We all know that bicycle commuting has many benefits. But an ardent bicyclist I know recently learned that cutting back mileage on his state vehicle can have some unexpected drawbacks.
Russell writes about this Catch-22 at his Flying Abalone Bike Club blog.
A biologist employed by the state of Washington, Russell took notice last year when Gov. Christine Gregoire asked employees to cut fuel consumption by 5%. He uses a state vehicle for his wide-ranging field work and meetings at the headquarters, but he started “parking short” and riding his bicycle when he could.
For instance, he would throw his bike in the van and drive toward his destination, park, then ride his bike the rest of the way. Doing this when he had to go to headquarters, for instance, reduced fuel consumption by 8% as well as reduced congestion on the road and in the parking lot.
By “parking short” when he had to go to Seattle, he saved fuel consumption by riding the final 12 miles to the ferry on Bainbridge Island, saved on the ferry toll, and saved on high parking costs once he arrived in Seattle. (He's also found it's often faster to get around Seattle by bike.)
“I am not always able to “park short” for all that I do for my job, but when I can I think it benefits both me and the department. ”
For the last half of 2008, Russell estimated he reduced his van mileage by a whopping 17%. Everyone in his department, from his supervisor to upper management, encouraged him in his efforts.
So Russell was surprised last week to get a phone from the state Auditor's Office informing him that he would lose the state vehicle because he had dropped below 1,500 miles per month.
“Apparently I saved so much in miles driven by riding my bike and scheduling efficiencies that I dropped below this monthly threshold in order to keep my vehicle. They told me that because of the low milage the vehicle should be made available to someone else. They did not take into account that my office is in a remote location (Brinnon, WA) and that the van is needed for a dedicated purpose (shellfish disease control). The only qualifier was that it dropped below 1500 miles a month.”
Ironic, isn't it? Kind of like being penalized for reducing fuel consumption.
Russell said he explained to the auditor all the reasons he needed a van at his disposal and is hoping he'll get to continue using it.