App allows employers to encourage cycling commutes

Employees who cycle to work are less likely to die prematurely than their colleagues who don’t have an active commute, says a recent study published in the BMJ, a British medical journal.

“The findings, if causal, suggest population health may be improved by policies that increase active commuting, particularly cycling, such as the creation of cycle lanes, cycle hire or purchase schemes and better provision for cycles on public transport,” the study concluded.

But what about employers? Do they have a role in encouraging their workforce to cycle to work? The creators of the app ByCycling certainly think so. “If everyone’s healthier, [employers] will save a lot of money,” says José Diaz, founder of the Netherlands-based app. “It’s that simple.” 

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The app tracks users’ cycling activity and allows employers to reward them for every work commute they make by bike. In the Netherlands, 450 employees have already signed up. Two of the organizations involved offer extra vacation time as a reward and a third offers a cash incentive of up to 50 euros a month.

The app automatically tracks rides using built-in GPS and recognizes trips as bike commutes if they begin or end at the workplace. That way, employers won’t be on the hook for employees’ grocery shopping, socializing and wild weekend rides. To be eligible for the rewards, the rider must also travel between 10 and 30 kilometres per hour.

“The basic algorithm we have is based on speed,” says Diaz. “Of course, it’s not always accurate. If you go really slow by car, the app will recognize that as a bike [trip]. But we are improving step by step.”

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Launched in March 2017, ByCycling is available internationally. The three participating organizations are Dutch, but most of the requests for the free 30-day trial come from companies around the world.

“I think we haven’t seen any requests from the Netherlands,” says Diaz.

“Here in the Netherlands, the [cycling] culture is so big that companies probably say, ‘Why would I use you to encourage my people to cycle to work if they do it already? It’s kind of normal, so why should I?'” he adds. “Globally, in the United States, Canada, England, it’s easier because basically nobody does that.”

The app is available on Apple devices, and an Android version is in the works. The cost to employers is approximately $4 per employee per month, in addition to the incentives each company chooses to offer.

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