22 Jun 2018

Dutch plan to pay workers to ride to work

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:34 pm on 22 June 2018

Would you consider biking to work if you were paid to? It's an idea that has been mooted in the Netherlands.

man on bike on bridge

Photo: Photo by Rhone on Unsplash

In order to ease worsening traffic congestion, the Dutch Secretary for Infrastructure wants to use tax laws to encourage companies to pay their staff to cycle to work.

The Netherlands’ ambassador to New Zealand Rob Zaagman tells Jesse Mulligan that despite 40 years of investment in cycling infrastructure, car congestion has been increasing.

“A country the size of Canterbury with 17 million people in it and 8 million cars – all the arteries are getting clogged and the government is trying to convince people not to use the car to commute and instead to use the bike.”

The idea is that employers will give their employees a financial reward if they use the bike to commute.

It could be a certain amount per kilometre or a tax-free contribution towards buying a new bike.

The Dutch Embassy bike

The Dutch Embassy bike in Wellington is made of wood. Photo: supplied

Forty years ago the situation was very bad in the Netherlands, Mr Zaagman says.

“The number of cars was increasing exponentially, but there was no special infrastructure for bikes and the number of fatalities among cyclists, in particular children, grew exponentially."

“We now have some 40,000km of separate cycle ways in a country the size of Canterbury.”

Eighty-five percent of Dutch people already own a bike, Mr Zaagman says.

He's been asked to advise get ideas from authorities here in New Zealand about how to increase cycling uptake in the Netherlands.

The Dutch have learned two clear lessons, he says.

“The key is not just separation between the two types of transport, but also to make a network of cycle lanes which are interconnected.

“Once you improve the infrastructure you see the numbers increasing. Build it and they will continue coming.”