Marc Gwadz of Washington, D.C. is the brother of prolific bike photo blogger Gwadzilla. Marc races cyclocross, works as a scientist at the National Institutes of Health, and wears “Cars R Coffins” socks on his bike commute. Marc also gets bike commuter benefits from his employer in the form of “bike bucks,” which are redeemable at area bike shops.
At the National Institutes of Health, workers can get five “bike bucks” for every 100 miles they commute, which they can redeem when buying supplies at two local bike shops. The program was the idea of Jill DiMauro, owner of Proteus Bicycles in College Park, Md., after talking to biologist Angela Atwood-Moore, who rides her bike six miles each way to the agency’s headquarters in Bethesda, Md.
The NIH program has almost quintupled from the 25 employees who first signed up in January 2007. NIH riders earned $1,655 Bike Bucks in the first six months of this year, and the program spread in June to include employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also headquartered in the Washington area.
It has helped Gwadz, a contracting scientist at the National Library of Medicine, who has commuted on bike for more than 10 years. He rides 20 miles each day – “pretty much rain, shine, cold, heat,” he said – and earns more than 100 bike bucks every six months. He recently used bike bucks to cover half his purchase of $230 bicycle shoes.
Incentives such as the bike bucks program are necessary if private and public organizations want to increase the number of cyclists, Gwadz said.
“One parking spot is probably worth tens of thousands of dollars, and they just give it away. If they want people to stop using that spot, you make it more enticing,” he said. “People aren’t going to change over just because you tell them about it.”