by Elly Blue
9 May 2011 11:09 AM

Economics of bicycling.

as bike commute trips continue to rise nationwide, many employers are catching on to the benefits they can gain by actually encouraging employees to bike to work. Some are even shelling out cold, hard cash in an effort to boost their ranks of bike commuters.

A Dutch study last year found that cycle commuters provide their employers with an economic advantage by requiring fewer sick days each year and enjoying better overall health.
Other research has shown that bike commuters are happier and less stressed than those who drive or take transit. At rush hour, your bicycling employees may get to work faster and with fewer unexpected delays.

Perhaps most quantifiably, bike commuting employees don’t require nearly the same amount of investment in parking—even when employers invest in deluxe, secure bike parking facilities.

OHSU, a teaching hospital in a hilly section of Portland hemmed in by narrow roads and expensive real estate, is acutely attuned to all the benefits of a bicycling workforce. They’ve seen bike trips “skyrocket” since they began handing out a $50 cash incentive for every 30 days of bike commuting an employee logs.

Indoor, secure bike parking with lockers, showers, and changing rooms are the traditional hallmark of a bike-friendly workplace. These amenities can be essential for employees in suburban offices who must look professional after commuting long distances in extreme weather. Several companies go a step further, responding to employee demand by providing dry cleaning pickup and dropoff services so that bicycling employees can skip the once-a-week car commute to restock their supply of fresh suits.

Let’s take another look at Netflix. The company has a much-lauded policy of allowing employees to work whatever hours they like and take as many days off as they need, so long as they continue to excel at their job.

Such policies, and the company cultures they create, can be invaluable to workers who want to skip rush hour, take their bikes on less crowded trains, head off on focus-enhancing lunchtime rides, or simply commute fewer days per week.

We’re fortunate that more and more companies are starting to see past the old prejudices against bicycling and notice the bottom line benefits of encouraging employees—all of them—to ride.