A bicycle commuting benefit could help you separate from the pack
In this candidate-driven job market, prospective employees increasingly expect benefits related to wellness, workplace flexibility, and social responsibility. Adding a bike-to-work benefit can make a difference in recruiting and retention, especially (although not exclusively) among Millennials.
The demand has been building for years now. Between 2000 and 2017, bike commuting in the United States increased 43%.1 And data suggests that the trend will continue. In 84% of the 70 largest American cities, bike commuting is still going up.2 In “bike friendly communities,” where local governments encourage bicycle commuting with infrastructure improvements such as bike paths and bike lanes, bike commuting has seen staggering growth. For example, in Portland, Oregon, it increased 408%3, so that today a full 6.54% of Portland’s commuters bike to and from their jobs.4 Minneapolis isn’t far behind, with 4.19% of commuters traveling by bicycle.5
It probably won’t come as a surprise that the greatest number of bike commuters are between 16 and 24 years of age.6 One quarter of Millennials surveyed say they want to bike more—the highest of any generation.7 Millennials and incoming Gen Z workers may choose to bike to work because many don’t drive (in 2018 fewer than a third of all 16-year-olds had a driver’s license, down from nearly 50% thirty years ago)8, as a money-saving strategy (one way of coping with high levels of student debt) or because they’re concerned about the carbon footprint left by automobiles. Gen-Xers and Boomers (who in 2014 accounted for 22% of the country’s growth in adult biking9) may share that environmental concern and see biking to work as a way to remain physically active, a contribution to their overall wellness.
A bike benefit can dovetail perfectly with your company’s wellness benefits and go a long way towards helping employees meet the CDC’s physical activity recommendation, of at least 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity per week.10
Structuring a bicycle benefit is simple. You specify what you want to offer as qualifying expenses (purchase of a bike, bike maintenance, accessories or upgrades needed for safe commuting, or bike storage) and you have the flexibility set your own reimbursement limit. Account administration is straightforward: the employee sets up a monthly election on an open enrollment basis and contributions are made on a post-tax basis.
Companies on the leading edge of the bike-friendly movement supplement their bike commuting benefit with other offerings attractive to cycling enthusiasts, such as dedicated bike parking/storage areas, on-site visits from bike mechanics, spandex-friendly dress codes, and employee group bike rides during lunch or after the workday is over. But it’s easy to start with the bike benefit account and gain employee gratitude.
How can you know if a bicycle benefit makes sense for your company? Biking to work is most popular in large and medium cities (cities with populations over 100,0000), but is also thriving in select smaller towns, especially those with a college or university. 11 When evaluating the merits of a bike benefit, consider this metric: biking to work catches on best in communities where the two-wheel commute is about 10-14 minutes each way.12 Being located in a community with bike lanes and trails can help extend that optimal commuting distance and make bike commuting more attractive.
As more and more cities and towns follow the lead of bike-friendly locations like Portland, Minneapolis, New York, Boston, and Washington DC, an increase in bike commuting is likely to follow. Your company’s support for bike commuting, and for the infrastructure improvements that help biking thrive, can help identify you as a future-focused company with the unique and special benefits young candidates (and older ones, too) are looking for.
- “Where We Ride, Analysis of bicycle commuting in American Cities,” report on 2017 American Community Survey data by The League of American Bicyclists: https://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/Where_We_Ride_2017_KM_0.pdf
- “New Data On Bike Commuting,” The League of American Bicyclists, 2018: https://bikeleague.org/content/new-data-bike-commuting
- “The Growth of Bike Commuting,” The League of American Bicyclists, 2015: https://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/Bike_Commuting_Growth_2015_final.pdf
- “Where We Ride; Analysis of bicycle commuting in American Cities,” report on 2017 American Community Survey data by The League of American Bicyclists: https://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/Where_We_Ride_2017_KM_0.pdf
“Modes Less Travelled—Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008 -2012,” United States Census Bureau report: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/2014/acs/acs-25.pdf
- “Are Millennials Really the Generation that Bikes?” Transportation Research and Education Center, Portland State University, March, 2017: https://trec.pdx.edu/blog/are-millennials-really-generation-bikes
- “Millennials like bikes and walking more than cars,” Orlando Sentinel, October, 2014: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/os-millennials-no-drive-20141029-story.html
“Bike use is rising among the young, but it is skyrocketing among the old,” PeopleForBikes: June, 2014: https://peopleforbikes.org/blog/bike-use-is-rising-among-the-young-but-it-is-skyrocketing-among-the-old/
“Bicycle Commuter Benefit,” The League of American Bicyclists: https://www.bikeleague.org/content/bicycle-commuter-benefit
“Modes Less Travelled—Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008 -2012,” United States Census Bureau report, May, 2014: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/2014/acs/acs-25.pdf