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Bicycle Commuting Incentives Increase Worldwide
Bicycle commuting is becoming huge in Belgium, with over 400,000 Belgians benefiting from tax incentives. Belgium suffers from tremendous traffic, and many citizens complain about the time it takes to drive even short distances. The government has implemented a program to encourage citizens to bike to work, easing congestion.
Thus far, the program has paid out 93 million euros to more than 400,000 bikers. The number represents an increase in nearly 100,000 commuters in just four years. The incentive is an allowance that is paid for by companies. The companies can, in turn, deduct it from their taxes. Employees are able to deduct the cost of bicycles and bicycle maintenance from their taxes, as well.
The average distance each cyclist commutes has increased, as well. In 2011, bicycle commuting distances averaged 944 kilometers, while in 2015, it was 1,045 kilometers. The average allowance has increased as well, with the average bike commuter receiving 230 euros per year. The maximum allowance received is 0.22 euros per kilometer, so an employee living 15 kilometers from work and working 210 days a year would receive 1,386 euros in compensation each year.
The financial benefits, however, may pale in comparison to the time benefits. Belgium traffic congestion can reach high levels, and studies have shown that, in high traffic areas, bicycle commuters actually spend less time on the road.
Bicycle commuting has also been shown to provide tremendous health and well-being benefits, as well. Regular bikers report greater levels of happiness and are maintain better levels of physical fitness than their non-cycling peers.
As Belgium’s bicycling incentive program expands, it remains to be seen if other countries will respond with similar compensation for bicycle commuting. The United States, for example, does offer a tax incentive program to employers, however it is limited and not widely accepted. A six-month trial in France was successful and have now been accepted as a cycle-to-work program. With more countries becoming more ecologically- and health-conscious, it seems likely that bicycle commuting programs will abound, soon.
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