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Nijmegen tippelzone compromised

Model of afwerkplek, Nijmegen tippelzone
Layout of the afwerkplek, part of Nijmegen's tippelzone.
Photo courtesy of a reader.

The Netherlands, 2004 —

In the spring there came a problem for the tippelzone in Nijmegen: a new bike path aside the train track above it.

A tippelzone is the section of a Dutch town where some illegal behavior is allowed — particularly "streetwalking." It is a special extension of the gedoogbeleid policy, which prefers to declare certain activities "not legal but not illegal." The cannabis trade, for example, is not legal — but the so-called coffeeshops — the hash-bars — are a regulated part of the economy, and are part of any Dutch town.

The activities for which a tippelzone is established, however, are illegal — but they're allowable, within the small area. "Streetwalking" — casual prostitution — is illegal; but within a tippelzone it is allowable. It is for such prostitution that tippelzones are most renowned.

Several municipalities in the Netherlands maintain a tippelzone, with varying degrees of success. Amsterdam, for example, closed its tippelzone in late 2003, because it didn't work. Other cities, conversely, have long operated theirs with little trouble.

The concept of gedoogbeleid is probably not easy to understand for anybody who is reading these words in their native English language, because there is nothing similar in any English-speaking country. The odds are that the ability to go even beyond "gedogen" — not-legal-but-not-illegal — and into the realms of "illegal, but allowable" is not within the skill-set of the Anglophone....

In any case, the purpose of a tippelzone is to allow and manage activities that are presumed impossible to stop.

In the spring of 2004, a bike bridge was appended to the train line across the river Waal between Nijmegen and the Waalsprong, the municipality's cross-river annexation. The bike path into Nijmegen from the rail bridge then follows the grade of the train track, parallel for a half-kilometer and taking advantage of the pre-existing grade down to level ground.

The embankment, the ridge along which the rail has always passed, defines the southern border of the tippelzone. This was discreet enough when it was only the train cars passing above; it's much less so now that bicyclists ease past in their numbers.

Now, instead of an out-of-the-way deadend back-street bordering a railway embankment, the tippelzone is a very public back-street overlooked by hundreds of people a day.

Naturally, the Dutch are studying the problem, in search of the most practical solution.