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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bike commuting incentives

I thought this bike commuting program, at Silicon Valley firm Juniper Networks, was pretty great:

"With bike racks at every building, bike lockers at the main building, and three onsite private showers, and showers in the onsite gym, it seems that biking to the Juniper campus doesn’t have many cons. Juniper also provides an emergency ride home program through their subscription to VTA’s Eco Pass. And if that wasn’t enough, Juniper has a bike to work rewards program that offers a twenty dollar spending card for every ten bike commutes (with a maximum of forty dollars in any given week) which can be used at the campus cafĂ©."

But then I saw this:

"Employees in the southern region of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration are rewarded for riding their bikes or walking to work. They can look forward to an extra week of holiday per year."

Man, that's awesome. (Then again, it probably sounds a lot better to us here in the US than it does in Norway, given that they tend to get twice as much vacation as us to begin with.) I don't think that's ever going to be widespread, but I think it would make sense -- even in bottom-line terms -- for employers to give a small monetary benefit ($20/month?) to cover cycle commuting costs. Providing the parking is far cheaper than for cars, and such a stipend could be much less than a transit benefit. Plus, I know that my productivity increases, especially in the morning, as a result of biking to work.

For now, though, I guess I'm pretty happy with our secured bike parking in the garage, and the recent policy change that allows us to be enrolled in bike parking and the transit benefit simultaneously for part-time riding.


lj said...

Could you elaborate on why you think it would make sense in "bottom-line terms?" I think it would be great if more employers offered incentives for employees to bike to work, but I'm just not seeing how it would save employers any money. It seems to me that it would just be done for good PR, or out of the goodness of the CEO's and shareholders' hearts. Which is why it isn't more widespread.

teague said...

Well, it's a most direct in cases where the employer already subsidizes parking and/or transit (as my employer does). Bicycling is very cheap, so a reasonable financial incentive could still save them money, net. (They already save money on those of us who bike in and forgo our transit benefits all or part of the time, but a bike benefit would increase the number of people who do it.)

But I also think it improves productivity... admittedly, this is really only relevant for "knowledge worker" type professions, since I can't picture someone who works in a factory-type setting being more productive. But if you pay your employees an average of $60,000, an increase in productivity for one employee of 1% is worth $600 annually, while a generous bike subsidy would cost $240 annually. Obviously the degree of precision that I'm calculating with is dubious, since productivity is pretty nebulous. But I can say that I am more productive, especially in the early morning, as a result of biking to work and being more physically fit in general, and that's definitely worth something to my employer.

Anyway, that's probably more elaboration than you were looking for...

lj said...

No, that is the sort of elaboration I was looking for. I realize I was overlooking the situation in more urban areas where parking is expensive, and it probably would make sense there. But for whatever percentage of the workforce works in suburban office parks like those I see everyday, free parking already exists and public transit is unavailable or unused, so there wouldn't be any money saved. I think being physically fit might provide the biggest long-term savings: perhaps biking subsidies could come from health insurance companies.