May 21, 2010

Bike Commuters get incentives

For all of you who don a helmet and bike to work each morning, could be your employer is also one of the many companies like Toole Design Group, who are using incentive programmes to encourage more employees to bike to work. Friday is Bike to Work Day, a national event encouraging bicycle safety and awareness, however, cycling enthusiasts hope the idea will provide an incentive to many people to participate and bike to work. The 35 relief stations scattered across the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia will help the expected 8,500 riders complete their trips.

Organizer Doug Franklin hopes the truly regional effort, will empower and encourage cyclists, including a lot of new ones who have never done it before, to do so now. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments reports, around 1% of residents in the area already cycle to work, with communities encouraging more people ride their bicycles as a main mode of transport. A financial-incentive programme was begun by the federal government in 2008, administered through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to encourage people to cycle to work. A tax benefit will be given to companies providing a $20 per month subsidy to their employees, to buy, repair or store their bicycles.

The city launched its first bike-share programme in the District in 2008, and plans to expand the programme from 10 to a 100 bike stations by December. According to Jim Sebastian, responsible for managing the city’s bicycle programme and who cycles to work thrice a week, 3% of D. C. residents cycle to work. He says, in a bid to reduce the number of people who drive to work, they are doing their own marketing to encourage people to cycle or walk.

The District’s network of 45 miles of bicycle lanes will be expanded 80 miles across the city, with bicycle lanes expected to be opened within the next few weeks, along the centre of Pennsylvania Avenue, from the White House to the Capitol. Alexandria’s City Council has ear-marked $7 million over the next 10 years for pedestrian and bicycle safety, including bike lanes, markings and trails. Montgomery County, by encouraging more employers and developers to provide bike amenities, is also promoting bicycling in places like White Flint, Takoma Park and Bethesda.

Toole, with around 25 employees, initiated a bike incentive programme four years ago, with 20% of its staff members cycling to work regularly. Every six months, Toole employees who cycle to work receive up to $200 in gift cards. While, some use them to buy more bike equipment, Amazon and iTunes gift cards are also popular among employees.

To reduce their employee’s carbon footprint, the American Society of Landscape Architects in Northwest Washington, offers the IRS backed reimbursement to its 43 employees, along with an extra $50 a year, showers and a courtyard with bike racks. Over 100 employees participate in the bike-to-work programme at the law firm Perkins Coie LLP of the District, which also participates in the federal reimbursement programme, including providing bicycle pumps, tools and bicycle storage for its 1,800 employees across the country. SOURCE: Visit Bulgaria

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