Across the country and around the world, people are getting back to the office. It’s a prime opportunity for business leaders and communities to better support commuting, but the reality is simple; each and every company needs to make it a priority in-house.
Last year, there was a well-documented spike in cycling due to the pandemic. Millions of Americans started using the bike to get outside and get moving recreationally in 2020, a trend that is expected to continue into the summer of 2021 and beyond. Tens of thousands of individuals and families also left large urban centers and relocated to mid-sized and otherwise smaller communities, many of which may be much more condensed or bike-friendly.
These strange confluences of events offer businesses an opportunity to encourage commuting by bike by investing in the policies and infrastructure to support employees making a commitment to reducing their carbon emission and getting healthy. Having both a bike or smart commute program in place, in addition to the on-site infrastructure to support it, could also be a strong recruiting tool during a time that sees many businesses from myriad industries struggling to find applicants.
For leaders looking to improve in this area, the most important step is to sit down and map out what your cycling program will look like. Map out the physical elements, such as bike parking, showers, repair stations, locks, and consider who has access to these elements. Will employees have separate bike parking from customers? Could you consider having ‘loaner’ bikes at your business to employees to use during their shift to run errands or on their lunch break? Will your space be indoors or outdoors? How many people can you accommodate?
Just as important, think about the program’s ability to support and encourage participation. Work with your insurance company to establish bike-to-work incentives that may turn into a stipend to those who choose to ride daily. There may be internal perks, too, like offering a repair stipend. It may be worth partnering with a local bike shop and negotiating a company-wide discount or even creating a tab that covers basic parts and repairs.
There is also a lot of opportunity to educate new participants by hosting seminars and skills training with a local cycling advocacy group. Organizations like the League of American Bicyclists or their local chapters are often willing to evaluate your bike parking resources and give skills and safety demonstrations.
Using existing events like Bike Month or implementing company-wide Bike-To-Work Days and building off participation in those activities is often the best way to gauge interest in widening bike commuting and to gain feedback. After such an event, poll your entire company, including those who chose not to participate, to learn what could entice them to ride to work, what keeps them from riding, and how you can improve the experience for those who were able to bike in.
Like anything in business, the more you invest in your bike commute program, the more you’ll get out of it, and the more your employees will get out of it, too.
Even those who aren’t in leadership positions can advocate for improved conditions and amenities by encouraging the higher-ups to learn more about incentives. One of the most effective ways to widen company support for bike commuting is challenging those in leadership positions to give it try; get the CEO and the manager to ride to work for a day, a week, or a month. Odds are, they’ll be hooked in just a few days!
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