Company bicycles will soon be more common than company cars
Light electric vehicles will make future urban mobility even more ecological and healthy, predicts Espoo-based GoByBike, which has become the market leader for company bicycles.
In 2021, Finns gained access to a new tax-free benefit in kind, which has proved to be hugely popular. At the end of 2022, a good 300,000 employees were covered by the company bicycle benefit. Some 40,000 of them already use bicycles purchased or rented by their employer. “There are approximately 75,000 company cars in Finland. In 2023, company bikes will easily go past company cars in numbers,” predicts Heikki Tiittanen, chief operating officer of Espoo-based GoByBike.
Founded two years ago, GoByBike has quickly become Finland’s largest provider of company bicycles. The growth has been spectacular, as the turnover already exceeds €25 million in the second year of operation. “We might even be the fastest growing company in Espoo right now,” Tiittanen says.
During the coronavirus epidemic, there was a revival of cycling, as a result of which bicycle dealers had empty shelves for a long time. However, the increase, particularly in the use of electric bicycles, has been much slower in Finland than elsewhere in Europe.
Traffic accounts for one-third of Espoo’s greenhouse gas emissions. Commuting takes place every weekday, so the emissions are significant. Workplaces help to drive sustainable mobility as outlined in the Sustainable Espoo programme. This series of stories tells about actions by Espoo employers to cut emissions from commuting. Read the other stories in the series → Employer-subsidised tickets are good for free rides also on free time, Company bike to the office to get the most out of commuting, City bikes close the distance between metro stations and workplace, Full-service office building reduces mobility needs and Pastor rides a bicycle to work.
In the future, people will move lightly with electricity
Tiittanen predicts that electric bicycles and scooters and other light electric vehicles will be an important part of the urban traffic transition. “In the past, the transport infrastructure in Finland was heavily built on car traffic. Now everyone is starting to agree that it wasn’t quite the right choice.”
Now the e-bike boom is also gaining momentum in Finland, and this development can be the starting point for a major change in urban traffic.
Tiittanen admits that for about four months of the year, the weather is such that bicycle commuting requires a little courage. He rode the e-bike to the office even on the day of the interview, when Espoo was covered by a 40-centimetre layer of snow.
Today, the fast-growing GoByBike employs not just cycling enthusiasts. More than half of the company’s 26 employees regularly ride the bike to the office – naturally using the company bike provided by the employer. “It is great to see that many of us have started cycling after receiving the bicycle benefit.”
More than 30 per cent of large companies with more than 500 employees already offer their employees the bicycle benefit. According to Tiittanen, active cycling enthusiasts are the first to take advantage of the benefit at workplaces, but the next wave mainly involves e-bikes for urban use. “This year, more than 65% of the company bikes we have provided have been electric bikes.”
Mountain biking has also experienced a revival since the introduction of electric mountain bikes. The electric motor lowers the threshold for starting the mountain biking hobby. “Employers say that mountain bike groups have been formed at workplaces.”
Refreshed at the office
Running a business himself, Tiittanen sees clearly the benefits that the employer gets from promoting emission-free commuting. If the commute takes place in the fresh air instead of a car, the employees are more energetic and refreshed at the office. “This is certainly reflected in work efficiency and fewer absences due to illness.”
How to promote car-free commuting at the workplace? Workplace facilities restrict bicycle commuting the most, says Tiittanen. GoByBike’s office building in Otaniemi is a true commuter cyclist’s dream: a large safe indoor bicycle parking space, charging stations for e-bikes, direct access to dressing rooms and showers, a drying room for equipment and private closets for clothes.
For many, commuting is a daily routine that is difficult to change. Employers should consider various incentives and common campaigns to switch cars for public transport, cycling or walking. “When you try it, you can see how nice it is to cover, for example, the last section of your commute in the fresh air.”
The company bicycle makes the change possible
The company bicycle benefit has been a successful incentive for emission-free commuting and using the bike instead of the car for short leisure trips. “This makes the change possible, as the employee does not have to buy, say, a 3,000-euro e-bike themselves,” Tiittanen says.
The employee bike benefit is used in many European countries, but the Finnish application is quite generous. The maximum amount of the tax-free benefit is €1,200 a year. The average employee will receive a tax benefit of hundreds of euros per year if they acquire their new bike as a company bike, which reduces the gross salary by €100 per month. Many employers also use the bicycle benefit as a recruitment asset that is offered either entirely or partially on top of the salary at the employer’s expense.
Small employers often acquire the employees’ company bikes for the company’s own balance sheet. Larger employers, on the other hand, are attracted by the ease of the leasing model offered by operators like GoByBike. The service provider takes care of the purchase and financing of the bicycles and the management of the bicycle benefit with a monthly bike-specific service fee. “With a small investment, you can offer your employees the opportunity to make a big change in their own mobility choices,” Tiittanen says.
TEXT AND PHOTO: Petja Partanen
This article is a part of the Sustainable mobility at workplaces series of stories.