Worthy of a Bike Statue

My Dutch co-author and I biked to his office this morning, with very nice new bikes he owns. I remarked on them, and he said his university gives him the right to buy a bike out of pre-tax income every three years.

Every Dutch employer can offer this triennial subsidy of $750. I thought that was quite interesting, and asked why.

The answer is that earlier the government gave employees a subsidy on commuting costs, but only if they lived at least 10 kilometers from work. He says the government realized that this was unfair to short-distance commuters and, worse still, increased incentives to live far from work and to use gasoline that generated air pollution.

The bicycle subsidy is designed to counter those effects; and it is also consistent with the national image as devoted to bike-riding. (The Netherlands is the only place I have seen a public statue/monument consisting of a 10-meter-tall bicycle!)


@Nancy, there are some major differences between Dutch cities. GOne reasons why Groningen is by far the #1 is because its student population is enourmous. Students (relatively poor) cannot afford a car but make up about 20-30 percent of the population. Rotterdam is low on all lists because it's rather bicyle unfriendly. It was bombed heavily during the war and after the war cars were deemed more important than bicycles so downtown there are hardly any separate bicycles lanes. As a cyclist you're forced to switch lanes every 100 meters. Moreover, Rotterdam's relative student population is quite small.


We have a similar government cycle scheme in the UK. If your employer takes part, you can buy a bike from your pre-tax income up to a value of ?1000. As it's pre-tax, you don't pay income tax or national insurance on the cost of the bike and so the minimum saving is 42% on the original price. You have to buy a helmet at the same time, and can buy accessories too.



The UK runs the bike to work scheme which lets employers buy a bike for an employee. Employer own the bike and leases it back to the employee through pre-tax deduction. After 12 months the employee can buy the bike at a far reduced rate.



This publication deals with the topics raised above:


Tim Beyers

@ Mike B. #4: I live in Luxemburg and this is certainly not a flat city. And yet a project was launched recently where bikes are made available to the public in different places in the city. You need to buy a kind of pre paid card. This allows you to take a bike from one of the 10 locations (24/24, 7/7), use it and return to any of the 10 locations.
Despite the fact that the city is not flat, is certainly is a success.

More info: www.en.veloh.lu


#12: This is what I have observed in Holland:

1) I see very few obese people in the Netherlands compared to almost anywhere. A very nice spin-off from a bike-friendly country.

2) Women are in a huge majority among cyclists in Amsterdam, my own very unscientific guess is that 70-80% of people on bikes are there are women of all ages. If you look into the cars (which still exists), you will find that men outnumber the women. We guys are losing here too.



Are you sure that's going to work? Being a good example for your children?

YOu know the only way to get America on the streets and changing them is employing a bunch of young gals with A & T to shake them on a bike. I'm sure that's how great movements get momentum.

The parent thing worked with my kids, (mine were riding their bikes to school in Kindergarten and first grade. It was really too far to walk) I was rather frugal and "mean" by telling them they had to do things for themselves, buy their own cars, learn to cook for themselves, etc. I don't think I was the average parent by any means. I'm guessing this only because there were only three bikes parked on the grade school lot. In highschool there were even less.


Actually this data is old (from 2001) but the proportion of journeys to work by bicycle in amsterdam is 21 whereas in Groningen it equals 34. On the lowend of the scale is Rotterdam at only 13. Wonder what the cities are doing differently within the Netherlands

from: www.urbanaudit.org/rank.aspx

Keith M

Kind of sad that in America nobody makes a move unless someone is dropping dollars for them to do so.

I ride a bicycle because I can. I do it for the environment and for the exercise. For me, part of the year is nice enough that you would be out of your mind not to cycle to work.

With the epidemics of obesity and diabetes in the USA, nobody should have to pay you to keep yourself healthy and set a good example for your children.

What will gas have to cost you guys for there to be enough economic incentive for you to get on your bike and ride it?

dan p

When I was in Amsterdam I was surprised by two things:

1.) Most streets had dedicated bike lanes separated from the main road traffic by a curb (presumably making the bike path safer)

2.) I saw a bicycle parking garage (there may be more) and it looked pretty full.

Mark B.

@ Mike B. #4

Many many many cities and towns in the United States are relatively flat. I would hesitate to guess that a large majority of people live in relatively flat cities.

The strenuous exercise argument when applied to the entire country is foolish. Now, if you are just applying the argument to San Fransisco, I can understand (though they are pretty bike friendly).


I'm subsidized too. I get $140 for parking a month. I use the space less than one day per week during the summer because I ride my unsubsidized bicycle to work.


To even suggest such a "gross intervention into the free market" would likely get one denounced as a "Commie" on this side of the pond. Besides, there would be less tax dollars for road construction - an obvious military and anti-terrorist necessity.


@ #1 Steve: I respectfully disagree about Paris being unfriendly to bikers.

As a grad student who endured 3 train strikes during my 4 months in Paris last fall, I found Velib to be the only consistently reliable means of transportation.

I agree that you could get run over at any given time, but that is true whether you are on a bike, on foot, on rollerblades (which always astonished me given the preponderance of cobbled streets), or even in another car. What do you expect from a city in which people ride their motorcycles on the sidewalk?!


The US actually is the opposite - I live about 2 miles from work and prefer to bike. My employer subsidizes parking and mass transit to the IRS mandated max of about $110/month, but won't subsidize any costs of the biking - no bike parking, no bike maintenance, no cost of bike. I have a cheap bike, so everyone would come out ahead with a bike subsidy - my employer would pay less, the feds would see less of a tax deduction (i.e. collect more money), and I'd keep more of my money.

Martin JDT

English is not my mother tongue but I notice that the word "pond" is often used here (and elsewhere) as synonymous for "atlantic ocean".
This makes me sad because it shows that even environmentally concerned people perceive the cost of crossing the ocean as very low. While the cost for one?s wallet may be low, the amount of fossil fuel burnt in the process of transporting one passenger by air over the ocean is quite large. Therefore it should not be seen as something as negligible as crossing a pond.

Mike B

The Netherlands is also flat, which makes bicycle riding a joy. Until all he major American cities pack up and move to Kansas cycling in this country will remain hard exercise requiring various levels of de-stinkifacation upon arrival at work.


I thought the incentive to biking (or walking to work/ exercise) was a shapely buttocks. We're supposed to be doing this for the money/tax relief? huh? I don't have a big enough income. No wonder I am a hopeless cause. Plus, I read that prisoners dilemna thing #3. If the guys are looking at body instead of hair color, well, I guess the shapely, firm bike riders aren't making any headway. Ever.


I've traveled to Holland for years on business, and got to know many of the folks I worked with. One of the surprising things about cycling in Holland is that most people commute with beater bikes, because the rate of bicycle theft is so high. Subsidizing a new bicycle every three years also helps to alleviate the risks of theft while commuting.

There's also quite a large number of bicycles in the canals, but that's a different story.

Dan Murray

I travel to The Netherlands frequently on business and can say that the Dutch have bicycles fully integrated in their transport system. You can ride on a bicycle path almost everywhere in the country. In towns or between towns. In the older sections of Amsterdam it's really the best way to get around. I think you can rent a commuter bike for around 15 Euro/day.