Minister Donner (Social Affairs & Labor) was handed a new 3-speed bicycle as a gift last week. Now, don't think that would instantly replace his trusty black old (some would say 'vintage'), mint condition one-speed Gazelle bicycle. Like many of his colleagues and his predecessors he rides to work every day, and he doesn't stop when he has to consult with the Queen at her palace."This is my first bike with gears. These days, with so much work to do, they will come in handy." Acting-minister Piet Hein Donner happily accepted his new bike. "A new bicycle, a new beginning", he stated optimistically.
The two-wheeler is a gift from the Employee Organization VNO-NCW. Chairman Bert van de Haar handed the bicycle to 'the role model of Dutch cycling'. Donner always cycles to work from his home in Statenkwartier[neighborhood in The Hague]. The Christian Democrat does so on a very reliable model, the type of bicycle that people once called 'the steel stallion'. "I keep it for my commute. It's so old that it won't get stolen', the minister says. Photo: Donner's private parking at his department He'd like to use his new bicycle ("Blimey, lights without dynamo") for his rides between the House of Parliament and his ministry. He can't keep the bicycle. "It probably costs more than â‚¬50. I will have to put it in the locker with all the other gifts for officials....or use it as an official departmental bicycle." [which is most likely, as each department has a bike garage full of them]
There are 18 million bicycles in the Netherlands, says Donner's colleague Joop Atsma. "In 2006 765.000 bicycles were stolen. It looks like that number has been going down by 100.000 each year. The next government needs to bring that number below 500.000. All new bicycles need to be registered and have chips installed. Police and parking facilitators need to be equipped with readers to track down stolen bicycles." So there you have it.Often enough our leaders piss us off, disappoint us and we wish they'd just go away. But touch on a subject like this and for a brief moment they suddenly makes sense again.