New wellness programs encourage biking to work

by: Nichole Gunn May 28, 2010

In order to reduce their employees’ carbon footprint, companies in the Washington DC area are using incentive programs to promote biking to work. While only 1 percent of employees in the area currently bike to work, The Washington Post reports that the new incentive programs are likely to boost that number, as more employees will choose to bike rather than drive to work.

According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government provided in the Washington Post report in 2008 the federal government began a financial-incentive program administered through the Internal Revenue Service to encourage biking to work. Through this program, “companies can receive a tax benefit for providing employees with a subsidy of as much as $20 a month to buy, repair or store bicycles.”

Companies such as Toole have already begun using incentive programs to encourage employees to bike to work. However the number of employees who actually do bike to work is still low.

While it is much easier to simply get in your car and go, could it also be safer to commute by car as well? The Washington post interviews Bob Patten, “an early morning bike rider”, who rides his bike from his home in Takoma Park to his job in Hyattsville every morning. The trek takes Patten just around 2 miles, but because he rides his bike he is also able to avoid the annoying hold ups created by early morning and early evening Metro work traffic. Although this is an incentive in itself, pot holes and hazardous trails could put Patten in serious danger on his every day bike commute route to work. This could obviously be discouraging to others who contemplate biking to work, and could possibly be the reason so many employees choose to drive in the first place instead.

On the plus side, the Washington Post makes it clear that Government officials have already taken these setbacks into consideration. In their hopes of persuading more business men and women to bike to work, they have already begun making improvements on the roads, which will ultimately make the cyclist's ride to work more convenient, safer, and enjoyable. Alexandria’s City Council has recently approved a $7 million dollar budget that will be going towards pedestrian and bicycle safety, including bike lanes, markings and trails.

While the Government has begun taking its part in going green, various businesses have also taken on the role of structuring their companies strictly around greener forms of transportation. The American Society of Landscape Architects, for instance, has begun offering similar bike incentives such as a courtyard with bike racks and shower facilities aimed at encouraging employee health.