Are Bike Commuters Healthier?

Are bike commuters healthier than their non-cycling coworkers? The answer seems obvious. Of course they are!

But health means different things to employees and employers. Let’s start with employers.

To an employer, health means a productive workforce, a critical element in generating goods and services that create a profit. Think of a healthy workforce like the grease in a well-oiled machine. Without it, the engine will wear rapidly, overheat, seize and quit. Investments in employee health are critical and can be analyzed as any other element of production, based on ROI.

Viewed from this economic perspective, good health means low health insurance costs, low absenteeism and high performance. Can we quantify this? Absolutely.

Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), the country’s largest bike wholesaler, has a health and wellness program that includes incentives to ride to work. They pay employees $3 for every day they commute by bike.

Look at the 2009 to 2011 results

  • QBP decreased healthcare premium costs by 4.4% compared with the national average increase of 24.6% in that same timeframe.
  • 2010 data shows bike commuters’ claims were 2/3 less than their car driving coworkers.
  • This was a saving of nearly $200,000 in claims, per 100 employees, compared with $45,000 paid out in commuting rewards.
  • That’s a $155,000 net gain per 100 employees.
  • Their health insurer estimated that the program prevented the equivalent of over $300,000 in lost productivity.

For QBP, the ROI for their bike-commuting program speaks for itself.

For Trek Bicycle Corp, the largest bike manufacturer in the world, a personal tragedy changed the company’s approach to employee wellness.

Losing a 20-year employee at age 41 with a wife and young children to heart attack, galvanized Trek to institute a formalized wellness program that focuses on saving lives, not just money. The program holds individuals, and their families, accountable for their health and provides incentives to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.

John Burke, president of Trek, told a group of Chicago business leaders earlier this year that obese and unhealthy workers are bad for the bottom line – in higher health insurance costs and lower productivity.

“If you’re not going to care about your health, then Trek is not going to pay for it,” said Burke.

Trek’s 8-step wellness program requires employees to do a health-risk assessment in order to get insurance. And then it helps them make wise choices around food, exercise and health-related behaviors like smoking.

Bikes are a key component of their wellness program (no surprise!). Trek pays employees $1/mile, up to $4/day, to commute by bike. They also participate in the National Bike Challenge, and encourage employees to ride. Burke himself rode over 6000 miles last year.

Trek, as a company, is healthier because of its wellness program. They’ve reduced waistlines and costs.

“Go back to your companies and make a difference,” Burke said. “Don’t wait for the government, don’t wait for your employees. Show some leadership.”

You might be sitting on data that could help you assess whether your bike commuters are healthier than their non-cycling colleagues. We can help you find out because, if they are healthier, more bike commuting would improve your bottom line.

How’s that for leadership?


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