Nova Scotia

Halifax peddles worker bike program

Halifax city employees who choose a bicycle over a car may one day get to claim their mileage.

Halifax city employees who choose a bicycle over a car may one day get to claim their mileage.

A report prepared by municipal staff recommends a bike-share program and financial incentives for employees to cycle to their meetings.

There are many advantages, said Richard MacLellan, manager for environmental sustainability for the Halifax Regional Municipality. His office is at Alderney Gate in Dartmouth. If he has a meeting in Halifax, he takes the ferry and either walks or rides his bike.

"It's quicker on my bike than if I had to park in Scotia Square or find parking somewhere else. Also, it's way cheaper," he said.

The municipality covers the cost of taxi chits and reimburses drivers for their car mileage. The current policy doesn't mention travel by public transit or bicycle.

Coun. Jennifer Watts said HRM doesn't do enough to encourage its employees to use their bikes to get around while on the job.

"Supporting our car culture has a tremendous cost in many ways that we don't consider. I think it's also a fairness issue," she said.

Some cities in England cover mileage for cyclists to compensate them for the wear and tear on their bikes. In Canada, one company in Winnipeg offers a $6 flat fee per trip.

HRM staff said the municipality has a chance to be a leader in promoting sustainable workplace trips, but more investigation is needed before changing the travel reimbursement policy.

"Staff would have to investigate some issues, including risk, more thoroughly," the report states.

'Send a message'

Halifax universities and local hospitals already have bike-sharing programs. The HRM staff report says starting its program would cost less than $1,000.

Watts said there are a number of benefits, from reduced costs to better health.

"And it would send a message to residents that this is a feasible way of doing business by using bikes," she said.

The staff report is expected to be forwarded to HRM's committee on sustainability.