Being a Bike-Friendly Business By Joni Mehler

Bike parking at the Hamm's Building at 15th and Bryant Streets is secure, convenient, and attractive.
"I think it's safe, you can take off your bicycle helmet now." I thought I was gonna die. These words were said to me just as I was finishing up with a two hour job interview. There I was, sitting in front of the Vice-President of Operations and Engineering in a skirt and high-heels with my bicycle helmet!

Despite a dressing down trend, many businesses still require formal fashions. Cycling to work in designer suits and high-heels isn't very feasible. Probably even more of a concern for bicycle and potential bicycle commuters, is the need for a secure place to park their bike while they are at work. And yet the traffic jams and unavailable parking along with undependable public transportation options make cycling a great way to get to work. For almost a year after being hired (even after my ridiculous helmet-clad interview), I happily brought my bicycle right into my office at Whole Earth Networks located on the top (6th) floor of the China Basin Building. This all changed one day...

"Excuse me, Miss. You can't bring your bike in the building."

"But I work here. I've been bringing my bike inside for the last 8 months and..."

"Sorry. Building Policy. No bikes inside!"

"Fine! So maybe you can call my boss and let him know that I had to go home. I'm not leaving my Rivendell locked up anywhere," and out the door I went!

Instead of going home though, I had a better idea. I went around to the backside of the China Basin building, and seeing the coast was clear, I rolled my bike onto the freight elevator, which was conveniently located right outside my office! Right on! Even though no one said anything to me about the scene I'd made downstairs, I felt guilty. So much so that before leaving at the end of the day, I popped my head into my boss's office and said, "Hey Dave, I had a little run-in with Building Management this morning about bringing my bike inside...someone might call you..." Dave kinda smiled. He said that he knew all about it. He also said that they had me on videotape going up the freight elevator with my bike. I thought I was in real trouble now, but Dave was behind me all the way. He said he tried to reason with the Building Management folks about secure bike facilities, etc.

Apparently, there was an incident where a cyclist (who, it turned out was a fellow co-worker of mine) had ridden his bicycle out of the elevator and ran into someone in the hallway. No one was injured, but the building was now cracking down and enforcing the "no-bikes inside" policy. However, China Basin still offers one of the nicest facilities for cyclists. They have a locked bike room, equipped with 24-hour video cameras available to all tenants. Keys are issued for a $25 fully refundable fee. Inside the room there are several racks to lock up your bike, as well as lockers for use if you choose. There are also shower facilities on the first floor as well as laundry/dry-cleaning services. Another bike friendly business is Crowdburst, located on Montgomery Street, which allows bicycles to be brought right into the offices. While shower facilities are not available in the building, membership in a nearby health club are subsidized by the company for all employees.

Which leads to the employee-incentive programs which some business are offering to help with the parking problems now facing employees in San Francisco. Greg Howard, who works at Babycenter.com said, "my company started a new transportation policy where they give everyone a $70/month transportation subsidy, including for bicyclists.

Parking in the nearby lot is something like $190/month, so this is maybe 40% of the cost of parking (never mind the other costs of driving).

At the Milarepa Fund, a nonprofit started by the Beastie Boys that works for Tibetan freedom, all employees are strongly encouraged to get to work by sustainable forms of transportation. And they put their money where their mouths are: All employees are offered a one-time stipend of $300 to buy a bicycle for transportation or reimbursement for monthly Muni passes (worth $35 a month). About half of the 12 employees commute by bike and rest travel by BART or buses. Not a single employee drives to work.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of prodding with the folks in charge of your building to get some bike-friendly facilities implemented. For some tips check out the following: www.self-propelled-city.com/employcomm.html or www.rides.org/lv2options/lv4options/lv4bkres/parking.html