Tag Archives: commuting

Bike to work day – the Dutch example

I have 8500 bicycles waiting for me at over 300 locations around the country

Today is the Bike to Work Day in the Netherlands. It may not come as a surprise to you that a lot of people in the Netherlands cycle to work. But have you wondered why? Pro-cycling attitude of employers is no small part of the reason for the high percentages of Dutch cycling commuters. I am fortunate enough to work for Sweco, a company that goes the extra mile in promoting cycling to work.

There are, of course, the usual things (for the Dutch, at least). Proper bicycle sheds, showers and lockers at our offices, tax-free bicycle financing scheme, access to the OV-fiets (the Dutch Railways shared bicycles) are all pretty much standard at Dutch companies. If an employee purchases a new bike, Sweco is also paying for the bicycle insurance and extra’s such as rain gear.

But here’s the extra mile – at Sweco we get paid to cycle. Yes, that’s right – I get money for cycling. The kilometers I cycle are refunded just as car kilometers are, so that even my modest commute of less than 5 km earns me almost 2 Euro each day. It won’t make me rich, but its more than enough to pay for the purchase and maintenance of my bike. Business kilometers pay even more, so that choosing for the bicycle to go to a customer actually pays.

I cycle to work because its fun. Working at Sweco, a bike-friendly company, makes it even easier to cycle to work. I hope more employers around the world will follow Sweco’s example – making the world an easier place to cycle, one bicycle ride at a time.

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Filed under cycling, Europe, Work

How being a man almost got me killed


Since I am a man, I am blessed with tunnel vision. I can’t find my keys, my glasses or the honey jar in the kitchen cabinet. Basically, I can’t see much that is not directly in front of me. And to be honest, not a lot of what’s in front of me, either. Aggravated by my pathological absent-mindedness, and the early hour, being a man almost got me killed this week.

I was cycling to work, as usual, when I looked to the right and saw this couple. At 8 in the morning, in the December freeze, they were sitting in their garden, just chillin’. I almost fell off my bike, narrowly escaping getting underneath the wheels of a passing bus. Are these people all right? Are they alive? Should I say something?

After I regained my senses, I had a better look, and saw the big picture. They were puppets. Live-size puppets, with faces printed on cardboard attached to their heads. I also saw the huge sheet on the house wall, saying “50 years of marriage”. In Holland, as in most places, being married for 50 years is a big deal. But the Dutch have a special relationship with the number 50. The huge puppet is a part of that 50-fetish. When people turn 50, or are married for 50 years, their friend and family “bless” them with a huge, ugly version of themselves, in the garden, on the chimney, or nailed to the door, sometimes dressed in an “interesting” fashion, or other-wisely “spiced”. I’m OK with traditions, but putting a warning sign for the cyclists would be a nice gesture.

The big picture

The big picture


Filed under cycling, Small European things, Work

When is the Chrismas vacation? I just don’t know.

On my way to work I often get stuck in traffic. So far, nothing unusual for a small European country. Except that I get stuck in bicycle traffic.  I usually cycle to work, but even I have to leave home early if I want to get smoothly through the city centre. The school kids flood the cycling paths at 8:00, but the crossroads are filled with cyclists waiting for the light to turn green as early as 7:30, as the roads are swamped by rush hour traffic.

That’s why I really like the school vacations. During the school vacations I can cycle in daylight without having to swim my way through the kids, and if the weather is bad or I’m really not in the mood to cycle, I can take the car and actually be faster than if I’d cycle. The only problem is – in the the Netherlands, you never know when the vacation is due.

Chrismas vacation is a good time for a picnic on the water

Chrismas vacation is a good time for a picnic on the water

The Dutch school vacation schedule is purpose-designed to be confusing. The only vacation that starts at the same date is the Christmas vacation. Well, sort of at the same date. Depending on the day of the week of Christmas Eve, the Christmas vacation can start anywhere between 18th and 25th of December. And that’s actually the predictable vacation. The dates of the autumn, spring and May vacations are all not rigid and its an understatement (the so-called spring vacation is actually in February). To complicate the matters further, this small European country is divided into 3 regions, each of which has different dates for the vacations.

During Chrismas vacation bicycles get stuck not only in traffic

During Chrismas vacation bicycles get stuck not only in traffic

As of this year, the Ministry of Education sets the dates for the summer vacation and the Christmas and May vacation (the not-spring May vacation). They “recommend” the dates of the other vacations, but schools can and do deviate from these dates. So the Ministry of Education did not set the dates for school vacations so far? What did they do then? And why not just set the dates for all vacations, and choose the same dates for the whole country? It seems a case of Dutch megalomania, thinking the country is so big, it actually needs to divide its school vacations between regions. Being brought up in the Soviet Union, the largest country in the world, that had the same dates for school vacations across 10 time zones, I just don’t understand such complications in a small European country.

Where does it all leave me? I have no idea. I live in this small European country for 11 years already and I guess the vacation schedule will remain a mystery to me. I just try to find my way to work here. So far, I knew the vacation has started only when I noticed there are no school kids swarming the cycling paths in the morning. And since nowadays I actually go to work early, I really have no way of knowing. Fortunately, for now, I don’t care, too.

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Filed under cycling, Small European things