Take a bike to work
Large and small corporations alike have been offering company cars as perks to their employees for decades. Employees benefit personally from the improved mobility and financial opportunities while companies gain more industrious and mobile employees. But with recent concerns about CO2 emissions and the environment, many companies and employees have found a different solution – especially for inner-city commuting – the business bike.
Business bikes are a success in Great Britain
In 1999 Great Britain established the Cycle to Work scheme. The scheme allows a company to buy bicycles and loan them to employees, who pay for them through monthly reductions in their gross income. Since the money is charged before taxes are levied, the employees save on their tax bill. After the leases with their employers run out, the employees submit a final payment to buy the bike outright. Over 400,000 British workers have purchased bikes through this scheme, saving as much CO2 generated by a small city in one year.
Business bikes come to Germany
While such business bike programs were successful in Great Britain and the Netherlands, some other countries are just now jumping onto the saddle. LeaseRad GmbH, Germany’s first bike-fleet leasing company, was founded in Freiburg in 2008 by Ulrich Prediger. Prediger brought the idea for such a company with him to Freiburg from his time spent living in the Netherlands. LeaseRad functions almost exactly like automobile fleet providers by offering consulting services, sourcing of bicycles, leasing and buying financing options, as well as mechanical servicing and insurance. LeaseRad offers and maintains large bicycle fleets for entire companies like Telekom, eBay, and the city of Stuttgart, but it also offers leasing programs that function similarly to Great Britain’s Cycle to Work program. Such business bikes offer all the conventional advantages of cycling - no CO2 emissions, improved mobility in dense areas, and a healthy lifestyle - while also offering financial benefits to an employee and employer. Prediger estimates that an employee who leases-to-own a bike for three years will save up to 40 percent from an outright purchase through lower taxes while a company can also write off certain expenses. Thanks to a lobbying movement spearheaded by Prediger, the German Federal Government now treats business bikes almost exactly the same as company cars. Cyclists can use the bicycle for personal travel and they only have to report one percent of the vehicle’s listed value as monetary employment benefits for tax purposes.
Business biking trends
LeaseRad is encouraged by the Cycle to Work program in Britain and its recent success. They are in talks to equip other large firms like Deutsche Bank or Lufthansa with two-wheeled mobility solutions, while they are expanding their financing options. As LeaseRad gains more business, they are experiencing and expecting a trend where more and more companies and employees will use their services to buy expensive electrical bikes. Prediger expects to lease a large amount of e-bikes; they should account for about 80 percent of all the vehicles his company will lease. E-bikes make cycling to work in a suit a little more comfortable, and since they usually cost about 1,500 - 2,000 € but can reach prices near 6,000 €, the financing options make them much more appealing. The recent changes in the German tax code have made business bikes more appealing and accessible for companies and their employees. We can now expect that not only will LeaseRad see continued growth, but that other competitors will join the market by filling the streets with business bikes.