Harvard is helping curb car use, by rolling out a new initiative that will not only offer University employees tax-free reimbursements for bike-related expenses, but will also entitle the cycling-inclined to Emergency Ride Home (ERH) services.

Reimbursements are now in effect as part of the Bicycle Commuter Benefits Act, according to the Harvard Gazette. To receive a reimbursement, all faculty and staff members need to do is be able to provide proof of bicycle registration through the Harvard University Police Department. The only employees not eligible are those who have been granted a subsidized monthly MBTA pass or parking permit from the University already.

Employees can be reimbursed from the University directly for the costs of any bicycle purchase, improvement, repair and storage “at a tax-free rate of up to $20 per month with a maximum of $240 per year.”

The ERH, offered through Harvard’s CommuterChoice program, gives faculty and staff the ability to take a taxi or rental car at least two times per week if they or a family member are experiencing a personal illness or emergency. The program then covers the cost of the trip, excluding tax and tip, up to four times per calendar year.

Through Harvard’s various initiatives, the University has seen the percentage of employees who commute by car to the Cambridge and Allston campuses drop 50 percent since 1999. The added bonus is, not only have the programs helped reduce Harvard’s carbon footprint, but they have also promoted healthier travel options.

As bike advocates and City Officials continue working more closely together to improve bike safety, hopefully other institutions will opt to travel down Harvard’s path and comp their employees who do use a more eco-friendly mode of transportation. Nothing encourages bike use quite like the word “free.”

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Photo Courtesy of Miamisburg