Biking incentives

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California, under their health and safety code, requires that businesses of more than 50 people, with subsidized car parking, must pay employees a subsidy if they choose not to use a parking space.

Los Angeles now requires that any building over 10,000 square feet must have showers and bike parking.

Sound like a communist conspiracy? Here are a few things to consider:

– car parking is expensive – over $30,000/spot in the downtown area according to one of our councillors.

– vehicle parking takes up huge amounts of space – on the sides of roads and in huge parking lots (look at Orchard Park, Walmart and other retail outlets – the parking areas take up more space than the buildings). Much of Bernard Ave. has no bike lanes because the sides are taken up with parked cars.

– vehicle parking spaces are usually covered in asphalt, create water runoff problems,increase heat in the summer months and are not benign to the environment.

– vehicle parking spaces and parkades are not attractive. I suspect they are to a car dealer but not to the remainder of us. They take up space that could be used for better purposes – eg. green space.

– when employers subsidize motor vehicle parking they are encouraging car use. Increasing car use results in more motor vehicle infrastructure, all of which costs huge amounts of money. Witness our $100 million (plus) new bridge.

From a purely financial point of view it may actually be cheaper to subsidize bicycle, transit and car pooling by paying employees to commute rather than using single occupancy car trips to get too and from work.

The problem with this however is that with our current system, there are no savings to an employer who subsidizes a cycling employee. If enough employees forgo their cars to get to work, the city will save money on road building but this will not trickle down to the employer. The decrease in property taxes will not cover the increase in costs of “hard cash” to employees.

What may work however is to allow the employer to reduce parking spaces thus freeing up some space for other uses. The city could also recognize that an employers program is decreasing the number of cars on the road and reflect that with outright cash grants to partially cover the monies paid to employees or reductions in property taxes to provide similar incentives. There is no reason that the Province and Federal Governments could not be involved in such program.

Our usual “build more roads” attitude is leaving us with the same “car culture” ruin that most other larger cities have become. Isn’t it time to be creative?

John.

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