Pay people to Ride 2 Work!
The National Heart Foundation and the Cycling Promotion Fund have recently surveyed more than 2,000 Australian workers aged 25-54 who do not currently ride to work, and who live within 15 km of their workplace.
The ‘Financial incentives to ride to work survey 2014’ survey showed:
- Around 1 in 2 respondents, or the equivalent of 3.25 million Australian workers, stated that a financial incentive would entice them to start riding to work instead of using other transport
- 80 per cent of respondents, or the equivalent of 5.5 million Australian workers, support the implementation of a financial incentive, regardless of whether they would ride to work themselves
The financial incentives assessed in the survey included direct subsidy to riders, indirect subsidy through their employers, and tax deductions through the purchase of bicycles to be used to ride to work.
Cycling Promotion Fund’s spokesperson Stephen Hodge said there are many benefits of ride to work schemes, including reduced congestion and carbon output, productivity increases and improved health, as it is a very cheap strategy to address chronic physical inactivity. ‘Overseas experience has shown significant uptake when workplace incentives are provided to cycle to work, with half of participants in a UK scheme indicating they would not have ridden without incentives,’ Mr Hodge said.
‘We already offer many Australians financial incentive programs to drive a car to work and this would extend a similar model to those riding to work,’ he said.
The Heart Foundation’s national spokesperson on active living, Associate Professor Trevor Shilton said currently only 1 per cent of people cycle to work, compared to 66 per cent who travel by car, and this survey clearly shows there is an opportunity to get more Australians taking a more active route to work. ‘We are seeing a tsunami of health impacts coming our way due to our inactive lifestyles. Currently inactivity is responsible for 16,000 premature deaths and costs the Australian economy $14 billion every year,’ Mr Shilton said.
‘There are no easy answers to reversing the lack of physical activity in all our lives, but with lack of time cited as the biggest barrier, supporting people to get their daily dose of exercise on the way to work would be a big step in the right direction,’ he said.
The survey was well written up in The Conversation.
Overseas experience suggests that the increased levels in physical activity achieved through financial incentive programs justify the relatively small investment. The findings of the survey indicate that adopting a similar scheme in Australia would contribute to increasing physical activity levels. A mature scheme (after 5-7 years) is expected to cost AUD$12-15million in revenue foregone.
Other key findings:
- Those who live at least six kilometres from home were significantly more likely to report the introduction of a financial incentive would get them to start riding to work.
- Nine percent, or an estimated 750,000 workers, currently do not own a bike but would like to start to ride to work.
- Support for incentives is consistent across demographic factors including age, gender, income and education.
- Close to 40% of respondents, or approximately 2.7 million workers aged 25 to 54, stated that they cycled for either fun or exercise, with more than half cycling at least once a month. Of the workers who cycle or fun or exercise, more than half would like to start riding to work.
- Overall, one in eleven respondents reported that they do not cycle to work due to not having access to a bike. Respondents who raised the issue of having no access to a bike were significantly more likely to have a household income of less than $70,000 compared to respondents with a household income of more than $100,000.
- Having no access to a bike is a bigger reason for not riding to work (9.2%) than reasons such as inconvenience (6.2%), time & prefer other forms of transport (6.0%) and don’t feel confident riding (5.3%). But reasons such as distance (17.5%), unsafe road conditions (11.7%) and need car for work (9.7%) are still bigger reasons for not riding.