Google Boosts Number of Bike Commuting Employees with Free Bikes

Bike to work programs, where employers help employees buy or loan bikes, can boost commuters’ well-being and cut their travel fuel costs. Google’s bike to work program that began in 2015 offered incentives to buy or borrow bikes. A study recently published in Frontiers in Future Transportation evaluated Google’s program to find that bike lending and buying incentives can be very influential for boosting the number of bike commutes in a company.

In 2015, Google started a new bike to work program to encourage bike commuting to their two main corporate campuses in California, where they lent conventional and electric assisted bikes to employees for free, and incentivized bike purchases.

Google’s program was an ideal case study for a team of U.S. researchers to investigate the effectiveness of a large employer-sponsored bike and e-bike lending program. The team synthesized anonymized survey and trip data collected from the program, which was aggregated and modelled. Using bivariate and multivariable analysis methods, the authors wrote that they “estimate the program led to average bike commute increases of approximately 1.7–2.3 days per week, roughly a tripling of prior bike commute rates for participating employees.”

This resulted in around 15 miles of reduced single occupancy vehicle (SOV) driving per week for an average participant, showing how influential the program can be for behavioral change. The shift was not temporary, as after the program ended, the numbers of bicycle commutes decreased slightly but were still greater than before the program started.

This evaluation is the first of its kind in North America, showing that commuting behavioral change is possible, when the right company incentives are in place.

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