Biking is something that every Dutch person learns from a very young age and as my Dutch professor says, teaching your kid how to ride a bike and go to school is “Karaktervormend”. This means, that they are independent to go to school. It doesn’t matter if it is raining, snowing, or really warm but they cycle. Hence, once these kids grow up, they are not afraid to cycle to work. This cultural aspect is really important specially when talking of sustainable mobility. In the Netherlands there is no need to buy a car (or buying one for an economical status symbol) for going to work since the cycling network is excellent. This sets the bicycle as the most reliable and loyal mode of transportation. Even people that do not live close to their work, and need to take the public transport, can find bike sharing systems for the “last-mile” trips.
Since, biking is one of the most sustainable modes of transportation, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has ambitious targets to promote the use of the bike even more. For instance, it incentives companies to encourage cycling among their personnel. The main goal is to get 10% more employees on the bike. It is a fact that with an ordinary bike, an average person in the Netherlands can bike up to 4.5 km to work. People with an e-bike can bike more than 8 km. Some of our own Panteian bike more than that! For instance, Ivo Hindriks bikes 17 km from home to work with his race bike, Adriaan Roest Crollius with his e-bike also 17 km, and more impressive, Yuko Kawabata, bikes with her normal bike 12 km (who says that women can’t bike!)
The main reason that people choose the bicycle above other modes to go to work is because it makes them feel healthy and fit. Besides, it is cheaper that using the public transport and the car. In addition, the right tax regulations and good bicycle facilities also help the employees to cycle. Examples are:
A recent study of our sister company MuConsult showed that implementing some of the above mentioned actions can lead to a 24% reduction in car journeys per week in trips that are home-work related. One of the unexpected cycling promoters was the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus accelerated the process of buying e-bikes in the country and its sales increased in 2020 by 30% in comparison with 2019. This is because commuters feel safer biking that renting a lease car or using the public transport.
The COVID-19 pandemic not only encouraged more people in the Netherlands to bike but also in other parts of the world where cycling was rare or non-excitant. Our most recent study together with Università degli Studi Roma Tre and Polis for the European Parliament, showed that cycling has been one of the main responses at global level; around the world various governmental initiatives were implemented. For instance: Italy offers a 60% cash back up to €500 for bicycle or e-bike purchases to incentivize this shift, while in France the government allocated an individual €50 incentive to repair bicycles. Lisbon allocated some funds to the purchase of bikes, and also for creating additional bike lanes.
Personally, I think sometimes Dutch people do not know how special their “cycling culture” is. They only appreciate that cycling is especial until they go abroad and see how not everything is as well planned as they use to back home. The cycling system in the Netherland is so unique and it should be preserved, encouraged and promoted. Countries around the world can learn from its strategies to promote cycling (to work) especially now that it has started (or boosted) by the pandemic. Coming from Bogotá, Colombia where I suffered every day in traffic, I can truly and honestly say that being able to cycle anywhere with my bike gives me a powerful and independence feeling that I never had with my car. I can cycle now even when raining and say “ik ben niet van suiker” (I am not made from sugar) which is something I have learnt from my time here in the Netherlands.
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