How Workplaces Are Incentivizing the Ride

At the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., commuting by bike to work is second nature for many of the employees.  In fact, CEO of National Geographic Society, John Fahey, encourages it.  National Public Radio’s Morning Edition recently featured Fahey and his crew on their daily lunchtime ride in the story Switching Gears: More Commuters Bike to Work.  Any employee who wants to get to know Fahey better –and their fellow coworkers, presumably–can join the daily ride around D.C.

The National Geographic ride is not only refreshing and rejuvenating for those who participate, it is also a great time to share a little workplace gossip.  As Fahey puts it, “What happens is, I find out sort of what the scuttlebutt in the hallways is. And sometimes, it’s totally ill-informed and sometimes, it’s spot-on. But it’s really good to know what people think.”  Interesting type of incentive to encourage his employees to ride on the part of the CEO, wouldn’t you say?

National Geographic HeadquartersAnyhow, joking aside, the other benefit of the lunchtime ride, is that many people have given up driving to work altogether.  For example, the National Geographic photo editor, Dan Westergren, gave up driving when his kids were young, because riding to work, along with incorporating the lunchtime ride a few times each week, were the most efficient ways to stay fit and still have enough time for his family.  As other employees explain it, you can skip a gym class, but you can’t skip going home when you have to ride your bike, so it is a great way to get fit and stay fit.  And although the lunchtime ride is optional, it is clearly a great way to social (erhm…brown nose) with the boss and get out of the office for a bit.

As many of us bike commuters know, riding to and from work can be refreshing, and even downright enjoyable.  It might even make us more productive and consequently, more valuable to our employers.  But there are other workplace incentives for riding to work.  Take the Federal Bike Commuter Benefit, which became law in January of 2009.  Employers can offer the bike commuter benefit, which results in an up to $20 per employee per month reimbursement for bike commuting related expenses.  I must say, my bike commuting expenses are not even close to $20 per month (I commute about 50 miles per week), so it’s like getting paid to ride!  Find out if your workplace offers this, and if they don’t, you can politely ask them to implement it, because well, it’s law.

What incentives does your workplace offer for riding to work?  What other incentives would you like to see?

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4 thoughts on “How Workplaces Are Incentivizing the Ride”

  1. Unchic Emily says:

    Coincidentally, I just wrote a blog post about what incentives I’d like my workplace to provide.

    The short version:

    -a website that doesn’t scold us or treat us like an annoyance

    -the ability to register as bike commuters and be eligible for the benefits that are available to people who use alternative forms of transportation

    -the ability to participate in the emergency cab ride program that already exists for carpoolers and bus riders

    -showers, or at least paid gym access that better suited cyclists’ needs

    -a more cyclist-friendly bus pass program.

  2. matt marx says:

    Thanks for this great article. At MIT Sloan we have a group called the Sloan Riders that heads out Thursdays at noon: A few people have bought bikes and tried commuting to work, though downtown streets are still too dangerous for many people to try.

    The bike-commuter benefit is a nice touch that MIT supports. I take advantage of it during the more temperate months – basically during Daylight Savings Time – and then I get a subway/train pass during the winter months when it’s often too icy to ride safely.

    I agree that commuting is a great way to get exercise. My 13-mile ride (each way) takes about an hour, which is about the same length of time I’d spend on the train/subway and less than I would spend in a car during rush hour. And because that’s the only way home, I can’t skip it the way I can tell myself I don’t have time for the gym.

    MIT also has secure bike cages and showers to encourage bike commuting. Not surprisingly, tons of students (and some faculty) bike to work, and the bike racks are almost always stuffed full except during the very coldest parts of the year.

    1. Unchic Emily – Thanks for sharing your recent, and timely!, post about how you would like to see workplaces provide some incentive for bike commuting. I also work for a university, and I would say that they have a similar stance. My main gripe with my university is that bikes are NOT allowed in buildings, as they present a “fire hazard”. There are some safe parking options provided, but it’s definitely an issue.

      Matt – It’s great to hear that MIT supports the Bike Commuter Benefit. Was their support of it advertised to the university community at large or was it something you had to go and find out about?

  3. matt marx says:

    It’s very widely advertised. There is next to no parking available here in Cambridge, so they practically beg people not to drive (though such appeals are wrapped in various save-the-earth messages).

    re: bikes in buildings, we are asked politely not to bring them inside but do so anyway for fear of theft (which is rampant around here)

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