“It’s an arms race for talent,” said a manager from a large tech company in Silicon Valley, referring to the ongoing competition to land the best and brightest employees.
Companies need to offer commute alternatives to driving solo if they want to attract and retain top talent. Especially Millennials.
According to A New Way to Go, a 2013 report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), “The average person ages 16-34 drove 23% less in 2009 than in 2001, the sharpest reduction for any age group.”
Findings from another report, “Millennials & Mobility”, released in October 2013 by the American Public Transit Association (APTA) revealed that 70% of adults under 35 use multiple alternatives instead of the car several times or more per week.
This generation, the largest and most diverse in American history, and the future of our workforce, doesn’t want to drive a car and prefers to ride a bike or bus.
As one young tech worker put it, “I don’t want to own a car anymore.”
Companies recruiting top talent, take note. If you don’t offer amenities that make bike commuting easy and convenient, you won’t be as competitive as those that do.
Gone are the days when having a bike program meant a few bike racks out front and a shower in an out-of-the-way corner of the building. Today, leading companies offer the full range of amenities, from infrastructure to programmatic support:
All of the above can be implemented for a fraction of the cost of the alternatives. It’s fast to deploy, inexpensive and it’s what the future workforce wants.
As HR hones its tactics for competitive recruitment, it would be wise to collaborate with Real Estate, Facilities and Transportation because infrastructure planned today will impact the workforce for years to come.
If real estate deals, construction projects, landscape architecture and space planning continue to cater to motorized transportation, facilities will be out-of-date and out-of-sync with its workforce within a decade.
The Millennial workforce wants, and fully expects, to get around by bike. And that doing so will be safe, convenient and, above all else, a given. The companies who know and act on this will attract and retain the very best, and thus be more competitive now and in the future.
We often think first of the risks: Bike accidents. Injured employees. Lost, stolen, and vandalized bikes.
It’s a wonder that any corporation, government agency or university has implemented a bike fleet. Yet the best and brightest have – and have done so successfully.
It’s a clear and growing trend: innovative organizations are getting tremendous value out of bike fleets. And many have found a way to balance the risk with the reward.
The drive to implement a company bike fleet can come from Transportation, Facilities, Sustainability, Marketing, HR, or the Executive Office. That’s a broad spectrum of functional areas that see the benefits of a bike fleet. But this interest and enthusiasm is often met with push back from Risk Management and Legal.
We know and appreciate both sides of this issue. The solution lies in maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risks.
Let’s start with risk mitigation.
The best approach is to have a carefully developed plan from the outset that includes all of the things companies can do to reduce risk. A company’s liability and risk management plan should include specific tactics for:
Bike share programs implemented using all of the above tactics, greatly reduce their exposure.
Weigh this exposure against the numerous benefits in:
There are many reasons why top companies have bike fleets. Bikes are a healthy and enjoyable way to get around. They are time and cost efficient. They’re great for the environment and for a company’s reputation. They’re a competitive amenity and show which companies are forward thinking.
Is a company bike fleet risky business? Not when it’s done well.
It was Bike-to-Work Day (BTWD) here in the San Francisco Bay Area and thousands of cyclists hit the streets. It felt like Amsterdam, where bikes outnumbered cars, in some instances by as much as 3 to 1.
Every year, companies, local governments, transportation authorities and bike coalitions around the country support BTWD to encourage more bike commuting.
For employers who seriously want to reduce the number of employees who drive to work, this day is a real boon. It provides the support needed to reach the tipping point between “I’d like to ride my bike someday” and actually doing it.
But a single day does not a habit make.
It’s important to take the elements of BTWD and extend them throughout the summer or even throughout the year:
A well-known Silicon Valley tech company doubled their numbers this year and are continuing their support all summer to create a more regular habit of bike commuting.
By running a Bike Challenge all Summer with prizes and recognition; holding bi-monthly classes; providing employee bike repair, a DIY bike kitchen, bike fits and a loaner bike fleet, they’ll help those who participated in BTWD continue to ride.
May be your company did a couple of things to support BTWD or didn’t participate at all. Either way, you can take a lesson from those who did and move forward beyond the day.
If you’re committed to reducing the number of employees who drive to work, now is the time – right after BTWD – to use the momentum for immediate conversion and long-term success.
We’re fat. We’re lazy. And we’re expensive.
Sixty-one percent of adults in the US are overweight or obese and 70% are sedentary. The average American spends 600 hours a year in a car. That’s five years of the average lifespan or roughly 7% of our lives.
Our sedentary lifestyle is making us unhealthy and costing us a lot of money.
According to the annual Milliman Medical Index, the total cost of healthcare for a typical family of four covered by a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan was $20,728 last year. That’s an increase of $1,335, or 6.9% over 2011.
That’s more than $20,000 a year for a family of four and increasing at an alarming rate.
Not only do individuals carry the burden of skyrocketing healthcare costs, but companies pay the price as well. With most of their workforce overweight and sedentary, they incur the costs of higher injury rates, insurance claims, days off, turnover and lower productivity.
A study of nearly 200,000 General Motors employees found that overweight and obese individuals—2 out of 3 adults—average up to $1,500 more in annual medical costs than healthy-weight individuals.
Thus finding ways to keep employees healthy offers a big pay-off.
US employers have become increasingly interested in workplace disease prevention and wellness programs to improve health and lower costs. In a recent Harvard study, researchers found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 and absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent on wellness programs.
Think about that math: for every dollar spent on health promotion, health-related expenses drop between $3 and $6. That’s a 300-600% return on investment.
Then there’s the impact of health on performance.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, regular physical activity can improve an employee’s work performance by up to 52%.
So how can companies help their employees take on a more active lifestyle?
Corporate fitness centers and gym memberships make exercise convenient. Wellness campaigns that reward employees for walking and biking make it fun. Support for participating in local races and charity events help make reaching goals possible.
But what about getting out of that car–the one we spend 7% of our lives in–and instead of driving to work and then later driving to the gym we hop on a bicycle?
Commuting by bike, even if only for a day or two a week can make a significant contribution to wellness.
The average person will lose 13 pounds in the first year of riding to work. Thirty minutes of daily cycling saves $544 per person in annual medical costs. Since bike commuting becomes a way of life, versus another activity you need to add onto an already busy day, its effects are sustainable – for employee and employer.
See how Quality Bike Products’ health and wellbeing program has paid dividends. By supporting employees in adopting and maintaining physical activity and exercise (with an emphasis on cycling), they’ve experienced a significant reduction in healthcare costs over the past three years.
Riding to work is the fastest, most direct route to a slimmer, healthier, more productive workforce. Supporting employees with a carefully planned bike program is one of the best investments you can make. The returns for companies and individuals are real and long lasting.
Have you noticed the words “sustainable” and “sustainability” everywhere? They’ve made their way into popular culture—in magazines, on billboards and well, toilet paper packaging. But what do they mean and why should we care?
In the world of business, “Sustainability” is the new Corporate Social Responsibility. Its efforts affect a set of measurements known as the “triple bottom line”:
People. Planet. Profit.
The triple bottom line is the measure of the social (people), environmental (planet) and financial (profit) impact on an organization. It’s a more responsible way to measure success because it recognizes that financial gain alone is not a sustainable way to grow. If our people and our planet are not healthy, business cannot thrive.
So, why talk about sustainability in a bike blog? Because bikes, more than any other single technology, support the triple bottom line. Very simply:
People: Riding a bike makes people more fit, healthy, and productive
Planet: Riding a bike creates no CO2 emissions or other pollution
Profit: Riding a bike to work saves employees and employers a lot of money
Bikes in an organizational setting address initiatives like employee wellness, environmental affairs and fiscal responsibility. When organized into a fully integrated program, bikes become an engine (ahem) of sustainability.
And that’s why a comprehensive and integrated bike program is a real boon to any organization that’s committed to sustainability. The return on investment in all three areas is real and measurable.
More and more companies and universities have come to this realization and have woven their bike programs into their sustainability efforts.
From Kimberly Clarke: “We’re encouraging our employees to take sustainable action in their lives and in their communities.”
The company supports employees with discounts at local bike shops, secure bike parking, a fitness center with lockers and showers, a company bike fleet for its “Bikes on Campus” program, and monthly cash incentives for regular riders. Each year they hold a “Bike for Life” week with workplace presentations on bike maintenance and safety.
Facebook has made a serious commitment to its bike program, knowing that it has a positive and lasting impact to their sustainability efforts.
“Over the years, we’ve focused on providing sustainable green transportation alternatives to our employees, as well as helping our local neighborhood do the same,” said Jessica Herrera, Transportation Manager at Facebook.
“These efforts have included providing bicycles to our employees to use on or off campus, helping to re-stripe the roads around our neighborhood for the safety of cyclists in the area, and offering bicycle repairs onsite. Our employees are enthusiastic about these efforts, many choosing to cycle to work each day and others participating in events such as Bike to Work Day.”
A strong bike program helps to attract and retain good people.
David Wilson from Accenture says that good cycling opportunities are important to the well-educated 25- to 35 year-olds he seeks to hire. “Five years ago, I don’t think business people were even thinking about bikes as a part of business. Today it’s definitely part of the discussion.”
Companies like Google, General Mills, Apple, Hewlett Packard and Williams-Sonoma, as well as universities like Stanford, Duke and Princeton, have all made the commitment to integrated bike programs.
The fact that leaders of industry and higher education are investing in bike programs is a sure sign of its impact on their bottom line. And not just on the one that measures financial profit, but the equally important ones that measure social and environmental gains.
“Sustainability” has become a part of our daily lexicon. Like its very name, it will be here for a very long time. And that’s a good thing – for all of us.
Two years ago, Ikea did something revolutionary (quite literally). They gave every one of their 12,400 U.S. workers a bike as a holiday gift.
Ikea chose a bike as a way to say thank you to its employees and to reward them all year long. “We hope this bike will be taken in the spirit of the season while supporting a healthy lifestyle and everyday sustainable transport,” commented Mike Ward, IKEA US President.
You might think that the giant retailer gives extravagant gifts like this every year. Not so. The year before, employees received a $50 restaurant gift card. The bike gift was truly special.
Ikea received some criticism for its bike choice. Critics said that it was cheap and wouldn’t hold up. Not having seen or ridden the bike, I can’t say for sure, but this leads me to another bike gift story where the bike itself was extraordinary.
Clif Bar Co-CEOs Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford wanted to surprise each of their 300+ employees with a custom PUBLIC bike as part of the company’s 20th Anniversary.
Public Bikes took its V3 and painted it Clif Bar red with matching rims and rear racks, and added a Clif Bar logo head badge and message “Born on a Bike – Kitchen Crafted – Family & Employee Owned” on the frame. Each bike has a custom decal with the employee’s name and year they started working at Clif Bar.
The Clif Bar story is such a great example of how you can turn a bike into a really special gift. For details, read the blog post at Public Bikes.
Bikes are great as employee gifts and rewards and to commemorate a special occasion like a company anniversary or milestone date.
Contact us for help.
Status update: Facebook has an amazing bike program.
While the high-tech giant has had a dedicated group of cyclists since its early days, the company didn’t have much of a bike program – until this past year.
With meteoric growth, Facebook moved its operation from a couple of buildings in Palo Alto to a sprawling campus in Menlo Park. The new campus has capacity for 6,600 employees, but parking for half that many.
With the move, Facebook reinforced its commitment to 50% alternative transportation. Their goal (which they’re close to achieving) is for half their workforce to get to and from work in ways other than their own vehicles. Shuttles, vanpools, ride share, public transit and bike commuting are options the company fully supports.
Their new, larger campus also posed the challenge of getting around during the workday. With so many buildings, configured in a large ring around an interior courtyard, employees could spend a lot of time walking or waiting for a shuttle to get from one end to the others.
In true social mode, Facebook turned the campus into a mini city, complete with a fleet of bikes to get around.
This Fall, the League of American Bicyclists recognized all of Facebook’s efforts and awarded them the prestigious Gold Level Bike Friendly Business designation.
This award recognizes all the ways that bike use is encouraged, supported and integrated into daily corporate life. Facebook’s Gold-level program includes:
This Winter, Facebook will open The Hub, a place for employees to get expert, on-site bike repair as well as a do-it-yourself repair station, bike events, education and all-around bike community and culture. Employees will find everything they need here to get a round without using their own car.
Facebook is committed to their goal of growing a healthy workforce and sustainable business model. “We want the best talent at our company and there is a lot of competition out there” says Jessica Herrera, Transportation Manager at Facebook, “…we want employees to be happy and healthy.”
Bikes have become an important part of this strategy. And that’s something we all can like.
Stanford and UC-Davis are known for their bike-friendly campuses.
Is that just because they’re in Northern California, where cycling year-round is do-able?
What about the University of Minnesota, Colorado State, Princeton, University of Michigan, Cornell and Rochester Institute of Technology? All have long winters. And they are all Bicycle Friendly University award winners!
Bicycling is rarely about climate or even about topography (there’s inexpensive gear to overcome both!). It’s about organizational commitment to making bikes an integral part of the culture. And that’s what a growing list of campuses are doing.
The Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) program from the League of American Bicyclists recognizes institutions of higher education for promoting and providing a more bicycle-friendly campus for students, staff and visitors.
College and university campuses are unique environments for their high density, stimulating atmosphere and defined boundaries – ideal conditions for bikes, regardless of climate and location.
Many colleges and universities have taken advantage of these conditions to become more bike friendly. They’ve implemented:
The BFU program evaluates applicants’ efforts to promote bicycling in five primary areas: engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement and evaluation/planning.
This is infrastructure, like secure bike parking, well-designed bike lanes, coordination with city planners, and complete streets programs.
This is all about safe cycling workshops, materials and communication.
This includes all the ways you encourage cycling from organized rides and bike events to bike share systems, campus bike hubs and incentive programs.
This involves targeted campaigns to encourage cyclists and motorists to safely share the road, deter bike theft and promote safe cycling.
Evaluation and Planning
This looks at systems for evaluating current bike programs and planning for the future.
So, how do you become a Bicycle Friendly University? Take the following steps:
If you want help, please contact us to learn about our “Bike Friendly U in a Box.” We can quickly get you moving toward being a Bike Friendly University!
Today the League of American Bicyclists announces 71 new Bicycle Friendly Businesses. Among them are some of the Bay Area’s best and brightest companies, such as Facebook, Apple, and Williams-Sonoma.
These uber-innovative organizations join the growing ranks of Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and local businesses in transforming the American workplace with a new focus on bicycles.
“Businesses … are realizing that the bicycle can be a powerful catalyst for increased profits, reduced health care costs, happier employees and more customers,” said Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists.
It’s exciting to see so many companies supporting bike programs as healthy, sustainable transportation.
For example, Facebook (Gold-level Bike Friendly Business), Apple (Silver), and Williams-Sonoma (Bronze) all have implemented bike share programs to help their employees travel from building to building. I spotted a happy-looking Williams-Sonoma employee riding along the waterfront in San Francisco just the other day. And the Facebook campus has become a mini Amsterdam, with bikes in constant use.
Facebook has taken many steps to emphasize cycling as a means to enhance the workplace, contribute to the community and improve their overall earnings.
“We’re honored to receive this award from the League of American Bicyclists,” said Jessica Herrera, Facebook’s Transportation Manager, in the League’s release.
“Over the years, we’ve focused on providing sustainable, green transportation alternatives to our employees, as well as helping our local neighborhood do the same. These efforts have included providing bicycles to our employees to use on or off campus, helping to re-stripe the roads around our neighborhood for the safety of cyclists in the area, and offering bicycle repairs onsite. Our employees are enthusiastic about these efforts, many choosing to cycle to work each day and others participating in events such as Bike to Work Day. We’re proud to support these initiatives and look forward to more opportunities to help in the future.”
The winners aren’t content to rest on their laurels. They continue to do more and more to support bike commuting, bike culture and bike community. And we’re here to help them – with everything from bikes to programming – every pedal stroke of the way!
When people hear that I’m a bicycle consultant, the first thing they tell me is about their trip to Paris, exploring the entire city on a Vélib bike or about how they used Capital Bikeshare to get to a meeting in DC. It’s rare to meet someone today who has not heard of, seen, or used bike sharing.
It’s no wonder! There are now more than 300 bicycle-sharing systems with nearly a quarter million bikes in operation around the planet. And the numbers are exploding.
Large municipalities run most of these systems, but smaller cities, universities and corporations are busy planning and implementing bike share programs of their own. And it’s not just those crazy Europeans. Bike share is a global phenomenon with large new systems popping up across the US. Look here for more detail.
Bike share tends to fall into one of three categories: free systems, station-based systems, and mobile systems. Each has its benefits, drawbacks and place in the world. But the mobile systems are destined to take bike share to an entirely new level.
The oldest system of bike share is quite simple. Make bikes available, free of charge, and people will use them.
The most famous of these systems is the now-defunct Amsterdam White Bike program. While extremely popular, the system fell apart. Without any form of security, the bike fleets were quickly depleted by theft, damage, and loss.
This system may not work well in public spaces, but it does work in private, more secure settings. Google, Facebook, and Burning Man, to name just a few, all have free bike share programs that are wildly successful.
This is the system most of us know. Stations with interactive kiosks and docks of bikes, situated within a short distance of each other, usually in densely populated areas.
You’ve likely seen or experienced these systems in Washington DC, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis, Barcelona, Paris, London or in hundreds of other cities around the world.
These systems use a combination of robust, user-friendly bikes with high technology checkout systems including solar power, web interfaces, and credit card transactions. They’re easy and fun to use, especially in areas with lots of bikes and stations. These systems cost a lot of money up front, but for users the only real downside is when your desired station is out of bikes or the docks are too full for you to leave your bike.
These systems use mobile technologies, so they’re not reliant on stations and kiosks.
Users find and reserve bikes using their phones. Then they enter their account information into the keypad on the bike to release the lock and begin their ride. Or, they call or text their user ID or use a smart phone app to unlock their bike. The server recognizes the user and unlocks the bike.
When you’re done with the bike, you can park it anywhere you want instead of finding a station and available dock. This alone makes the system incredibly convenient. When you re-lock the bike and indicate that you’re done with it, the system makes it available to other users searching for bikes nearby.
With this system, bike share operators, including cities, universities and companies, do not need real estate for the stations and kiosks. Nor do they bear the cost of the infrastructure. Instead, they buy smart bikes that have all the technology, including GPS and RFID tags built into the bikes to track their movements.
These systems are just now gaining traction, but I fully believe they are the next generation (perhaps now generation) of bike share. Social Bicycle, ViaCycle and WeBike are the big players in this emerging space. Watch for their bikes as they build momentum.
If you really want to stretch your mind, imagine a bike sharing vending machine that stores 32 bikes in the equivalent of one parking spot. Yeah, I know!
This is exciting stuff because bike share is an important catalyst for change. Vélib launched in 2007 and saw a 70% increase in cycling in its first year. Lyon saw a 44% increase in bicycle trips and 96% (!!) of their bike share members had never ridden a bike before in the city center. These systems greatly improve the way users experience those cities, making getting around and exploring a joy instead of a chore.
The more systems we have in place, in cities and on university and corporate campuses, the more people will ride. And the more we ride and the less we rely on cars, the healthier and happier we make ourselves, our communities and our planet.
Next up: Bike Friendly Business Awards (most use bike share, no wonder!)
“The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world. ~ Susan B. Anthony 1896”
Imagine that: a simple device turning the tide toward gender equality. But it’s true. Before the bike became popular, women in the western world had little to no means of getting around on their own. The ability to jump on a bike gave them a way to, quite literally, take off.
But with this newfound freedom came certain challenges. Namely: how to dress on a bicycle, out in public? And the challenge, for many women, still exists today.
Cycling became fashionable in the 1880s, a time when women commonly wore corsets and petticoats – not very practical, or comfortable, on a bicycle (much less anywhere else). Thankfully, the bike changed all this and yards of material and centuries of tradition gave way to bloomers, divided skirts and knickerbockers, predecessors to our modern-day skorts and knickers.
In 1895, Demerarest’s Family Magazine published the following:
“The bicycle will accomplish more for women’s sensible dress than all the reform movements that have ever been waged.”
Fast forward 117 years and we’re still working out how to dress on a bicycle. We don’t want to show up anywhere (except maybe the gym) looking like we just got off a bike. God forbid you head out for work or the store or the bar and look like a MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra) or a hipster (unless of course, you are one) or a crossing guard (decked out in safety yellow).
After seeing the women of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris and New York riding in style (and comfort), I have a new mantra:
Dress for your destination.
If I’m going to a meeting, then I dress in business attire. If I’m meeting friends for coffee, I wear cafe attire (whatever that may be). A good friend just told me that the other night she rode to the opera – in an evening gown!
I’ve learned that my daily ride can be done comfortably and fashionably. And since I get most places on my bike, I buy clothes for everyday life that work on and off the bike. Some are cycle-specific brands, other are not. But I always dress for the destination.
Here are some of my favorites.
Let’s start at the bottom. I’ve learned that I can ride with my bike’s flat pedals in any shoe (including heels, boots, dress shoes and sandals) as long as they have rubber soles. “Heels?” you ask: “Are you insane?” Since only the ball of your foot rests on your pedals, you can rock a pair of heels on a bike. I ride San Francisco hills in mine.
Fortunately, there are a million great shoe styles on the market with non-slip soles, comfortable insoles and materials that hold up in the elements.
For amazing boots try La Canadienne. They’re a bit pricey but worth every single penny. They’re really comfortable; many are water resistant and most can go anywhere in total style.
For everything from boots to shoes to sandals, try Aerosole. I’ve often thought of them as a stodgy brand, but they’ve proven they can do style and comfort, and they work on and off the bike.
Moving up to the legs. Thankfully, someone invented spandex. And then someone with an even bigger brain (and perhaps thighs) introduced it to denim. A match made for the bike. I can ride in nearly any pair of jeans if it has a bit of stretch. And if it has a slim leg, in or out of a boot, all the better. I also wear bell bottoms and suit pants on my bike. With an ankle strap, I’m totally fine.
Leggings are also a perfect choice. I wear them on their own or under skirts and dresses. On an unusually warm San Francisco day, I wore a skirt without leggings. In a sudden gust of wind, I flashed all of Chinatown. Sadly, no one seemed to notice. But I learned that it’s wise to wear something more than just panties under my skirt.
Leggings and tights are great for cooler weather. And for longer bike commutes when you want some padding (chamois), try this lingerie knicker from Sheila Moon under your dresses and skirts. The little bit of lace around the knee is nice for the girly-girl in some of us.
If you love skirts and dresses, as I do, wear them! Just watch out for skirts that are too short and ride up (see Chinatown incident above) or too long/flouncy and could get caught in your chain or spokes. At bike shows over the past year, I’ve found skirts that are intended for riding, but I wear them everywhere.
Sweet Spot makes these ingenious wrap-around, snap-on, reversible skirts that you can wear over a cycle short or, if you’re like me, over a pair of leggings and boots. They come in every color and pattern imaginable. They are killer! And every time I wear mine, I get compliments. Every time.
You can wear just about anything on your bike. Skirts, skorts, shorts, dresses, tops, pants, leggings, jackets (phew!) all come in fabrics and styles that work for the ride and the destination.
There are so many great brands, stores and websites for finding women’s clothes that pair functionality with fashion. Here are some of the best:
YMX by Yellowman
The bicycle is still one of the most liberating ways to get around. If you’re inclined to commute by bike but not sure what to wear, try some of these recommendations to see what works for you. You’ll look good and feel good, along the way and at your destination.
I’m not much of a cook, but I marvel every time I set foot into a Williams-Sonoma store. Among the vast array of familiar items there’s an equally large assortment of gadgets whose verbs I’ve yet to learn. There’s a clever tool for every task you can dream up. And, the implements aren’t just useful they’re gorgeous, which is the Williams-Sonoma way.
It’s no surprise then that Williams-Sonoma Inc. (parent company to Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen, West Elm, and Williams-Sonoma), decided that a fleet of bicycles was a perfect way to help Associates travel between their offices, four of which are located within two miles of each other along the scenic North side of San Francisco, from Ft Mason to the Financial District.
On April 26th, they called to say that they were ready to implement a company bike fleet – in time for Bike-to-Work Day May 10th – and wanted our help. There was a lot to do in two weeks time before Associates could hit the streets of San Francisco on company-owned bikes.
With function and beauty in mind, they selected an ivory-colored C7 from Public Bikes, with a front basket and rear rack. The shiny frames look like creamy French Vanilla dripping in the afternoon sun. In a word: “delicious.”
Selecting the bikes was just the beginning. We needed to work out the logistics of secure bike parking, a reservation system, and a maintenance schedule, as well as urban cycling education, maps and routing, and all the things you do to keep bike fleet participants safe.
Williams-Sonoma, Inc. has four buildings: Van Ness and Beach, North Point at Embarcadero, Ice House off Union, and Davis at Vallejo. While all are within easy cycling distance of each other, a novice could end up on high-traffic Bay Street or touristy Fisherman’s Wharf. To help ensure the safest routes, we created a laminated map, with safe cycling routes and tips.
The fleet of 20 bikes is split among the four buildings. To use a bike, Associates simply reserve it online and then pick up a key from the building’s receptionist. Associates can borrow bikes for up to three hours and must return them to their point of origin. This system helps avoid the task of rebalancing bikes – moving bikes around to ensure ample supply at each building.
Ensuring that bike parking was both accessible and secure was a key goal. But with a little creativity and really good bike racks, we found great solutions. In two of their buildings, the bikes are even parked prominently in the lobby where they’re easy to get to and make a statement to all who visit.
To help ensure that participants are safe on the road, Associates are required to attend an on-site urban cycling workshop and/or watch the videotape of it on their internal site. These “Ready to Roll” sessions are tailored specifically to the Williams-Sonoma bike program.
Associates are really happy with their new bikes. They now quickly and easily travel between offices, as well as to their monthly Farmer’s Market at the Ice House courtyard. Celebrating sustainability and fresh local flavors, the farmer’s market is the perfect destination for a short lunchtime bike ride. (The market is open to the public.)
So in just a few short weeks, Williams-Sonoma has introduced a new tool for Associates that’s as high function and full-on fashion as anything you’ll find in one of their stores.
Over a recent 48-hour period, I read three seemingly unrelated things that converged in an “Aha! Moment” on why people ride bicycles – from the traffic-jammed streets of Manhattan to the trails of the Bay Area.
The first was “How We Decide,” an engaging book about the science behind decision-making. For centuries we’ve thought that decisions are based on logic or intuition: that we either carefully deliberate or go with our gut. But that’s not really what happens. Author Jonah Lehrer elaborates on how our best decisions are a blend of feelings and reason. We may believe that logic results in the finest decisions, but emotion is an equally important driver. And part of what makes a choice ‘feel’ right is the mind doing an amazing amount of calculation in an instant. So the feeling is just confirmation of a lot of brain power.
Then, I read an opinion piece in The New York Times by David Byrne entitled “This is How We Ride.” Byrne says
I got hooked on biking because it’s a pleasure, not because biking lowers my carbon footprint, improves my health or brings me into contact with different parts of the city and new adventures … the reward is emotional gratification, which trumps reason, as it often does.
And finally, in the midst of all of this, while helping a client with the logistics of a bike program, she wrote to say: “I rode to my vanpool this morning via the Bay Trail – it’s nice to start the morning with a view of the bay as you cycle on gravel and over bridges”
As an urban bike commuter and a bicycle consultant, I think a lot about why someone would choose to leave their car at home to get around by bike. We see it happen, in ever-increasing numbers, from snow-bound Minneapolis (one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country) to sun-drenched Miami.
Is it because we want to be healthier and more physically fit; be more environmentally responsible; save on gas and parking? Reason would say yes. And for some people those are key motivations. But it’s much more than that. We decide based on how things make us feel, not just on how they stack up.
Riding a bike makes us feel good. Part of it may be the early imprinting, when riding a bike as a child meant freedom. Maybe it’s the endorphins, the body’s natural opiate, that kick in when we’re in motion. Or maybe it’s just plain fun. Moving through space, under your own power, in fresh air, is exhilarating. It just feels good.
If you’ve ever done it, you know this is true. Just the act of getting on a bike and moving your legs makes you want to keep going.
Then there’s the magic of access. The bicycle is the most efficient transportation we have invented, by far. Now we know that if you put bikes in front of people and make it easy for them ride, they will! Take bikeshare systems all over the world – 60,000 bikes in Hangzou China, 20,000 bikes in Paris, 10,000 coming to New York City – where locals and tourists alike keep these bikes in constant use. The presence of these bikes motivates action, which in turn motivates the desire to ride more.
As I was writing this article, my partner sent me a link to a study written by Susan Handy, Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis, and Director of the Sustainable Transportation Center, part of the Federal University Transportation Centers Program. Okay, that’s a mouthful, but it’s relevant.
Her article, entitled “The Davis Bicycle Studies: Why do I bicycle but my neighbor doesn’t?” is a fascinating summary of why Davis has such an unusually high rate of bike ridership, particularly for transport (vs. recreation or sport). She concludes with this:
Sure, I believe in the importance of minimizing my driving, but I also simply enjoy getting on my bike more than I enjoy getting into the car. This may have something to do with all the time I spent getting around by bicycle from the age of four or five through my high school years. Now I can’t imagine going back to a car-dependent lifestyle. And that is exactly what my research team and I are trying to understand in our next study: where do attitudes toward bicycling come from and why do some people enjoy bicycling so much more than others? We’ll see.
If we want to increase bike ridership in a significant way, let’s get real about the motivators. Let’s create more opportunities where people and bikes come together in easy, safe and fun ways. More bike share, bike rental and loaner programs will remind us all of that feeling we had when we were young and calories and carbon footprints had no meaning at all. Best of all, there’s no stick – it’s all carrot. Put bikes in front of people and they will ride them. And when people ride bikes, we all win, and have fun doing it.
Next up: Williams-Sonoma’s new bike fleet
I love bikes and often fantasize about the sleek, sexy city bike I’m gonna have some day. You know, the one with the paint job you want to lick or the components you can’t keep your hands off. But then I think about how sad I’ll be when she’s stolen and so, with my helmeted head hanging low, continue to ride my clunky, dinged-up behemoth.
Bike commuting is on the rise and so is the manufacture of beautiful city bikes. So how do we have these great bikes, ride them to work, the café and the store without worry that they’ll be stolen?
In San Francisco many landlords do not allow bikes inside office buildings. But thanks to the work of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), there’s a new ordinance that will allow for bikes in commercial buildings. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 in favor of the ordinance, signaling a stronger commitment to a bike-friendly city.
The ordinance has a couple of exceptions but they will only be granted if there is secure, off-street parking or indoor, no-cost parking within three blocks of the building.
The new ordinance means that landlords, building managers and employers will be looking for more and better ways to securely store bikes. We’ll see more bike storage rooms and bike cages in building basements and garages, as well as more interior bike parking. And that’s where things get interesting.
Many people simply ride a junker to work, sacrificing speed and style for the lower odds of it getting stolen from sub-standard parking. And some joke that you’re not a real San Franciscan until you’ve had your bike stolen. So ask any bike commuter where they prefer to park their bike and most will say inside, ideally near their office or next to their desk. But this is not always practical or popular with coworkers or the fire marshal.
That’s where interior bike racks come in handy.
When Zynga designed its new SOMA offices, they created a highly visible, accessible and fun bike room. They’ve used a variety of vertical and horizontal racks as well as playful architectural elements. How fitting for a game company!
Williams-Sonoma just launched a 20-bike fleet to help employees get from building to building in San Francisco. The fleet of cream-colored bikes from Public is spread out with 4-5 bikes at each of four locations. At two of their buildings – headquarters on Van Ness and Beach and at the Ice House, they have installed racks in the lobby, giving the bikes safe, secure and highly visible parking.
Check out this sleek hitch rack in a white powder coat. It’s nearly invisible next to the bike. There are four of these hitch racks placed under a sweeping staircase, showcasing the bikes, much like other artistic elements in this space.
Here’s one of Williams-Sonoma’s bike rooms – by far, one of the nicest we’ve seen. But we’d expect nothing less from the company that’s brought us Pottery Barn and West Elm!
At Facebook’s Menlo Park campus, every building is outfitted with wall-mounted vertical racks. The design, alternating the height of the rack, stores more bikes per linear foot without tangling handlebars. The galvanized steel finish fits Facebook’s industrial “hacked” design aesthetic.
And one of our favorites: indoor bike parking at Actual Café in Oakland. Yes, you’re encouraged to bring park your bike indoors! This is where I want to go with my shiny new bike – the one I’m afraid to get without options like this throughout the Bay Area.
Throughout Europe and the UK, most buildings have as many spaces for bike parking as they do for car parking. Not so in the US. But we are going to change this.
Many buildings have public space that could be used for parking. Around corners, under stairwells, and in wide hallways, you’ll find dead space that’s perfect for a few bikes and convenient for bike commuters.
Check out this great bike “rack” from Cycloc. It’s a simple and stylish way to get your bike up and out of the way. You can hang a single bike or use much of a wall for many bikes. Watch the video to witness bike-parking-turned-art.
Many companies have little-used closets and storage rooms that can be tweaked to offer space for bike parking. Vertical racks are often the solution here, since they park bikes so efficiently.
Here’s a great example from Mozilla. This is a new bike room in their San Francisco building garage. The room was outfitted to store their 20-bike fleet. With these vertical racks, all 20 fit into this small space.
With this new “bikes in buildings” ordinance, San Francisco will lead the way toward a new standard in commercial space bike parking. Maybe then I’ll get that shiny new bike – and keep it.
Promoting openness, innovation and opportunity on the Internet. That’s Mozilla’s mission.
So it’s no surprise that when they expanded operations and opened an office in San Francisco, they made a deliberate decision to have a bike program.
Bike share programs are catching on, particularly among innovative, progressive organizations like Mozilla.
Because bikes are socially and environmentally responsible. They’re healthy, fun and make the workday better. They contribute positively to community. Bikes save money in parking, transit and healthcare costs. They’re a simple and inexpensive way to make a big impact.
With an office in the historic Hills Bros Building at the base of the Bay Bridge, transportation and parking are a challenge to Mozilla. Fortunately, most Mozillians who commute to this office live within four miles. And the office is within easy cycling distance to BART, Caltrain, and the Ferry Building.
Mozilla CFO, Jim Cook, wanted a way for employees to easily get around for lunch and errands, travel between San Francisco and Mountain View offices, and commute to and from home.
This week, in time for Bike-to-Work Day May 10th, Mozilla will roll out a fleet of custom-branded bikes to get around the city. The 20-bike fleet from Public Bikes, with customization by Bikes Make Life Better is a pilot. If all goes well in the city, Mozilla will add a fleet to its Mountain View headquarters and other offices around the world.
The bikes are Public’s C7 model, a seven-speed bike designed for city and commuter use, in keeping with Dutch bike style. Customizations included reworking the frame, fenders, panniers and even the bell in Mozilla colors.
In addition to the fleet of city bikes, Mozilla will soon have a fleet of custom-branded folding bikes to help Mozillians who commute between company offices using Caltrain, the local commuter train service.
Taking the train is a great way to travel the Peninsula between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, but commuters have the issue of getting to and from the station, or what’s commonly referred to as the “first and last mile.” If they bring their own full-size bike on the train, they run the risk of being bumped, as the limited bike cars fill up fast during key commute times.
Folding bikes are a great solution. Mozillians will be able to reserve a folding bike, just like a conference room, take it home and then use it the next day for their commute. The company and employees win by avoiding car and parking expenses, including time lost in transit.
Sharing resources and collaborating on innovative solutions is the Mozilla way. Watch them gain momentum as they do it on two wheels!
Next: We look deep into the eyes of the Tour of California bike race…