As cities begin to add improved bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure, they should also create events and programs that incentivize using these facilities. Bicycling and walking to work requires not just infrastructure changes, but also a change of cultural norms. Community bicycling events allow individuals to become comfortable riding on the streets while seeing the city from a different perspective. Cities that host bike rodeos, Ciclovias, or running events foster community and bring people to the city. These events not only attract active modes of transportation but educate participants on safety tips and laws for all transportation mode users. These types of events have the potential to minimize negative stigmas associated with bicycling and walking, creating a more accepting atmosphere.
There are several ways that the public and private sector can encourage an active transportation community. Hosting cycling, running, and walking events is one way, but businesses and cities can also extend the incentives into other municipal services. Municipal departments such as parks, gyms, and swimming pools can provide entrance discounts to those that bike to those facilities.
Other public entities, such as schools can also incentivize children to bike or walk to school. A program in Boulder, Colorado enters students who bike to school into a drawing to win a $10 bike store coupon. Programs like this instill biking culture and health at a young age while also promoting local business at the bike shop. Schools are also excellent places to host events such as bike rodeos where students can learn bicycle safety maneuvers as well as the rules of the road.
Private businesses can also promote bicycling and walking to work through incentives. They can incentivize from within, by providing end-of-trip amenities such as bicycle parking, showers, and lockers. Workers may be hesitant to bike or walk when they know they will be hot and sweaty upon arriving to work. If installing shower facilities proves too costly, purchasing a local gym pass for commuters will allow them to shower and change close to work. Businesses can also go a step further and provide “flextime” to bicyclists so they do not have to come in during peak hours which may make for a more dangerous commute. Some companies even go as far to give time bonuses to bicyclists such as one day off a month or 15 minutes of vacation time each bicycle commute trip. This can add up to a week of vacation over the course of a year.
Companies can also provide encouragement in the form of cash incentives or equipment discounts. Cash incentives such as $.25 to $1 per commute can add up over the course of the month providing ample incentive for commuters. Businesses can opt to pay for bike expenses over the course of the year or even supply a fleet of company bikes to be lent out for commuting. Public and private businesses benefit by providing these incentives as well; not only will they have happier, healthier employees, but they will likely see reductions in health costs. Incentivizing active transportation is not only good for the environment but can increase employee health, thus reducing healthcare costs for the company.
The federal government is supporting bike commuters through the Federal Bike Commuter Benefit, which allows bike commuters to receive up to $20 per month as a tax-free employer subsidy for riding to work. In order to apply for the benefit, the employer must opt-in to the program. Employers also save money, about 9.5% of their FICA contribution. A commuter who bikes to work over the entire year can earn up to $240. Federal incentives are a great way to promote biking because it comes at no cost to the company.
NJDOT has promoted bicycle commuting across the state with the adoption of its Complete Streets Policy which serves to create safe travel routes for all modes of transportation: bicycling, walking, and driving. This policy promotes design that creates awareness of all transportation modes, which can increase the use of active forms of commuting. NJDOT also has a list of general tips, and riding information for commuters on their website. It also has links for riding on trains, buses, and ferries with bicycles as well as locations of bike racks and lockers.
Click here to view commuter tips.