We know we’re lucky to live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area—a place renowned for innovation, where some of the most talented in the tech industry make their home. Given the spike in traffic, a lack of parking near work, and mandatory trip caps, companies are getting innovative about how to get their employees to work. Here’s why bikes matter to Bay Area companies:
We’re seeing the dawning of a new age of the bicycle, where bike rooms, bike amenities and comprehensive end-of-trip bike facilities are now standard issue in the Bay Area.
Building high-end bike facilities will increase the likelihood that existing employees or tenants will—you know—actually bike. But you’re also aiming to appeal to those on the outside: talented prospective employees (if you’re a business) or future tenants (if you’re a developer).
For example, when Pembroke Real Estate set out to create a best-in-class bike parking facility for its San Francisco multi-tenant building at 100 California, it wisely allocated space for its current biking population plus an additional 10 percent to account for growth.
“As forward thinking long-term owners, we wanted to both meet and exceed the demand,” explained Caroline Johns, a project manager for Pembroke, in a recent talk she gave for the Bikes Make Life Better Online Bike Forum series. “Not only as a differentiator now, but because we believe it’s not just a trend — the use of these centers will continue.”
She’s right. In roughly the past decade, commuting by bike has seen a 62 percent increase nationwide. And in San Francisco alone, by some estimates, 96 percent more people bike to work now than ten years ago.
Gone are the days when bike racks in the parking garage sufficed. Employees and employers expect more, like conveniently located, secure bike parking facilities with state-of-the art racks and amenities. San Francisco employers like Salesforce, Airbnb, WilliamsSonoma and Stripe, to name just a few, are investing heavily in their bike parking facilities.
A look inside the posh “End of Trip” facility at 100 California in San Francisco.
There are a number of ways to up your bike parking game. Color is a low-cost, high value way to make bike parking more appealing. Paint on the floor helps distinguish the bike parking area. Wall murals, adequate lighting, and wayfinding (like painted pathways) go far beyond decoration: they send the message that you care about your bikers and want to support them.
Many employees like to have their bikes as close as possible. If you can find indoor space for bike parking, that’s ideal. You may find space near workstations, under stairwells, in underused hallways or in storage space.
A bike room in one of Williams-Sonoma’s historic San Francisco buildings.
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.
Another way is to mix bike parking with workstations. LinkedIn, for instance, installed wall hooks for bikes on many floors of its 17-story new office building in downtown San Francisco. Facebook also tested desk bike parking with vertical wooden racks.
Facebook tests vertical wooden racks at HQ in Menlo Park.
IDEO stores bikes in its SF office on the ceiling via a rope and pulley system.
Remember that hiring arms race? Being able to point to bike amenities and perks will make working at your company (or in your buildings) that much more appealing.
Facebook, has the most enviable bike amenities around town, including a fully-functioning bike shop that is free to employees. We know not everyone has those resources, so here are some “little extras” to consider:
There are other “added bonuses,” you can try, like DIY bike repair stands, bike docks specifically designed for e-bikes, and wayfinding techniques. The more you build for bikes, the better it is for business!
Need help planning bike facilities at your company? Bikes Make Life Better is dedicated to helping large organizations use bikes for healthy sustainable transportation. They’ve helped design bike parking and facilities for Facebook, Salesforce, Airbnb, Stripe, Pembroke Real Estate, LinkedIn and many others.
Meet Jeff. He’s a 25-year old engineer who works long hours shaping the future of technology. He doesn’t own a car, but has four bicycles. He rides one to work, two on the weekends and keeps the fourth because he won it in a bet.
Jeff’s neighbor is Leanne. She’s 31, a financial analyst, married with two young children and a hectic schedule. She and her husband want to get more physical activity; run errands by bike (60% are within less than a mile); and ride with their children.
Jeff and Leanne represent a fast-growing segment of the housing market, particularly in and around urban centers. As bike commuting is on the rise in cities across the country, so too is the demand for bike-friendly housing.
Smart developers who want to attract and retain young professionals and their families are designing multi-family housing that makes riding a bike as easy, convenient and as expected as driving a car.
The transportation trends are compelling:
Rates of driving in the US are down.
According to the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) report, “A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship With Driving and the Implications for America’s Future”, Americans today drive no more than they did in 2004 in total miles, and no more than they did in 1996 in miles per person.
In A New Way to Go, a 2013 PIRG report, “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) reveal that 70% of adults under 35 use multiple alternatives instead of a car several times or more per week.
This generation, the largest and most diverse in American history, doesn’t want to drive a car and prefers to ride a bike or bus.
In a recent survey by KRC Research and Zipcar, forty-four percent of young people (18-34 years old) polled said they have consciously made an effort to replace driving with other transportation options. And it’s not just Millennials. Thirty-three percent of 35-44 year-olds and twenty-six percent of 55+ year-olds want to replace driving with biking, walking and transit.
The car-centric model may soon be out-of-date. If developers aren’t making their properties bike friendly, especially in urban areas that serve young professionals and families, they will become less competitive.
Kemper Development has built a bike commuter “lounge” in its Bellevue Collection, a 4-million-square-foot retail, office, residential and hotel complex in Seattle. “We’re not just putting a rack over in the corner and bolting it to the floor and calling it good,” said Kemper President Jim Melby, whose bike lounge will include bike racks, lockers, shower rooms and a vending machine that dispenses energy bars and spare bike tubes. The investment for these bike amenities: $300,000, compared to the approximate $40,000 it cost to build one parking space in a structure.
Progressive developers consider future tenant needs such as:
Remember Jeff and Leanne? With them in mind, developers can create low-cost, high-impact amenities that really pay off financially – and in resident satisfaction.
Consider Harbor Urban’s Velo, a 171-unit apartment building in Seattle. Its doors, lobby floors and elevator walls are designed to be bike-friendly. And, they offer bike storage niches in each apartment, giving residents the most secure and convenient bike parking imaginable.
Via6, a 654-unit mixed-use apartment project in downtown Seattle facilitates car-free living with secure bicycle parking and a bike wash station for residents, plus a bike shop on the ground floor. The developers also added amenities for employees who work in the building to help make bike commuting more attractive. These include secure bike storage, an area for bike repair and washing, and showers.
EcoFlats in Portland is so dedicated to sustainability that it does not offer car parking. Located on a busy bike corridor, they provide secure indoor bike parking in their lobby instead. On the ground floor is the home of Hopworks, a well-loved bicycle bar, which has loads of additional outdoor bike parking, repair tools and other bike friendly amenities. EcoFlats also has two Zipcar spots and frequent TriMet bus service.
Bike-friendly housing isn’t simply about being green. It’s about recognizing the trends in transportation and reacting to the growing market need to expand offerings beyond requirements for cars. Bike friendliness is an affordable amenity. Soon it will be a low-cost expectation.
What does it mean when Facebook and Target both earn recognition as Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Businesses, a designation held by fewer than a dozen companies nationwide?
It means that developments in corporate bike share programs have reached an all-time high; that Nasdaq 50 and Fortune 100 business alike see the value of bike investments; that sectors as diverse as tech and retail and climates as different as Silicon Valley and Minneapolis, can and do support corporate cultures that take advantage of bikes for everyday use.
The League of American Bicyclists announced 80 new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Businesses. A number of biggies among them: Facebook and Target with Platinum, LinkedIn with Gold, and 3M and Groupon with Bronze.
Facebook, with 4,000 employees in Menlo Park CA, and rapidly growing, leads the tech sector in bike friendliness. This video highlights many of the reasons they are Platinum.
“Our bike program exemplifies our ongoing commitment to providing sustainable transportation alternatives to our employees,” said Jessica Herrera, Facebook’s Transportation Program Manager. “Bikes are an integral part of our culture – so much so, our campus resembles Amsterdam with bikes throughout!”
She continued: “Our full-service Transit & Bike Hub provides same-day bike repairs, safe cycling and bike maintenance classes, guided commute rides and bike events. We have a large fleet of campus bikes, intern and loaner bikes, as well as bikes for fitness and recreational rides. And to help make cycling accessible for everyone, we’re working with our local communities to improve the bike infrastructure.
Target, with 10,000 employees at its Minneapolis, MN headquarters, has made a serious commitment to being bike friendly. Bike commuting amenities are seamlessly woven into the fabric of their new corporate headquarters, with top-notch bike facilities and on-site bike repairs. In addition, Target provides incentives to ride, offers free NiceRide bikeshare memberships, holds monthly safe riding and maintenance classes, and employs a full-time bicycle coordinator.
“The health and well-being of our team members is a top priority for Target, and we’re committed to offering the tools and resources they need to reach their well-being goals,” said David Marquis, senior director, Corporate Real Estate, Target.
LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, has an impressive bike culture that runs the entire corridor from San Francisco to the heart of the Valley. Their program includes a large fleet of company bikes; themed rides like their Thanksgiving “Gobble Wobble”; and incentives to ride with tie-ins to Wellness and Sustainability.
Investment in bike share programs is becoming standard in American businesses, as companies see how bikes help achieve health and wellness goals, overcome transportation woes, and improve employee retention and morale. When thought leaders such as Facebook and Target find value in extensive bike share programs, it signals a powerful business tool finding its place.
All 80 Bike Friendly Business award winners have worked hard to develop best-in-class bike share programs. Please join us in celebrating their efforts and promoting them to the next wave of businesses ready to embrace bike friendliness as a better way of doing business.
“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 company 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.
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 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 Bike-to-Work Day 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 Bike-to-Work Day 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 Bike-to-Work Day continue to ride.
May be your company did a couple of things to support Bike-to-Work Day 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 Bike-to-Work Day – 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%.
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 share 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 share 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 share 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.”
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 share programs.
The fact that leaders of industry and higher education are investing in bike share 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.
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 share 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.