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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Employers: Embrace bicycle commuting

Image of stylish woman on bicycle
From the Idaho Statesman, 06.11.08:

Our View: Workers, employers: Embrace bicycling
If rising gasoline prices are crimping your budget, you might find relief--and better health--by bicycling to work.

The best way to reduce local gasoline use is to reduce commutes to work in vehicles that burn the stuff. Bicycling up to 10 miles "is a very do-able commute," said Mark McNeese, the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the Idaho Transportation Department.

Ask your employer to support you. Your company may have to cough up some money to pay for improvements like secure bicycle storage. But there's a business argument for getting you out of your car and onto your bike. Your employer could get a healthier, more productive and less financially stressed employee. If enough people join you, we'll all get cleaner air, less traffic congestion, and a better quality of life. (Read more.)
A supportive employer can really enhance the appeal of commuting by bicycle. Two great articles this week point the way for employers: this supportive editorial from Idaho; and a television report on Children's Hospital in Seattle. The hospital is encouraging employees to bike commute by providing secure bike parking, showers and lockers, a cash incentive, and free emergency cab rides. From KING-TV (Seattle):
Children's short term goal is to get at least 10% of its employees bicycling to work... Next month, employees who pledge to ride to work twice a week will be given a free bike. "These bikes will come with fenders, lights and a rack and a helmet so that the employee has everything they need for a bicycle commute," said Barbara Culp, Children's Hospital bicycle program. (Read more, includes video.)
This "puff piece" about Seattle Children's Hospital suggests the institution is promoting bikes to improve health and the environment. Maybe. I suspect it's more about traffic mitigation. Hospitals are major traffic generators, and neighbors are often contentious about the congestion and frequent screaming ambulances.

Children's Hospital should be commended for embracing bicycling. And this traffic mitigation approach might strengthen your own case with your employer to better support bicycling, especially if it's an organization that generates significant traffic. Employers can save on parking provision, and more bicycling employees will open vehicle spaces for customer parking. And, as Children's Hospital demonstrates, encouraging bicycling can generate favorable publicity.

How bike-friendly is your workplace? What strategies have you used to encourage your employer to embrace bike commuting?

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Bike commuters find employers that smooth path, Crain's Chicago Business
Visit: Children's Hospital reshapes daily commute,
Visit: Commuting by Bike: Good for individuals, good for business, Lexington Business (KY)
Visit: Encourage Businesses and Employers. League of American Bicyclists
Visit: Bike to Work: Employer's Guide, Bicycle Coalition of Maine
Visit: Employer's Bike Guide, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
Visit: How to Make Your Business Bike-Friendly, Bike Arlington
Visit: Pharma corp encourages bike commuting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Brewer is bike-friendly employer, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Google (Europe) gifts bikes to staff, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Businesses show transportation vision, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


JHop said...

We needn't care whether the employer promotes bicycle commuting to mitigate traffic or, as asserted, for the health of the riders. The important thing is that it's the right thing to do -- for Seattle, and for America.

cadabeso said...

I don't think most employers, including mine (UW), are taking the right approach to get their employees to bicycle to work. Those of us who are already inclined to bike to work aren't doing it because of Bike to Work Day, or even Ride in the Rain. Most of my coworkers think I'm nuts to bike to work, even though my current commute is only 1.5 miles, all of it on the Burke-Gilman. They are terrified of bicycling on the street, and their employer isn't doing anything to lessen their fear of bicycling or their desire to drive their cars.

What would make a difference would be to have the CEOs of our companies start biking to work, rain or shine. Photos of the CEO on his/her bike would be plastered all over the place. The CEO would state publicly, and at every leadership meeting, that they expect their VPs and department heads to start driving (and flying) less and bicyling more (if it's not too far or too much of a hardship). Any flextime arrangement would be expanded to include bicyclists who need extra time to get to work by bike; the extra time people perceive it takes to bike to work is a major hindrance. Basically, every aspect of the company would be planned around the assumption that employees at every level are going to bike, or take the bus, rather than driving. Parking would be made much more expensive, with the extra income subsidizing innovative bicycle programs (like Children's).

There needs to be a whole different way of thinking about getting people to bike to work.

Anonymous said...

My employer is passively supportive -- that is, they have so far permitted me to park and lock where I do, and to leave change-out clothes hanging in the shop bathroom. I haven't impacted anyone else, so I am able to continue. I think that's commonplace.

I would love for there to be more ACTIVE support by employers. I would even be pleased with active VERBAL support -- it would go a long way with me if my employer simply said "Hey, thanks for riding your bike. It helps us all."

I'm not holding my breath.

clark said...

it's becoming a lot better at my small office. i was the only one doing this for months. a couple others occasionally joined certain days last summer. this year we got a bike storage room, and it typically has four or five bikes in it every day now. not bad, out of 13 total employees.

Anonymous said...

Using a punch card system, employer pays bike commuters $50 for every 35 bike commutes to work. Over the course of a year, this is $300 - $350--enough to more than pay for all routine maintenance (tires, tune ups, brake pads). And there's nothing like whizzing past a half mile of backed up traffic on a sunny Friday afternoon.

dr2chase said...

Sun's running a 12-week program of logged commuting minutes to enter a raffle. Accumulate 2000 minutes in the 12-weeks, you become eligible for various Valuable Prizes.

The problem of timid non-bicyclists is beginning to annoy me on several levels. On the one hand, what a bunch of innumerate, ignorant wimps -- we all run around like crazy people because of a few bad tomatoes, but 100 people die in auto accidents every day, and cars cost us money and health. As a nation, we're wringing our hands about gasoline costs, and energy supply, and what-will-we-do, can-technology-save-us, when we've got bikes, right now, that could take a large bite out of our oil consumption.

On the other hand, yes, it is incredibly annoying that people need to learn effective cycling to be reasonably safe because our intuition does not automatically guide us to do safe things (that is, overtaking traffic is not the problem that we naively think it is, but riding next to parked cars is quite dangerous because we might get doored).

And finally, what a waste of time Effective Cycling has been. I cannot help but think of it as being something like Uncle Tom cycling -- do what we can to get along with cars, cyclists must adapt, we don't really change the rules/infrastructure to fit people's natural instincts and the abilities and limitations of bikes. We tried one way, Europe tried the other, and what they tried, worked, and what we tried, did not. We've lost decades.