Bikes As Business Tools: A Guide To Company Bike Fleets
We all know the reasons for riding a bike—like weight-loss, connection to nature, using a green mode and saving money on the commute. These are all wonderful byproducts of pedal-powered transportation, but they overshadow the most obvious benefit: bikes get you where you’re going.
For this reason, bikes are often the best and cheapest solution for transportation, real estate and facilities professionals like you. Whether employees at your company need to get around a congested city or you need to cut down on car trips to your corporate campus, we’ve got a bike (program) that can help!
Challenge: How do I help employees move around during the workday—between office buildings in an urban setting or on a sprawling suburban campus—for meetings, errands, lunch or a healthy break?
Solution: Company bikes. Fleets of communal bikes have been used for transportation ever since the 1960s, and they are one of the most efficient people movers over short distances.
Silicon Valley’s largest and most influential tech companies, like Apple, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn have provided employees with campus bikes for years. These heavy hitters have hundreds, and in some cases 1000+ bikes.
But smaller outfits use community bikes too. Williams-Sonoma employees cruise between four buildings in San Francisco on 20 cream-colored dutch bikes. Kaiser Permanente encourages fitness by managing a fleet of 25 custom bikes employees may use to run errands or ride on a nearby trail for recreation. Even Lucky Brand, a company headquartered in the notoriously car-centric Los Angeles, has 12 bikes for its employees to use to get around downtown.
Photo by Tyler Mussetter.
The business case: Biking between buildings translates into productivity gains. Although results may vary, biking usually cuts travel time down by two-thirds when compared to walking. Biking also increases brain function—more productivity gains! A recent study in the the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that those who spent 30 minutes spinning on a stationary bike scored higher on memory and reasoning tests than those who didn’t.
Pitfalls to avoid: Keeping tabs on company bikes can be a challenge, since often they aren’t locked during the day. They can be stolen and sold on Craigslist or simply “wander home” with employees. To mitigate theft, you may want to lock your bikes or us GPS tracking. LinkedIn did just that, and its loss rate is practically zero.
Challenge: How do I help employees try bike commuting when they don’t have a bike?
Solution: Let ‘em try before they buy with a fleet of loaner bikes. The Hub, Facebook’s on campus bike shop, manages a fleet of commuter bikes of all shapes, sizes and types (including electric bikes!). Employees can reserve bikes for up to week at a time. This means that the skeptic can test the commute and gain confidence before investing in their own bike. After employees are hooked, it’s nice to assist them in purchasing a bike of their own. At Facebook and LinkedIn, staff help employees find the right bike and connect them to bike discounts.
The business case: Converting employees into bike commuters saves a lot of money. Consider the cost of a parking space in a paved lot which costs about $2,500 and often as much as $30,000 in a parking structure. The savings multiply when you consider that 6-12 bikes fit in a single parking space.
Pitfalls to avoid: Loaner bikes need a bit more care and feeding. They need to be checked in and out. They need to be stored and maintained. And employees benefit from some basic bike safety training before borrowing a bike.
Challenge: How do I help employees try bike commuting when they don’t consider themselves bikers; the terrain is hilly; or the distance just a bit too long?
Solution: E-bikes! The newest edition to the pack, electric bicycles, commonly known as e-bikes give users an electric boost, making it possible to pedal without breaking a sweat. These bikes charge using standard 110V power outlets. Once they’re juiced they can go up to 20MPH and about 25 miles on a single charge—and that’s without the rider exerting much physical effort.
The business case: Those who didn’t bike before are now empowered bikers! E-bikes help employees spend less time shuffling between points, which means a more productive workforce. In some spots in Silicon Valley, taking an e-bike is actually the most efficient way to get around due to traffic.
Pitfalls to avoid: E-bikes require more rider training, since they work a little differently than traditional pedal bikes. They also need specific repair expertise. And they can be targets for theft, given their expense.
Challenge: Ahhh, it’s intern season! How do I handle transportation for dozens to hundreds of interns?
Solution: Again, loaner bikes (see above) work great for interns, especially because interns are typically students or recent graduates and may be used to getting around via bike. Sometimes companies also provide interns with collective housing, which means there’s control over storage on both ends of the commute.
The business case: Interns are often the next new hires, so making sure they have a positive experience means they’re more likely to accept a job offer. Depending on the market, having perks like bikes is critical for attracting top talent. And if they start out as an intern bike commuter, they’ll be more likely to be an employee bike commuter!
Pitfalls to avoid: Since interns are typically seasonal, it’s important to have space to store an intern bike fleet during the off season. Interns also usually start in large cohorts, so delivering bikes, helmets, and locks within a short time span can sometimes be overwhelming.
Folding Bike Loaners
Challenge: How do I solve the first and last mile problem by helping employees travel the short distances between home and transit and worksite and transit?
Solution: Folding bikes. These bikes actually compact or fold, so they can be easily stored and moved. This is especially helpful when taking crowded public transit, since it’s not uncommon for bikers to be “bumped” during rush hour. Mozilla, the internet company with a satellite office in downtown San Francisco and a headquarters located about 40 miles south in Silicon Valley, decided to deploy a fleet of custom-branded Dahon folding bikes to help Mozillians commute by bike and by train between the two locations.
The business case: Folding bikes are extremely portable: It’s like having a bike that doubles as a suitcase. Those that fly for work can now take a bike with them without the hassle of re-assembly once they reach their destinations. They’re also perfect in urban offices or apartment buildings lacking storage space.
Pitfalls: Users must be educated on how folding bikes work, but once they understand the system, they’re easy to use. Folding bikes also tend to be more expensive than regular bikes, but their utility helps counteract the price tag.
When you consider the benefits, bikes really do make good business sense when it comes to solving people-moving challenges!
Need help bringing bikes to your company? Bikes Make Life Better is dedicated to helping large organizations use bikes for healthy sustainable transportation. They’ve helped design bike programs for Facebook, Salesforce, Airbnb, Stripe, Stanford, LinkedIn and many others.
Thank you for your read! Connect with us today to discuss your bike program. Complete the form below or call us at 415.412.7092.