Federal agencies boost bikes with subsidy for workers


President Obama wants federal workers to follow his two-wheeled lead. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Like paying federal workers to bike to work.

The State Department today kicks off a plan to cut checks to employees to leave their cars at home. Workers can get up to $240 a year in the program to trade their gas-guzzling transportation modes for the self-propelled kind--so long as they’re riding “pedaled” bikes (no hogs or scooters, that is) and not enrolled in the agency’s other transportation subsidies, like the ones that subsidize their Metro trips or parking.

The money will cover bike repairs and “expenses,” the agency says.

“The purpose of the Bicycle Reimbursement Program is to reduce traffic congestion and pollution, as well as to promote wellness among federal employees,” says a memo circulated around the department.

The two-wheeled initiative (although the guidelines technically don’t exclude trikes or unicycles) doesn’t come out of the clean blue sky: federal agencies were directed in a 2010 executive order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and a 2008 law authorized agencies to offer a bike subsidy of up to $20 a month.

Although it seems a bit inauspicious that the program kicks off on one of the coldest mornings of the season--not exactly an incentive to hop on the old Schwinn for a bracing ride to work--there’s another enticement. It’s not a bad way to get started on that New Year’s resolution to drop a few pounds.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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