Pastor rides a bicycle to work

18.8.2022 11.57
Heikki Lehti works on his basic endurance by riding a bike, since he also runs long-distance races. Often, his commute of six kilometres becomes a few dozen kilometres when he starts exploring forest trails.

Electric bikes proved popular when Espoo parishes started offering them to their employees.

While a company car is a familiar benefit to many, since 2021 the tax benefits have also been available for bicycles acquired by the employer. When Pastor Heikki Lehti, an endurance sports enthusiast, heard of the extended benefit, he thought this might be a good incentive to promote exercise among all Espoo parish employees.  

When he looked into the topic and discovered the Espoo-based company GoByBike, the pastor, who had already been considering buying a new bike, decided to submit a proposal to his employer.  

“And the proposal was approved,” Heikki Lehti says with delight. 

Currently, Lehti and about 15 other employees of Espoo parishes are riding brand new bikes provided thanks to the bicycle benefit. The benefit is available to about 400 full-time employees of the Espoo Parish Union, in total. 

Traffic causes a third of the greenhouse gas emissions in Espoo. Commuting is daily travel, which is why its emissions have a large impact. Following the Sustainable Espoo programme, workplaces are promoting sustainable mobility. This article series showcases the actions taken by Espoo-based employers to reduce emissions caused by commuting. Read the other articles in the series → Article series ‘Sustainable Mobility at Workplaces’. (coming soon)

The operator takes care of routine work 

The parishes ended up selecting GoByBike as their service provider. The company has already delivered 10,000 bicycles to organisations throughout Finland. For the employer, offering bikes is a fringe benefit much like a lunch benefit. An employee finds a bike they like, while the operator takes care of the routine work and delivers monthly reports to the payroll department. 

The pilot customer was the initiator of the idea, Heikki Lehti, who received his own bike benefit in early 2022.  Lehti, an enthusiastic outdoor person, chose the gravel bike. It is equally suitable for asphalt, gravel roads and forest trails with easy terrain. 

The tax-free bike benefit is accessible for up to 1,200 euro per year. Lehti currently has 100 euro deducted from his monthly salary.  

“The financial benefit comes from taxation,” Lehti says.  

GoByBike’s calculator shows that a person with a monthly salary of 3,000 euros saves a little over 20 per cent of the bike’s price through the reduction in their tax rate.  

“Another good thing was that you could look at the higher end of the price range, since you get the bike on hire purchase, in a way. That is very helpful since we’re taking consecutive parental leave in our family,” says Lehti, who recently welcomed a new child.  

Espoo parishes now have their own bicycle policy that defines what kinds of bikes can be acquired and how long their rental period is.  

Occupational Wellbeing Secretary Virpi Alén says that a typical bicycle benefit acquired is an electric bike from the top of the price range.  

“The maximum price supported is 3,200 euro, but you can get a more expensive one if you pay the surplus yourself.” 

Good for the environment and public health 

Alén is delighted that many employees seem to have discovered the joy of exercise through an electric bike acquired with the bicycle benefit.  

“We have received wonderful feedback. People are sharing photos of their bike rides on social media. The rising fuel prices may also have something to do with this trend,” Alén ponders. 

Heikki Lehti was also thinking of environmental matters when he proposed the idea of a bicycle benefit. After all, Espoo parishes are committed to reducing emissions through their own environmental management system. 

“I thought this could also advance our environmental goals,” Lehti says.  

Virpi Alén says that the cemetery supervisors also ride their bikes when moving from one site to the next at work.  

“I’d like to thank Heikki for bringing up this new idea. It’s also positive for the employer to have employees ride bikes.” 

Many parish unions throughout Finland have also contacted Alén to ask how the bicycle benefit works. 

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