San Fransisco: Lots of folks bike to work. But bike for work? And get reimbursed for it? Siegel & Strain, an Emeryville architecture firm, reimburses employees who use their bikes to get to work-related meetings away from the office. The firm pays them the same amount it would pay for personal auto use - the IRS rate of 58.5 cents per mile.
"It's a really effective way for staff to reduce emissions and encourage good health," said Nancy Malone, a principal at the 18-employee firm. "Our practice is focused on sustainable design, and we had been looking for ways to walk the walk." More companies are taking steps to support bicycle commuting, such as installing bike racks and showers. But fewer encourage employees to pedal to off-site meetings during the work day. State law requires employers to repay workers for costs incurred while doing their jobs. For wear and tear on a bike, that can be minimal.
The state sets a reimbursement rate of 4 cents per mile for state workers who bike on government business. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition suggests a reimbursement rate of 10 cents per mile.
But Siegel & Strain - which came up with its policy when an employee asked about biking to meetings - figured the more generous auto rate was the way to go. "Someone going to a construction job site 50 miles away isn't going to ride their bike, so it's not going to be a huge cost," Malone said. "And if they had to drive their car 5 miles to a job site, we'd be paying the same thing." One limit to the program? Some architectural meetings require hardhats and other equipment that's hard to transport on a bike. But there's an easy solution.
"In the future, we may look at having an office bike with attachments allowing people to carry a little more - a new version of the company car," Malone said.
To find out what other employers are doing to encourage biking, see the Chronicle's environmental blog: sfgate.com/blogs/villagegreen.
Tips about workplace biking: links.sfgate.com/ZEIG or links.sfgate.com/ZEIH.