Amazon wants to encourage more cycling commuters at its urban offices in Seattle and elsewhere by offering a bike-related subsidy. (Amazon Photo)
When Amazon workers return to office buildings in the Seattle area, doing so by bicycle could pay off as the company announced Thursday that it’s adding a bike friendly commuter benefit.
Amazon will offer $170 a month to its more than 60,000 corporate and tech employees in the region to help offset costs related to cycling to work. The company says the push for greener mobility is part of its broader sustainability initiatives. And the benefit ties directly to Amazon’s commitment to building urban campuses where employees can use alternatives to single-driver transportation to get to work.
While going green may be one advantage to offering the bike subsidy, adding benefits can’t hurt in Amazon’s ongoing battle with other companies to attract talent. Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and other tech employers in the Seattle region also offer bike-related perks. The New York Times reported in June on the varied measures employers are taking to lure new hires and retain them.
Amazon says in Seattle more than 20% of its employees walk or bike to work and another 50% use public transportation or carpooling options. The company already provides free transit passes to all employees.
Several years ago Amazon made protected bike lanes part of the dedicated infrastructure around its expanded corporate headquarters in the Denny Triangle area.
According to a company blog post, the bike benefit will cover a variety of potential expenses, such as:
Bike leases: Employees can lease a take-home bike, including e-bikes, for a monthly fee eligible for reimbursement.
Bike share: Employees can expense costs for dockless or docked short-term, app-based rental bicycles.
Maintenance: Employees can take advantage of two complimentary tune-ups each calendar year. Amazon will bring a provider on-site that employees can use, or if employees prefer to use their own services, they will be reimbursed.
Bike parking: Employees can access bike parking at public transit facilities or offices without Amazon bike cages.
A Jump bike rider streams past an Amazon construction zone in Seattle. (GeekWire File Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
The benefit in Seattle is available to all employees who haven’t signed up for ongoing parking in an Amazon parking garage, and the subsidy is meant to match local parking costs. Those costs can vary in other cities where Amazon is growing, such as Bellevue, Wash., Arlington, Va., and Nashville, Tenn.
Amazon expects the bulk of its corporate employees to return to the office the week of Sept. 7, and recently adjusted the guidance around remote and in-person work. The company’s post-pandemic baseline will now be three days a week in the office and the option to work remotely up to two days a week.
The company said the cycling incentive is meant to encourage greener commuting, even if it is just a couple days a week.
“Reducing our carbon footprint is a multifaceted effort that includes building urban and well-connected campuses, designing buildings that use renewable energy, and making it easy for employees to choose public transportation over their single-occupancy vehicles,” John Schoettler, vice president of Global Real Estate and Facilities, said in a statement.
Amazon released its 2020 sustainability report on Wednesday, which showed that as its sales skyrocketed during the pandemic, its carbon emissions also rose — by 19%. The report is meant to assess progress toward Amazon’s 2019 Climate Pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. The company did lower its carbon intensity last year, a measure of carbon pollution per dollar earned.
A cyclist passes Google offices in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. (GeekWire File Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
Some of Amazon’s competition in the Seattle area is also tuned in to two-wheeled incentives.
Microsoft employees can seek reimbursement for bike-related expenses such as bikes, gear and maintenance from the company’s Perks+ program, which allocates $1,200 to each employee to be used for a variety of fitness related purposes. Those who regularly commute to work by bicycle can be reimbursed up to $240 per calendar year for bicycle purchases, improvements, maintenance and/or storage. And employees are eligible for discounts at local bicycle shops for both tune-ups and discounts.
Google offers a daily cash incentive to those who commute to work using one of the eligible non-drive-alone commute modes — biking, walking, GBus, public transit, carpool, vanpool, motorcycle, and pick-up/drop-off arrangements. The benefit has been paused during remote work, but the company is looking to bring it back, a representative said.
Facebook employees are eligible for the company’s $50 Transportation Reimbursement Benefit, which be can be used toward bike-related commute costs like repair services, parts and safety accessory purchases. The company also holds holds online and in-person bike training clinics, equipment consultations and route planning workshops. Employees can also use their Wellness Reimbursement, up to $720 per calendar year, toward certain bike purchases, long-term bike rentals and even bike race entry fees.
Cascade Bicycle Club said it salutes Amazon for making the move.
“Transportation is the leading source of carbon emissions in Seattle and nationwide, so we encourage more employers to do the same as we all work to reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, alleviate traffic congestion, as well as boost health and wellness,” club President Tamara Schmautz said in a statement.
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