Van Veldhoven is The Netherland’s first state secretary of bicycles
The Hague (Nehterlands) – state secretary Stientje van Veldhoven sympathizes with everything that has to do with bicycles. In an exclusive interview with Arnauld Hackmann she states that bicycles are big business, not only for the industry, but also for companies that want to stimulate bikes as way of commuting for their employees. ‘This year together with eleven bicycle ambassadors I will make sure that more people will commute by bike.’
For the context: what do you have with cycling and why?
Van Veldhoven: ‘’I call myself the first state secretary of the bicycle'. This is a little joke of course, but I do mean it. I think it’s very important that – also on a national level – there is more attention to the bike. The bicycle hasn’t got any negative points, but only advantages. It’s sustainable, it occupies little space, and it’s quick, healthy and fun. So, I cycle as much as I can. Yes also to the ministry and to the tweede kamer (Dutch House of Representatives. Ed.). My driver had to get used to this, but he has to admit that it’s actually faster that driving me by car. To me, cycling is also a way to clear my head, or to contemplate on something that keeps my mind occupied.’’
Could you give an update in the National Cycling Agenda? What will 2019 bring the Dutch?
Van Veldhoven: ‘’2019 will be the year in which I want to make a lot of kilometers. Not just by literally riding more, but also by making our ambitious cycling goals more concrete. The bicycle is the Netherland’s secret weapon against the busy roads. As I said, it’s quick, clean and healthy.
I will give you some examples. Together with the provinces and municipalities I invest almost €350 million in cycling highways and new bicycle parking lots. We are legitimately known as a cycling nation and with this collaboration and this money we will definitely add to that reputation. Next year, the first steps will be taken to realize this project. It will, for instance, be easier to park your bike at a train station and to presume your journey by train.
Also, this year – together with eleven bicycle ambassadors – I will make sure that more people will use the bike for their commute. These are companies that already show in practice how to stimulate their employees to cycle more often. Think about it: more than 50 percent of the people live within 15 kilometers from their work. For many people it’s very doable to commute by bike, or e-bike!’’
The additional taxes for a company’s bike was set on 7% in 2018. Not bad, but wouldn’t it be more stimulating to give no additional taxes at all, just as in Belguim?
Van Veldhoven: ‘’As of 2020 we will make the fiscal cycling legislation way easier. This makes it much more attractive to take a company’s bike. The obligation to keep track of the privately ridden kilometers will disappear. By doing this, the lease bike can be used alongside the company’s car. This exact combination of both vehicles could stimulate people in commuting by bike more often. Especially for people who live nearby their work it could work as an extra motivation.’’
During the National Cycling Congress in June 2018 the National Letter of Intent Cycling Data was signed, in which several organizations will collaborate in collectiing more cycling data. What kind of data are we talking about and are there any results yet?
Van Veldhoven: ‘’Of course, only with the right data about our bicycle use we can take the required measurements. Last year we came to an agreement in how we count and how to share that data. In 2019, several parties – such as universities – can use one signle platform where this data will be shared. This works conveniently.’’
Local governments state that there is more money needed to realize the cycling policy. What could players like ANWB, the Cycling Union, and the Mobility Alliance do to realize your ambitions?
Van Veldhoven: ‘’I love to collaborate. That does, by the way, not only count for the Cyclist Union and the ANWB, but also for the corporate world. Employers notice that cycling is not only good for the environment, it is also a way to make money – think of healthier and more motivated employees. I like to cooperate with them to get more people on bikes. Cycling is big business.
Speaking of money; the money available for infrastructure will be divided differently. I am working hard on a mobility fund, in which the money is not divided according to a standard formula where trains and cars get the biggest piece of the pie. Instead, we want to approach every project individually to see which is the most profitable. In cities this could be the bike. In many new neighborhoods you already see that the bike is getting a central role, which is great.’’
What do you expect from your colleagues of the provinces after the elections? What do you wish for?
Van Veldhoven: ‘’I know the bicycle is high on their agenda’s, and to my opinion it stays that way. I say to my colleagues: map the bike’s potential and reserve the infrastructural means for it!’’
It could be a death trap for the moped manufacturers if the helmet obligation for mopeds will actually be implemented. Because, in that case there is no reason why people would chose a moped over a scooter. Do you hope that this implementation has a positive effect on e-bike sales, which will also support a speed up to 25Km/h?
Van Veldhoven: ‘’My colleague Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen handles traffic safety. But while you’re asking me: an e-bike is cleaner that a moped. So, if people chose a cleaner vehicle for whatever reason, I am in favor.’’
At last, please some short reactions on the next keywords.
Van Veldhoven: ‘’Great road cyclist, who will hopefully win the Giro next year, and who knows the Tour as well.’’
Cycling City 2019
Van Veldhoven: ''Houten (place in the Netherlands. Ed.) did great as cycling city 2018 and I am – just as you probably – curious to which city will get the title next year!’’
Van Veldhoven: ‘’Typically Dutch trade in a typically Dutch product and above all circular. What more would you want?''
Van Veldhoven: ‘’a very good option if you like riding, but don’t always need it. It saves raw materials for making an extra bike and is saves a little space at the train station. Moreover, you grab the share bike after your train ride; again, saves a little.’'