wanted to walk. I tried to order an Uber for a 3 km ride. Instead of the usual €7, they wanted to charge €25. So I cycled in the rain.

Besides other common controversies around Uber, they also take advantage of the low Dutch corporate tax rate. The International Uber office in Amsterdam, which the company is planning to expand, is taking revenues from other European countries and processes it in the Netherlands. Unsurprisingly, other governments are not too happy with it.

OV-fiets

the Dutch national bike sharing system is an integral part of the country’s public transport system. The way it works is simple: instead of taking your bike with you on the train, you can just rent one at your destination for a daily rate of €3.85 (some $4.5). The OV-Bikes are usually maintained by a local bike shop that is located at the train station. Currently, there are around 300 OV-fiets stations. The main difference between the OV-bikes and traditional bike-sharing systems is that you always need to return the OV-bikes to the same station from which you took them.

Image by NS

Image by NS

Dockless bike-sharing systems

an interesting story is developing the Netherlands lately. Thousands of small yellow bikes have taken over several Dutch cities, offering users to rent them for a few cents per 20 minutes. The idea is great: unlock a bicycle using a mobile app, ride to your destination, and leave the bike wherever you want. You only pay for the time you use it (usually less than €1 per trip).

Sadly, in practice, it doesn’t work. Take for example oBike, the largest dockless-bike-share company active in the Netherlands. Their app asks users to lock their bicycle next to racks. But in reality, users tend to leave bikes everywhere. The company doesn't seem to clean the mess, and bikes are obstructing the sidewalks, making the public space to look like a bicycle graveyard.

Amsterdammers are now calling for the ban of this nuisance, but this is not unique to the Netherlands. Dockless bike-sharing in China has risen to new heights, creating a real chaos. London is also thinking how to regulate these services.