How to Create a Bike-Friendly Workplace
We’re off and pedaling already as May is National Bike Month. With it comes Bike to Work Week, and its briefer—but even more celebrated sibling—Bike to Work Day. (Officially, Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 18, 2018, but check your local listings because some cities, like San Francisco and Toronto, hold them on different dates.)
Whenever your city is celebrating, this is a good time to take a look at how you can make your workplace a welcoming one to cyclists. After all, commuting by bike has risen substantially over the past several years, so an organization that offers bike amenities can tip the scale of talent in their favor. That’s on top of all the benefits you and your employees will reap: more affordable commutes, healthier and more productive employees, more livable cities, and a greater commitment to a safer and more sustainable world.
Here are the surest ways to create a bike-friendly workplace, many of which we’ve adopted here at Zipcar.
Set Up Shop
Nothing says, “Welcome, cyclists” more than creating the physical space a bike rider would need once they’ve arrived at work.
At Zipcar’s Home Office in Boston’s Seaport District, we use our basement to provide a dedicated, indoor, and secure bike parking area. We did have to do one trade-off—cyclists face half a flight of stairs with their bikes in tow—but the payoff was worth it. Once the bike is through the door, only employees have access to that space. For good measure, we also have metal bike racks allowing cyclists to use their own lock.
Having a dedicated space also offers a platform for additional benefits. Wherever bicyclists store their bikes is likewise a spot for tune-ups. Creating a tool station, even a basic one, will give cyclists a chance to make minor safety repairs. We installed one from Pedro’s that comes with essential tools, all attached by steel cables so someone doesn’t…ahem…accidentally…take it with them. However, even a small toolbox is a worthwhile investment. Ask your current cyclists what they need. Some may even have extras around they are willing to lend or donate to the cause.
Any bike commuter will tell you that once the commute is over and their wheels are secure, there is still opportunity to support their cycling ways. On-site showers, with changing rooms and securable lockers, offer riders a chance to clear off the commute and get ready for the workspace. This is even more important for those workspaces with formal dress codes. (Or employees with a keen sense of smell.)
Be A Hub of Resources
Even if you don’t have the space to create dedicated bicycle parking and locker rooms, there are many ways your organization can directly support the commuting biker. Businesses can also offer ways to encourage other employees to join in the practice, too.
With the recent changes to U.S. tax law that suspend the pre-tax bicycle commuter benefit until 2026 (more on that later), cyclists who commute are eager for some recognition that their commute still involves costs like any other commute. Ask your current employees about their favorite local bike shop and create a partnership with them. Create an onsite Bike to Work event, and on that day, have the bike shop come in to offer tune-ups or repairs. You’ll find the local bike shop staff to be a good resource for providing bike maintenance classes and advice on the best gear. By working with the shop, you can possibly secure discounts for your employees, as well.
Your own in-house bicyclists are also invaluable. Reward them while also encouraging others, via onsite cycling celebrations and events. You can use those opportunities to offer education to those curious about commuting to work by bike, and even pair it with a bike commuter buddy program. Employees are often open to commuting by bike, but may lack confidence in their skills to ride during rush hour. Joining with someone who is experienced can relieve the fear and improve crucial skills.
Other ways to promote a bike commuting culture include providing information like maps that highlight the best bike commuter routes in to work, incorporating cycling related prizes and rewards into company rewards programs, and nominating a person or team to be an onsite “bicycle coordinator.” Even if you may not have physical space dedicated to the cause, your employees will certainly feel like cycling is in the air.
Support the Sport
Once you start supporting cyclists at work and in their daily commutes, more opportunities can come circling ‘round. Join and promote related events at work. For example, Bike to Work Day in Boston begins with “bike convoys” starting at points outside the city, with commuters joining in at waypoints, and finally ending at City Hall Plaza for a festival with food and vendor booths. Last year, Zipcar employees joined each other along the routes, sporting Zipcar shirts and gear, and celebrating together with the end-of-commute festivities.
Through your bicycle coordinator, your company can establish participation and impact goals for a set period of time. When goals are reached, report them out and join together for a celebration.
Your company can also connect with other neighborhood businesses by hosting a bike meetup on site. Sponsoring a cycling team, like Green Line Velo (which is sponsored by Zipcar), is another way to align your business with an active and engaging sport, while also giving employees a resource of expert cyclists. They’re all great ways to build partnerships, network with other likeminded folks, and have a good time, while rewarding those who are heavily invested in the bike life.
Perhaps the most significant support you could offer is getting behind a bicycle advocacy group like the New York Bicycle Coalition or the California Bicycle Coalition. They work with politicians and advocate for laws that improve safety, encourage cycling, and offer direct benefits to those who use their bike for commuting.
As mentioned before, the suspension of the tax benefit in the U.S. for bicycle commuters’ costs is an indication that to many legislators, cycling seems like an outlier issue. Joining with other cyclists—and supporting these groups through your organization—is a great way to advocate for sustainable transportation and make the voice of cyclists heard.
Whether you start with just a small initiative, or take on a whole program, any form of moving toward a bike-friendly workplace carries great benefits. Cyclists are an enthusiastic bunch; you’ll find your investment in them will pay your organization back, many times over.
How do you make your workplace bike-friendly? What would you like to see at your workplace to encourage cycling?