Bicycles and e-bikes offer a straightforward solution to various societal problems. Embracing these modes of transportation can lead to improved physical and mental health, reduced healthcare costs, decreased emissions, and cleaner air.
By contrast, cars and trucks have the opposite effects.
In North America, where cars dominate, a compelling idea is gaining traction—paying people to commute to work by bike. As our cities grapple with issues like traffic congestion, pollution, and sedentary lifestyles, it’s time to consider a new approach.
Beyond incentivizing the purchase of e-bikes, the next step is to actually provide monetary compensation for commuting to work by bicycle and leaving the car behind.
In this context, we delve into why it’s time for North America to embrace Europe’s example in incentivizing cycling to work.
The Popularity of E-Bikes
E-bikes seamlessly blend the convenience of motorized travel with the health benefits of pedaling.
Equipped with an electric motor and battery, these two-wheel wonders assist riders in conquering steep hills and effortlessly commuting at higher speeds. For many, e-bikes are the ideal solution, enabling them to arrive at their destination without breaking a sweat while still enjoying the advantages of moderate physical activity.
The shift toward e-bikes is not merely a personal choice, but also a societal movement fueled by innovative bike-to-work programs. These initiatives, prevalent across many European countries, come in the form of tax incentives that reward employees who choose cycling over driving personal cars for their daily commute.
The concept is simple: exchange your car keys for bike pedals and receive a tax-free bonus. All you need to do is to manually log your traveled kilometers through a mobile app.
Let’s take a closer look at some specific bike-to-work programs in different European countries.
In 2022, almost one in three employers in Belgium (29%) voluntarily offered their workers a bicycle allowance. This allowance is calculated based on the distance traveled by bike and has become a highly sought-after benefit. The percentage of Belgians benefiting from this allowance has doubled in just five years, from 7% in 2017 to 14% in 2022, according to HR service provider SD Worx.
What’s even more exciting is the introduction of a mandatory bicycle allowance. This shift is expected to further increase the number of cyclists on the roads.
On May 1, 2023, commuters who cycled to work but did not receive a bicycle allowance through a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) became eligible to receive a tax-free allowance of €0.27 per kilometer.
The mandatory allowance covers a maximum of 40 kilometers per day, equivalent to a daily maximum of €10.80.
The UK’s Cycle to Work Scheme was introduced by the government in 1999. This scheme enables cyclists working in the UK to save at least 32 percent on the cost of bikes and cycling equipment.
Since its inception, it has been embraced by over 1.6 million commuters employed by 40,000 different employers.
According to Momentum Mag, Comunidad Valenciana in Spain recently introduced a grant for bicycle and personal mobility vehicle (PMV) purchases.
Additionally, a proposal has been submitted to the Valencian parliament suggesting a non-binding incentive of up to €360 for employees who opt to cycle to work. The responsible group is also advocating for deductions in personal income tax and repair costs, aiming to encourage more people to embrace cycling.