Prime Minister Mark Rutte enjoying bicycle commuting
“Binnenhof” in the heart of The Hague in the Netherlands is a beautiful castle-like building that imitates the medieval Gothic style and has a beautiful view of Hofvijver pond. Binnenhof, a well-known tourist spot, is the central building of the government, including the Senate and House of the Dutch Parliament, Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister’s official residence.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who has been the leader of the country since 2010, has been commuting to the Binnenhof by bicycle since 2017. At the World Economic Forum’s “Sustainable Development Impact Summit” held in New York, United States on 23-24 September 2019, Rutte also made a speech on bicycle commuting.
Dutch are known for their love of cycling, and there are about 23 million bicycles in the country. This is well above its population of 17 million. 25% of the means of transportation in Netherlands is cycling, and the rate of bicycle commuting is also high at 6%.
As for the reason why, cycling has become so popular, Prime Minister Rutte commented that “It is suitable for cycling because our country is small and has flat landscape.” He introduced that, in his speech, bicycles are preferred for reducing traffic congestion and environmental impact and that they have been established as a means of transportation since the second half of the 19th century.
In addition, the country’s transportation infrastructure is designed to promote using a bicycle. There are over 35,000km of biking lanes throughout the country, and Utrecht, the departure point of the Tour de France, has the world’s largest underground parking space for bicycles, that is three underground stories and can accommodate 12,500 bicycles. Rutte confidently said, “The biking lanes are not only in the city but also in local communities between cities, which makes it very safe and easy, particularly for small children when they go to school.”
This is not the only benefit of cycling. Cycling reduces the risk of diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease and has a positive impact on mental health. Rutte said, “A 2015 study found more than 6,000 deaths in the Netherlands are prevented each year due to cycling, and it adds six months to the average life expectancy.” In addition to that, the use of a bicycle saves the country’s economy more than $20 million a year and can reduce an average of 150g of CO2 per kilometer compared to a car. Rutte said, “The whole system of cycling in the Netherlands is nudging people to make use of this very healthy alternative” and hopes that the number of people who ride a bicycle will increase further in the future.