The Dutch Cycling Embassy (DCE) had the pleasure of interviewing Rein Aarts from Breikers (Network organization for a sustainably accessible Amsterdam Metropolitan Area and the province of North Holland) to gain insights into their experience with the Dutch tool ‘MobilityAnalyst,‘ developed by MobilityLabel.
DCE: Can you begin by introducing Breikers?
Rein Aarts: I work for an organization called ‘Breikers,’ which is a foundation. We were established in 2015 by two employers’ organizations in the Amsterdam region with the goal of assisting large employers in adopting more sustainable travel practices. Subsequently, a government program named ‘Beter Benutten,’ which can be translated to ‘used more efficiently’ in English, was introduced. The aim was to use our infrastructure more efficiently, because what you see is we’re investing large amounts of money in infrastructure which we use in a very silly manner. In a traffic jam we’re all stuck, and during the rest of the day there’s plenty of space. The idea was to take a little bit of this investment in heavy infrastructure and use it not for heavy infrastructure, but for changing behavior in the way we use this infrastructure.
These two employers’ organizations founded ‘Breikers’ to help employers embrace smarter commuting options for their employees. Since then, we have assisted 400 large employers with our advisory services. Our product primarily consists of advice. We engage commercial consultants from the market to assist employers in promoting more sustainable travel. In a sense, we function as a consultancy firm, although we operate in a rather unconventional manner, as we do not send invoices. The consultants work for us and submit their bills to us. We are funded by the Dutch government because we contribute to achieving public goals, such as reducing congestion and emissions through sustainable transportations options like public transport, car sharing, mobility as a service and cycling.
DCE: How does Breikers use MobilityAnalyst?
Rein Aarts: We aim to encourage people to be more active, and this is where the MobilityAnalyst comes into play. In our consultancy work, we conduct a comprehensive analysis of people’s current travel patterns. We gather postal codes from employees, input them into the tool [MobilityAnalyst], and determine how many people, for instance, reside within a five-mile radius of their workplace. Thus, identifying the target group for bicycle promotion. Similarly, we apply the same approach to assess public transport usage and the Dutch practice of combining cycling with public transport. Notably, it’s interesting to note that half of all train commuters also use bicycles to reach the train station or bus stop.
DCE: Is this analysis done for all your clients?
Rein Aarts: All of them, because the analysis is in the heart of our consultancy process, we want to know how people travel. We’ve seen that the analysis made also helps employers see what the options are. The MobilityAnalyst tool provides a very clear and profound view of which options are viable for which people. It helps in the transition process and it’s a very objective way of presenting the existing traveling options. Not only does the tool show cycling potential, but it also provides a ‘stacked’ overview of potential cycling policy, public transport policy, and work-from-home policy.
DCE: It provides concrete information that consultants can work with in terms of the advice they make to the employees on how to stimulate or shift travel patterns.
Rein Aarts: Yes, exactly. We apply this for all participants because, since 2020, we’re building up an ever-growing database of commuters in our region. With that database we can also help the government with, for example, defining good spots for mobility hubs. We use the tool to access the number of people for whom this location would offer a good traveling alternative. It also helps us with larger infrastructural maintenance, so to trace employers which will be affected by maintenance.
DCE: Do municipalities and provinces seek this information from you when they are in the process of planning infrastructure projects or making alterations to the road network?
Rein Aarts: Yes! It helps us to address the employers who will be affected by maintenance activities.
DCE: Is there one specific success story that you’d be able to highlight where large scale changes might have been made?
Rein Aarts: I think the main success is that we make the employer and the employee aware of the benefits of different ways of traveling. Everybody travels the way in which he did it yesterday, the year before, etc. It’s all major behavior and with the process we can point out options for people and we can make a new arrangement which suits every individual better than what it was.
I mentioned earlier that in our consultation we also work for public goals (ie. Avoid traffic jams, less emissions), but in the process itself we carefully look at the motives of the employers and the employees themselves because they can be different than public goals. Most employees don’t know that 20% of all their expenditures are travel related.
Sustainability is an important motive. Vitality is an important motive. We always look at those internal motives, and we build a new traveling arrangement on that. And the fun part of the game is that in doing that, we can make benefits in all areas. Cost can be lowered, people gain vitality, sustainability is improved.
DCE: Presumably, employers have to provide fewer car parking spaces. Additionally, there are fewer sick days as they can calculate the number of sick days taken using the MobilityAnalyst tool.
Rein Aarts: Yes, that’s saving the employer in all areas at once. The strange thing is that we can always generate those benefits and that the employer, and the employee didn’t think about it before, they haven’t recognized what is possible. Which is a strange thing because everybody travels every day, almost any day. Everybody gets stuck in traffic. Everybody wants to save money, and everybody wants to exercise a little bit more. And nobody thinks about traveling for your work in reaching all those goals.
DCE: If another European metropolitan area was thinking of utilizing this tool, what would your advice to them be in terms of considering this as an option and a worthwhile investment?
Rein Aarts: I think that that’s where my story started. We’re investing huge amounts of money in heavy infrastructure and in the Amsterdam area we now recognize we can’t continue because the money is limited, the time is limited and the space is limited, so you can’t go on building extra infrastructure.
At the same time the area keeps growing. There will be 240,000 new homes built in the coming 15 years in the greater Amsterdam area.
If we want to keep things moving, we have to work on our travel behavior. That’s the only way to keep things going. In order to realize that behavioral change, for us the tool [MobilityAnalyst] is crucial in presenting the options.
We know that 40% of the employees in our region live within a range of five miles from their work. The potential is enormous and not only for the individual but also for the spatial quality and the quality of life. I think that picture will apply to all metropolitan areas in Europe.
Learn more about MobilityAnalyst: https://mobilityanalyst.com