Tuesday 27 January 2009

Cyclists are ill less often - Dutch companies gain competitive advantage

A new report from the Dutch Research and Testing organisation the TNO says that every 1% increase in the number of employees that cycle to work saves their employers €27M per year due to lower sickness costs. The research was carried on behalf of Tineke Huizinga, the deputy minister for traffic and works.

The article says that employees who regularly cycle to work take on average one day less sick leave per year than their non-cycling colleagues. If employers encourage employees to cycle to work more, then they can save more.

Across the Netherlands, 26% of all commuting journeys and 10% of business trips are already made by bike, though of course in some locations these figures are somewhat higher. The TNO suggests in the article that employers should be trying to increase these figures, but already that €27 M for 26% of commuters adds up to a total of 702 M Euros per year saved by Dutch employers due to their employees cycling.

The main reason given by those who currently cycle is that it is good for health, while for those who don't cycle the main reasons are the distance that they live from work, the weather, that they will sweat and the journey time.

The ministry of traffic and works is shortly to start a test of financial incentives for cycle commuting also in order to increase this percentage.

The Dutch spend more money on cycling infrastructure than any other country in the world, but even that amount is less than they are saving for businesses by having such a high cycling modal share.

Oh, and that figure is for the small Dutch population of 16M. If it scales, then a 1% difference in the UK is worth about 95 million British pounds, or in the US about 2/3rds of a billion US dollars - that's just for a one percent rise. If Britain could achieve the level of cycling seen in the Netherlands, it could save employers nearly 2 and a half billion pounds per year. For the USA it could be over $17 billion per year.

That's enough to pay for a lot of cycling infrastructure.

The Netherlands is one of a select group of nations which has
an overall positive current account balance. Being the world's
leading cycling nation has clearly not harmed the economy.
I have seen cycling organisations make similar claims when I lived in the UK, but it is something else for a government department to be behind this. The commuting statistics come from this document, which is well worth seeing for it's wonderful photographs apart from anything else.


Peter said...

that's the kind of evidence i like! i wish it was more than one day, but i'll take it.

Lisa said...

Thanks for the link to that report, I've passed it on to the bike infrastructure people at my city!

Nick said...

Never mind the companies; what about the workers (where have I heard that before)? Not only are we sick (very, very slightly) less often; we save money too!

Anonymous said...

TNO isn't an employers organisation but a Research and testing organisation comparable with the German TÜV. I don't know the British equivalent. TNO did the research on request of the deputy minister (staatssecretaris is wrongly translated as state secretary on their site. Not at all comparable with the U.S. state secretary) of traffic and water works. The research states that with every 1% increase of employees cycling to work, it will save the employers €27 million annually.

David Hembrow said...

Son of Shaft: Thanks for the corrections. My Dutch is evidently still not good enough. I'll correct the blog post above.