It has been known a long time that cycling is good for your health and for the planet when it substitutes trips otherwise made with motorized vehicles. Cycling improves fitness and it can improve your cardiovascular health (Oja et al., 2011). In a large meta-analysis, it was found that bicycle commuting decreases mortality by as much as 20% and it decreases the risk of cancer by 11% (Patterson et al., 2020).
The health effects of e-bikes are less known and depend on which transport mode
e-bikes replace, conventional cycling or passive modes of transport, e.g., private car. Another point is that e-cyclists seem to cycle longer distances than conventional cyclists, and thus e-bikes may also bring considerable health benefits (Sundfør, 2020). E-bikes also seem to increase the number of trips and can make cycling accessible to a larger share of the population.
There is growing body of evidence that the e-bikes can decrease urban GHG emissions (Phillips et al., 2022; Li et al., 2023). How to encourage the shift towards more sustainable modes of transport, such as e-biking, is one of the research topics in the CLIMATE NUDGE project.
Tax benefit for company bikes
A new type of incentive for cycling was introduced in Finland in 2021, when a tax benefit for company bikes was made available. A company bike is a bicycle purchased by the employer to be used by the employee. The benefit can be offered as a part of the salary or in addition to it, and it is tax free for up to 1200 euros per year (Verohallinto, 2023). Consequently, it is cheaper for the employee to obtain a company bike than to get the same money as salary. The case of the company bike benefit is interesting because it may offer a cost-efficient way to nudge people to cycle more.
At the end of 2022, about 38,000 people had already acquired a company bike and many of them have estimated in retrospect that the benefit has increased their cycling and decreased car driving (Pyöräliitto, 2023). However, there is a need for comparative data and a better understanding of the factors contributing to the climate and health impacts of the benefit.
Evaluating potential impact
To evaluate the potential impact of the company bike benefit, we formulated a study to be conducted in organizations considering or planning the implementation of the benefit. The study consists of a baseline survey and a follow-up survey, through which we aim to gain insight into how many people in the staff are interested in utilizing the benefit, how many take it up once they have the chance, and how it might influence their travel behavior. Who are the early adopters and for what reasons are company bikes wanted?
The data collection for our study is in a pilot phase and we are looking for more organizations to participate. However, we have taken a sneak peek at the data collected from two government organizations: the Finnish Environment Institute and the Finnish institute for health and welfare. While it is a coincidence that the company bike benefit is now topical in these two institutes that are also CLIMATE NUDGE partners, it seems that similar ideas have sprung up in several public sector organizations recently.
Preliminary results of the survey
Overall, 86% of responders (when including only those who know how to cycle) were interested or maybe interested in getting a company bike. We used multivariate logit regression to analyze the interest towards company bikes. Specifically, we built models for strong interest towards company bikes (58% of the responders) and willingness to choose an e-bike among those interested or maybe interested in a company bike.
Based on our limited sample, it seems that young, currently active cyclists in good health are the most interested in company bikes. In our data, each year of age decreased the interest towards company bikes by 0.7% and female employees were 6% less likely to be interested in a company bike. However, the effect of gender was not statistically significant. Those who cycled often were 28% more likely to be interested and those who used bicycle at least once a week were 20% more likely to be interested than those who did not. Health issues affected the interest towards company bikes negatively.
The data supports the idea that electric bicycles may increase the range of cycling both in terms of population groups and trip distances. In the sample, 59% of responders were interested in getting the bike as electric. Interestingly, the effects of age and gender were reversed when it comes to e-bikes: each age year increased the interest towards e-bike by 0.7% and the female employees were 4% more likely to be interested in it. Distance from home to work also had an effect. Those living more than 15 km away from their office were 13% more likely to be interested in an e-bike than those living within a 5-km radius.
These results show how survey studies can be used to detect factors which affect the effectiveness of behavioral interventions. Of course, it is difficult to generalize the findings of this study to the wider population. Further studies are needed regarding the company bike benefit. And more survey participants! It will also be interesting to see in the coming years how many of those who expressed an interest in company bikes adopted them and how the bikes changed their travel behavior.
If interested, please contact: uula.saastamoinen (at) syke.fi
Li, Q., Fuerst, F., & Luca, D. (2023). Do shared E-bikes reduce urban carbon emissions?. Journal of Transport Geography, 112, 103697.
Oja, P., Titze, S., Bauman, A., De Geus, B., Krenn, P., Reger‐Nash, B., & Kohlberger, T. (2011). Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 21(4), 496-509.
Patterson, R., Panter, J., Vamos, E. P., Cummins, S., Millett, C., & Laverty, A. A. (2020). Associations between commute mode and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality, and cancer incidence, using linked Census data over 25 years in England and Wales: a cohort study. The Lancet Planetary Health, 4(5), e186-e194.
Philips, I., Anable, J., & Chatterton, T. (2022). E-bikes and their capability to reduce car CO2 emissions. Transport Policy, 116, 11-23.
Pyöräliitto. (2023). Polkupyöräetukysely työntekijöille 2023. Raportti. [A bike benefit survey to employees. A report.] url: https://pyoraliitto.fi/wp-content/uploads/polkupyoraetukysely-tyontekijoille-2023-raportti.pdf, accessed 10th Oct 2023.
Sundfør, H. B., Fyhri, A., & Bjørnarå, H. B. (2020). E-bikes—good for public health?. In Advances in Transportation and Health (pp. 251-266). Elsevier.
Verohallinto. (2023). Työsuhde-edut. [Employer benefits.] url: https://www.vero.fi/henkiloasiakkaat/verokortti-ja-veroilmoitus/tulot/ansiotulot/tyosuhdeedu, accessed 18th Sep 2023.