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July 30, 2014

Taxi app uberPOP making its way through Amsterdam

Filed under: Automobiles by Orangemaster @ 12:26 pm

As of today selected Amsterdam clients using taxi app uberPOP can organise taxi-like rides with private persons and pay for them using their smartphone. The company also offers two other services that feature properly licensed drivers and vehicles, but it is uberPOP that remains a thorn in the side of cabbies, as it offer rides up to 50% cheaper than normal cabs.

Besides having much more overhead (insurance, permits to drive over tram rails and bus lanes, etc.), cab drivers in Amsterdam have to write down every trip they take, which I find ridiculous and dangerous as many do it while driving, something an uber driver probably doesn’t have to do.

In London, where the app has been available for some time 12,000 taxi drivers protested last month, although many Londoners are gladly using the app. Earlier this year in Paris riots broke out, with people being hit and cars being smashed. The city of Brussels demanded uber make changes to its app in order to keep it legal, including making drivers obtain certificates of good behaviour.

The main objection to the app is that it takes work away from real taxi drivers, but then the app is legal and the drivers and cars currently meet local rules and regulations. Anyone is free to take a properly licensed taxi if they want, but with the mess that is Amsterdam’s taxi services, switching to uber will probably be a major relief for a lot of people.

In Amsterdam drivers continue to refuse small trips, preferring tourists going from Amsterdam Central Station to Schiphol Airport. They also often refuse animals, sometimes speak poor Dutch and/or poor English, and have one of the highest fares in the world. I personally get good taxi service when I need it because I don’t take taxis from Amsterdam Central Station, which is physically regulated at night by security staff like some Banana republic. Even tourist website ‘I Amsterdam’ says “Amsterdam recently launched a campaign to improve taxi services”, while happily listing uber under ‘special taxi services’. Fancy that.

(Link: www.elsevier.nl, Photo of taxi sign by Ben Fredericson, some rights reserved)

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July 28, 2014

Breaking the law is fine when the rich do it, says cop

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 2:43 pm

Smart-parkingLast month, lost in a footnote, I hinted at a common practice in a rich neighbourhood of Amsterdam of not paying parking tickets.

Instead, the rich used to fight their tickets in court. They assumed that because the district had to pay its lawyers with public money, the district would prefer to turn a blind eye to parking violations.

Volkskrant wrote back in 2001: “In the entire neighbourhood committees were started to collect the legal expertise needed to fight parking fines in court. Once people had won a couple of their cases, posters started appearing at the dry cleaners: ‘Got ticketed? Fight the fine!’”

The article, a vignette of the Amsterdam neighbourhood Museumkwartier, quotes a police officer who gets worked up over the lack of respect shown to his office, but his colleague, one Jan Okx, sees the positive side of the situation: “The people get to know each other, which improves the cohesion of the neighbourhood.” Volkskrant describes his attitude without a hint of irony as “thinking in processes”.

I wonder if an article like that could still be published today. The one percent have destroyed the economy and the phrase ‘the rich are getting richer’ is no longer just a leftist cry but a scientific fact.

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July 18, 2014

Taxis posing as Tour de France team cars

Filed under: Automobiles by Orangemaster @ 8:08 pm
TDF 2007

Amsterdam’s taxi landscape is currently featuring mock team cars with bikes on them (pic) to promote Radio 1′s coverage of the Tour, which features French music, lots of manly conversation and the occasional defamatory comment. When stepping into one of these taxis, you can listen to Radio Tour de France and almost feel what it’s like to be in the Tour de France, well kinda, if you add some suspension of disbelief.

I think it’s a nifty idea, as I like the look of the cars, but then I would probably take a taxi when the Tour wasn’t on at night and part of my brain now wonders how long the bikes will stay there and what kind of bikes they are. The Tour will be starting in Utrecht next year by the way.

As you probably already know, Radio 1 won’t have any Tour de France coverage on at all today to leave space for the world news about the Dutch airplane shot down in Ukraine, taking the lives of 298 people, of which 189 where Dutch.

(Link: www.amsterdamadblog.com)

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July 16, 2014

French tourists ignore fines and sleep in their cars

Filed under: Automobiles by Orangemaster @ 9:36 pm

Maybe French tourists are onto something: why pay a lot of money for an overpriced, cramped Amsterdam hotel room when you can sleep in your car and get a parking fine you won’t have to pay in the end? Apparently, the fines the French are being issued are not being collected anyways, so pourquoi pas.

According to De Telegraaf some 20,000 parking fines were issued to French car owners over the last two years, but few fines were actually collected by Dutch authorities. Even blogs are telling the French to ignore those pesky fines, although the tax office claims they’ll have to pay eventually. I know many French friends who have come to Amsterdam, been fined for parking in the wrong place not being able to decipher what they had to do and never paid their fines.

According to local telly station AT5 French tourists are said to sleep in their cars, which upsets the locals. Maybe the tax office should collect those fines for real because when it comes to bureaucracy the French know how to snub the system more than you, you clueless Dutch tax office you.

(Link: www.at5.nl)

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June 8, 2014

Dutch nicknames for cars

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 9:59 pm

citroen-ds-klugschnacker

Here is a short list of car nicknames the Dutch and Flemish use.

  • Kever (beetle): Volkswagen (1938)
  • Kattenrug (cat’s back): Volvo PV444/PV544 (1944)
  • Eend and Lelijke Eend (duck and ugly duckling, the Netherlands): Citroën 2CV (1948)
  • Geit (goat, Belgium): Citroën 2CV
  • Snoek (pike) and Strijkijzer (clothes iron): Citroën DS (1955)
  • Rugzakje (backpack, the Netherlands): Fiat 500 (1957)
  • Bolleke (ball, Belgium): Fiat 500

Note that the car later officially branded as Volkswagen Beetle used to start out as simply Volkswagen.

I’ve ordered the nicknames by the year the car was introduced. As you can see, there appears to have been a sort of golden age of nicknames in the two decades following the Second World War.

I’ve tried Googling for more nicknames with the inevitable result of ending up on car blogs where the bloggers asked their readers if they knew more than the usual suspects. The readers would then comment that “the X is also called Y” while curiously omitting the phrase “in my family”. German and English lists can be found on the web.

(Photo by Klugschnacker, some rights reserved)

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April 25, 2014

Glow in the dark road: from wonder to failure

Filed under: Automobiles by Orangemaster @ 1:31 pm

Two weeks ago the art-cum-safety project Glowing Lines was launched, featuring 500 metres of glow in the dark road near Oss, Noord-Brabant. According to the television station in Oss and this Facebook post (video), the lines don’t glow anymore because they react badly to humidity. So it’s back to the drawing board for Daan Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure, creators of the project, which we wrote about back in 2012 along with their heated bike paths.

The comments on the above-mentioned video say that the first day, everything worked fine and on day two, it stopped working. And here’s what it looked like when it worked properly. There’s a big difference!

(Links: www.omroepbrabant.nl-1, www.omroepbrabant.nl-2, Photo of Coen Tunnel, Amsterdam)

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March 14, 2014

Dutch municipalities make 660 million euro from parking tax

Filed under: Automobiles by Orangemaster @ 8:00 am

The most expensive parking garage in the country is in Amsterdam under the Bijkenkorf department store and at De Kolk, both right downtown. Both parking garages charge a whopping 5,71 euro an hour, while the cheapest parking garage in the country not too far from Amsterdam in Hoofddorp asks for just 0,80 an hour in a city full of commuters and big international businesses.

Amsterdam rakes in a cool 162 million euro of parking tax from parking meters and permits. In 2013 Amsterdam made a record amount of money from parking tax, to the tune of 166 million euro. Back then the price of permits went up, the paid parking zones got bigger and more ‘meter maids’ were doing the rounds. What’s really funny is that in October 2013 the city claimed that parking was no longer their cash cow (in Dutch), but still made a record amount that year.

In 2009 Amsterdam had the most expensive parking on the planet. See also: Amsterdam parking rates slashed.

(Link: www.binnenlandsbestuur.nl)

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February 24, 2014

Our robotic overlords have lost their fining privileges, Leeuwarden court declares

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 12:46 am

The Dutch state can no longer fine motorists automatically for lacking insurance, Volkskrant reported on Saturday.

An enterprising judge in Leeuwarden wanted to know the name of prolific civil servant number 404040 who had booked 280,000 motorists in 2013. It turned out that number 404040 was a computer which in the eyes of the court was problematic. There is this pesky thing, you know, called the law, that says only humans can hand out fines.

RDW, the independent governmental service that collects the fines, is already studying how to avoid paying back the nice chunk of cash that it has stolen from the public. Last year alone the service collected 109 million euro illegally. In the future RDW will simply perjure themselves and put the ID of the civil servant who happens to be in the same building as computer number 404040 is on the fines.

Last year the public prosecutor tried to imprison a woman for not insuring her non-existent car.

Last week RTL Nieuws revealed that the government hardly ever prosecutes crimes committed by civil servants even though civil servants are required by law—there’s that pesky law again–to report crimes. It took RTL Nieuws a couple of years to collect the figures—they needed to use freedom of information requests to get at the information. (As you may know, the Dutch government is perfectly happy to be transparent about the times they do not break the law.) In total only 36 of 411 possible crimes were prosecuted.

Last December Transparency International declared the Netherlands one of the ten least corrupt countries in the world.

See also: Speed cameras wrongly fine motorists for years

(Photo by Heiloo Online, some rights reserved)

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February 21, 2014

Tuk-tuk makes hilly trip to nearest ATM machine

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 9:10 am

tuktuk-chris-mossIn the town of Vijlen in the southeasternmost part of the Netherlands, the local bank has shut down all the ATM machines. That is why resourceful villagers have started taking a local tuk-tuk service to Mechelen, 3 miles down the road, to get their cash, Nieuws.nl wrote last Tuesday.

The tuk-tuk, ran by a local volunteer organisation called Traag Heuvelland, has been operational for over two years. Originally it was used to cart tourists around, but these days it is popular with the local elderly in a quickly ageing area of the Netherlands.

The tuk-tuk operators have dubbed their service the ‘pinpendel’ due to its use as a bus service to and from an ATM machine. Viktor Terpstra told Nieuws.nl: “We can take six passengers at a time. The ride takes about half an hour both ways including the money stop. There is a café at the start of the route so that people who missed the tuk-tuk the first time around can have a cup of coffee while they wait.”

Rabobank closed ATM machines in eight villages in the South of Limburg last November because the machines weren’t used often and were difficult to secure against ‘ramkraken’ (ram-raiding).

(Photo of a tuk-tuk in China by Chris Moss , some rights reserved)

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February 3, 2014

Witkar, a car sharing project from the 1970s

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 4:30 pm

A computerised car sharing system from the 1970s was way ahead of its time and a product of the Dutch precursor of the hippie movement.

witkar-instituut-beeld-geluidThe video shown here from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision contains a short news item about the Witkar (literally White Car) invented by famous provo Luud Schimmelpennink. Witkars were battery powered and available to members for a small price. A PDP-11 computer acted as a central control system and swipe cards gave you access to one of the two-seater Witkars. Their action radius was limited, making them suitable mostly for urban areas. Originally 1,000 vehicles were planned, but the project never got beyond the first 35 cars and 5 charging stations.

A problem that plagued the Witkar was that the battery drained quickly and had to be charged often. As a result not all of the Witkars were always available, as they were busy charging. Another issue with the Witkar was that some destinations were more popular than others. The project ran until 1986.

The Witkar was the product of one the White Plans, a series of plans by provos from Amsterdam that tried to improve daily for everybody. White Bicycles were a bike share project, White Housing promoted squatting, White Kids tried to tackle the daycare problem and so on.

A recent car sharing program called Car2go by Daimler (which had Witkar 2.0 as a working title) tries to prevent these problems by giving bonus minutes to people who actual bother to park the car at a charging station.

Somebody made an English translation of a part of the video.

(Photo: crop of the video)

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