Employer's Commuting Guide
Encouraging Employees to Bike More Often
Commuters select their travel mode based on travel time, convenience, and the need for trips during the day. For distances of less than five miles, the bicycle is a very practical alternative. Additionally, employees who care about their health, the environment, or saving money will ride from ten or more miles away.
If you can answer "yes" to one or more of the following questions, then promoting bicycle commuting at your business is probably worth the effort.
- Does your company support innovative ideas that improve employee health, well being, and morale?
- Is your company situated in a bike-friendly land-use environment?
- Is automobile access to your work site congested?
- Are a prescribed or limited number of parking spaces available for your company?
- Do any of your employees currently bicycle for transportation or recreation?
- Are your employees interested in a physically fit, active lifestyle?
- Are there people in your company who are concerned about the environment?
- Do you have employees who live within five miles of work?
Launching a successful bicycle commute program that's tailored to your business may seem daunting at first, but it is as easy as 1,2,3...
Appoint an on-site Bicycle Commuting Coordinator
This is the individual responsible for planning and carrying out project goals, and for acting as a liaison between project participants and company administration. Choose a person whose other job responsibilities provide a logical tie-in to employee bicycle commuting promotions, such as your company's human services, community relations, wellness or employee transportation coordinator. It is helpful if this individual is a cyclist, but even more importantly, they should have enthusiasm, autonomy, and time to develop the program.
Assess current commuter habits and bicycle commuting potential at your business
Begin by taking inventory of facilities and programs that already exist at or near your business related to bicycle commuting. Are showers, lockers, changing facilities, and/or bicycle parking already provided on site? Is there already an employee wellness program to which a bicycle commuting component could be added?
Conduct an Employee Transportation Survey
This will help you learn about your employee's demographics (how far away do they live?) transportation habits and preferences (who bicycle commutes or would like to try?), and determine what facilities, incentives, or types of education would encourage more employees at your business to bicycle. Why worry about installing showers if your employees tell you that what they really want is more secure bicycle parking?
Establish a Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC)
The BAC's purpose is to assist the Bicycle Commuting Coordinator in developing ideas, implementing and evaluating strategies, maximizing participation and sustaining interest in your bicycle commute program. Its mission should be sanctioned by company administration. Composition of your BAC should be representative of your company, containing cyclists and other interested persons. BAC members can provide one-on-one assistance to novice bicycle commuters by answering their questions, assisting with route finding, even accompanying them on their first bicycle ride to work. Your BAC can also be a liaison to public entities' issues that affect bicycle access to your company, but are beyond the company's direct control, such as necessary road improvement projects and bike route maintenance.
Employees may be hesitant to try bicycle commuting because they feel they don't know enough about how to do it. They may need help finding a comfortable bike route to work, or they may want to learn more about buying and maintaining a bike, dressing, carrying gear and navigating traffic effectively. To the novice, bicycle commuting may seem complex and mysterious. In fact, it's as easy as, well, riding a bike! Here are some ways to provide information about bicycle commuting:
Schedule a brown bag workshop series
No doubt, there are seasoned bicycle commuters at your business who would be happy to share their expertise for an hour. Local bike shops might be willing to send an employee to talk about buying or maintaining a bike, or lead workshop sessions. Provide door prizes and encourage a sense of camaraderie among regular attendees.
Sponsor a Bike Ed Course
Bike Education consist of classroom and on-bike instruction, taught by nationally certified instructors. Click here for a list of upcoming SFBC Bike Education Classes.
Assist new bicycle commuters with route finding
The first thing new bicycle commuters tend to ask for is a map. The SFBC has an excellent bike map of San Francisco. Recommended bicycle routes are marked on the map, and streets are marked for their grade- making it easier to avoid the hills.
Coordinate a Bike Buddy Program
First, identify some experienced bicycle commuters at your business who would be willing to spend a little time mentoring a novice. Advertise that hands-on help (Bike Buddies) are available to new bike commuters if they'd like it. Try and match Bike Buddies with new commuters who live in the same part of town. Bike Buddies provide new bicycle commuters with information, advice and moral support, and may even accompany them on their first ride. The SFBC also has a Bike Buddy program.
A few simple amenities make for an easy commute. The most common bike commuter concern is secure parking at work.
Knowing that their bicycles are secure and protected from theft and the elements during work hours is reassuring to bicycle commuters.
The easiest -- and cheapest -- way to encourage bike parking is to allow your employees to bring their bike into the office. Bikes can easily be stored in cubicles, leaned against a desk, or in the corner of a conference room or storage area. Just like furniture or any other object, employees should not store their bikes near fire exits. Read more about the Employee Bicycle Access Bill of 2012.
Another really great way to demonstrate your support in bicycle commuting is to invest in secure bicycle parking. Options include- a secure bicycle room, bicycle lockers, secure garage parking, or bicycle storage within an office space. Check out our webpage on bicycle parking for more information. While more and more buildings provide bike parking for their tenants, you can request and encourage your building owner to install quality bike parking if you are the commercial tenant.
If you have bicycling visitors coming for short term trips, install high-quality bike racks outdoors. These are by far the most common types of bicycle parking devices. Visually, the sight of a bike rack outside a building instantly promotes a community friendly image.
Flat Tires, Foul Weather, Family Emergencies
Flat tires are very rare, and San Francisco weather is great most of the year for outdoor transportation. It may be important, however, to provide your employees who want to bicycle commute with peace of mind.
Maintain a "tube library", stocked with replacement tubes for road and mountain bike tires, patch kits, tire irons, and a pump.
Offer a "Guaranteed Ride Home" program. In the event of mechanical failure, bad weather, or emergency at home, bicycle commuters may be given a ride, borrow a company car, or get their cab fare reimbursed.
But I haven't even got a bike!
Purchase loaner bikes for employees to borrow, or arrange with a local bicycle shop for long-term rentals. That way, employees can get a feel for bicycle commuting before making a financial investment. If employees commit to bicycle commuting on a regular basis, they may buy their "loaner" from the company at a discount.
Meeting Employee Dress Code
While some commuters (usually those who don't have far to travel) won't hesitate to hop on their bikes in suits and ties, business clothes and bike clothes are not always one and the same. Many potential bicycle commuters cite the need for professional attire at the workplace as an obstacle.
Provide a place for bicycle commuters to keep a week's worth of clothes. Alternatives include spare closet areas, empty offices, standing wardrobes or lockers, or hooks on the back of the employee's office door.
A successful bicycle commuting program has the commitment of the top management and is promoted on a regular basis. By backing up their endorsement with financial or other incentives, employers can demonstrate that their commitment is sincere, and that they regard bicycling as a legitimate and professionally acceptable mode of transportation.
There are many ways of promoting bicycle commuting at your business. Consider the following list to be a springboard, and let your imagination run wild!
- Offer a free "starter kit" to bicycle commute program recruits. Include such items as a patch kit, reflective stickers, water bottle, and bike map.
- Hold monthly prize drawings for program participants, perhaps in conjunction with brown-bag workshops.
- Have t-shirts made featuring your company logo and a bike-friendly design or slogan. Then give these away to bicycle action committee members, or bicycle commute program participants.
- Offer free or subsidized tune-ups at a local bicycle shop.
- Best yet, offer free SF Bicycle Coalition memberships!
- Participate in the citywide Bike to Work Week event. Appoint a worksite coordinator to handle registration. Offer free food, prizes, or on-site bicycle adjustments to employees who participate.
- Implement a commuter challenge contest with other area businesses.
- Hold a "Pedal with the CEO" day.
- Stage a bike rodeo for employee's children.
- Sponsor recreational rides and fitness races.
- Subsidize a Bike Ed class.
- Recognize bicycle commuters in your company newsletter or on a bulletin board display.
- Give awards to "dedicated bicycle commuters" who ride more than 50% of the workdays during a specified period.
Other Programs and Incentives
- Provide discounts or subsidies on the purchase of bicycles, helmets, or other commuting equipment.
- Provide payroll deductions for bicycle purchases.
- Offer cash back to cyclists who agree not to use employee parking spaces.
- Provide travel reimbursement (.10/mile) to bicyclists.
- Allow employees to earn .25 hour vacation time per day of bicycle commuting.
- Offer flextime or a fifteen-minute grace period for bicycle commuters.
If you determine what it might take to get your employees to commute by bicycle, install the necessary facilities, distribute information on bicycle commuting, sponsor incentive programs and stage promotional events, then you will have gotten your bicycle commute program off to a great start. However, your work is not quite finished. How will you maintain employee interest in bicycle commuting? How will you monitor progress? Here are a few final suggestions.
- Publish program updates on a regular basis in company publications.
- Continue to meet with your Bicycle Action Committee on a regular basis.
- Stay in contact with new bicycle commuters. A published interview or commuter profile could be an interesting way to draw attention to the program.
- Conduct a follow-up survey at the conclusion of the bicycling season (fall) to measure the success of the program and obtain feedback for improvement.
|A world of thanks to the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin for providing most of the text of this guide.|