Biking to Work - It’s Cool, Green, and Trending
By Gilee Corral, July 10, 2014
According to a new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau
, biking to work is increasing in popularity faster than any other mode of commuting. This statistic coincides with a surge of national media coverage on climate change issues and the launch of progressive transportation policies. Business leaders and sustainability advocates can use this coverage to promote green transportation initiatives and alternative commuting habits.
By Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The U.S. Census recently compared data from the 2008-2012 American Commuting Survey with the 2000 Census, and reported a variety of significant observations:
Although cyclists make up less than 1% of all commuters, it is the fastest growing mode of commuting.
In the last decade, cycling to work has increased 60% among American commuters.
In larger cities, commuting by bike more than doubled since 2000 - Portland, Oregon saw an increase from 1.8% to 6.1%.
Three cities in California ranked in the top 15 large cities with the highest percentage of bicycle commuters: San Francisco (3.4%), Sacramento (2.5%), and Oakland (2.4%).
"Average number of bike commuters by state. Source: U.S. Census Bureau."
U.K. research on popular perceptions of cyclists may shed light on the increase of bicycle popularity. According to a recent psychological study reported in The Independent
, bicyclists are seen as “cooler”, more intelligent, and more charitable than the average person - and 63% of those surveyed admit a fondness for the Lycra worn by biking athletes. A study conducted by the University of the West of England, featured in The Guardian
’s “Green Living Blog
” in 2010, also supported the perception of bikers as “cool”, suggesting an enduring trend.
Although Americans may not readily profess a love for Lycra, the swell in coverage on climate change is stimulating public interest in alternative transportation. With the release of alarming data from the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change
and a subsequent White House report (featured here in The Huffington Post
), climate change is a hot topic of national conversation, and biking and other low-carbon commuting modes will doubtlessly gain more attention. Rising gas prices and increasingly crowded highways are making biking more attractive as well.
Life in the Bike Lane
As the Census Commuter Report notes, Bay Area localities are encouraging biking through bike-share programs, infrastructure catered to cyclists, and other progressive policies. Locally, the recent Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program
is expected to increase sustainable commuting by encouraging businesses to incentivize mass transit use and biking. However, the policy could make more headway in encouraging biking with some adjustments to federal tax policy around commuter benefits:
Allow employees to pair the pre-tax biking benefit with the mass transit benefit, rather than having to select one or the other.
Raise the mass transit expenses limit from $130 back to $245 per month.
Offer tax incentives for businesses to install bike shelters, showers, and lockers for commuters.
Silicon Valley companies can use recent press about climate change to promote their own local policies and changes they are making to comply with the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program. Taking a strong stand for biking, walking, and mass transit will not only improve a company’s image, but will also attract an increasingly green workforce looking for progressive workplaces to match their new commuting lifestyle.
Your Bike-Friendly Company
Companies seeking to improve their “green” branding can become part of the cycling to work movement by encouraging their employees to give it a try, and making the work environment attractive to cyclists. Below are tips on how to get started in your business.
Install showers and lockers for cyclists on longer commutes to use, or work with a nearby gym to offer facilities for company employees.
Make space in the company parking lot for covered, secure bike shelters.
Offer the commuter tax credit for biking to work - saving out-of-pocket costs for employees and lowering payroll taxes for employers.
Publically support the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program and promote your commuter-friendly policies and incentives.
Offer rewards and perks to bicycle commuters and walkers.
Use employee-of-the-month programs and newsletters to publicly praise cyclists who bike to work.