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Companies are offering Capital Bikeshare as a perk to lure millennials

Some employers in the Washington region are getting creative in recruiting millennials, offering them Capital Bikeshare memberships as part of their benefits packages.

More than 160 employers in the District are corporate members of the region’s bike system, giving their workers free or subsidized access to the network of 3,700 bikes. Among those offering the perk are the D.C. government and 12 federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Transportation, which joined last year to give more than 200 workers free bikeshare memberships.

Employers and city transportation officials say adding Bikeshare as a flexible commuting benefit is becoming a hot perk as the bike-riding population continues to grow. Some see it as a no-brainer to attract young talent, particularly millennials who are generally less likely to own a car and more likely to bike to work. More than half of Capital Bikeshare’s members are 35 or under.

“This is really proving to be something that if not a deciding factor at least helps put the scale in our favor when people are looking at the prospective employers they want to work for,” said Pam Poisson, senior vice president for operations at the American Wind Energy Association, which began offering Bikeshare as benefit last year.

“Our current employees are a lot happier because they feel that we are giving them benefits that are meaningful to them,” she said, noting that so far one fourth of the workforce of 55 employees opted in for the Bikeshare membership.

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In its sixth year of operations, Capital Bikeshare’s growth is partly driven by the corporate program.  On average, the system of red bikes adds 10 corporate members each month. As many as 6,500 of the system’s nearly 32,000 members are enrolled through their employer’s program.

“It is a win-win-win for employers, employees and Capital Bikeshare,” said Kimberly Lucas, bike program specialist with the District Department of Transportation. “Employers are often looking for ways to encourage their employees to get around without their cars. Employees are looking for affordable, fun ways of transportation. And Capital Bikeshare is looking for more members.”

Growing interest in joining the bike network, however, can signal progress in the incorporation of biking into the city’s transportation network. Investments in bike lanes and other bike infrastructure has led to a shift in how people commute in the District, chiefly igniting a bike renaissance. As a result, employers are prompted to make bike facilities available, offering showers and providing bike rooms in their garages.

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As more bike stations are added downtown and across the region, employers too are beginning to see the system as integral to the region’s transit network, officials said. The bike network that began six years ago in downtown D.C. now has stations in four quadrants of the city, and in Alexandria as well as Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery counties.

Employers say minimal investment can pay off in making the workforce happier and more productive. In addition, they are doing their small part to take cars off the region’s gridlocked roads.

“A lot of these folks live in D.C. or live just outside D.C. but on a bike trail, and they like the fact that they can leave their house whenever,” Poisson said. “They avoid traffic issues. They avoid Metro. They also feel that they can run out on an errand at lunch time, get there and back quicker than if they took just about any other mode of transportation.”

Poisson said having a bike station just two blocks away from her association’s M Street offices makes it a good choice to get around. Nearly 80 percent of the staff commutes via a mode other than driving, and greater demand for bike facilities has led to the creation of a bike room for those who wish to bring their bikes to work, she said.

Bikeshare offers its corporate partners reduced annual membership rates of $50 per employee versus  the regular $85 rate.  Companies can choose to cover the entire cost for their employees or split it.  The most popular option is the silver membership, which means the employer and employee pay $25 each.

With 440 bike stations across the region, the Washington region has one of the most successful bike programs in the country, and one that continues to expand.  In the District, there are plans to add 30 stations before the end of the fiscal year in September.

“Bikeshare is something people are interested in,” Lucas said. “This is an opportunity for employers to really shine and look as though they are thinking outside of the box.”