Today the League of American Bicyclists announces 71 new Bike 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 bikes – 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.
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 share 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…
In recent years, hundreds of cities worldwide have rolled out bike share programs, putting bikes where people need them for short, fast trips. Now, dozens of companies, following the lead of Google, Apple, Facebook and LinkedIn, have their own bike fleets to help employees efficiently get around during the workday.
Every day, millions of workers worldwide must move beyond their own office building for meetings, lunch, and errands. This often involves driving a car and finding parking; waiting for and taking a shuttle; or catching public transit and walking from the station or stop.
Think of all that time wasted, not to mention the personal and environmental drain, simply to get around during the workday.
Innovative companies, in nearly every industry, have improved efficiencies and quality of life through the addition of company-owned bike fleets. Bikes have become a critical and cost-effective improvement to many corporate campuses and urban locations. Bikes have become a critical and cost-effective improvement to many corporate campuses and urban locations.
When organizations provide bikes, people ride them. And when they ride them, the benefits start to roll in (pun intended!).
First come the immediate time savings. Bikes have proven to be the fastest transportation available whenever congestion is an issue, even without parking issues. They are also ready to go when you are. No need to wait for the next shuttle, bus or train.
Extensive research has shown that the second people get up and move around during the workday, their productivity increases. In addition, there’s no doubt that even just a minute or two of fresh air is a way to clear one’s head and enter a meeting refreshed.
Weather turns out to not be a key issue. Recent research indicates that climate is not a central factor in the cycling friendliness of cities, and that extends to company campuses, too. As long as basics like snow clearance are taken care of, bike fleets keep their advantages year round. For instance, Minneapolis is one of the leading bike cities in the country, despite its climate.
Companies increasingly invest in bike fleets because they make economic sense. They’re environmentally friendly, healthy, efficient and socially responsible. They pay for themselves many times over in healthcare, parking and transit savings as well as in increased productivity and improved morale. Companies with bike fleets will tell you that they are an important employee benefit.
“Our bikes are a fun, healthy way to relieve work related stress…and great for small team building meetings.”
Employee at Kaiser Permanente
Google led the way in 2008 with the roll out of their first fleet, featuring cruiser-style bikes. In 2010 they changed to the now-famous multi-color GBikes with little 20” wheels and then later to a more standard upright position. These bikes are very popular and useful, with over a thousand in circulation on daily basis.
LinkedIn uses a bike fleet to help employees get around and between their two campuses in Sunnyvale and Mountain View. The city-style bikes have GPS trackers to help staff manage the program and ensure bikes are well maintained and where employees want them.
If you’re in Sunnyvale or Mountain View, you’ll notice bikes from Google, LinkedIn, Apple and Intuit in constant motion. Employees who used to take their cars or shuttles to get to meetings, now can cut down on travel time by taking a bike.
Facebook, by contrast, has a more compact campus in Menlo Park. One part of campus includes a large, central courtyard bustling with activity. Pedestrians hustle down paved walkways while cyclists buzz along on the Facebook fleet bikes, heading to meetings, cafes and coffee. With the opening of a second campus in 2015, bikes now traverse a non-motorized tunnel that connects the two. Bikes are the fastest, easiest and most enjoyable way to get around Facebook.
“It’s hard to imagine the new courtyard without the bikes,” one rider said. “We all use them constantly because it’s a way faster way to get around.”
A rider at Facebook
At the Kaiser Permanente IT campus, employees can borrow a custom bike to travel between buildings, run errands or get some exercise on a nearby scenic trail. When surveyed, all employees agree that the campus bikes are a worthwhile amenity and 95% feel the bikes are fun and offer a nice break during the day.
One day as I was coming out of a meeting on a company campus in Silicon Valley, I witnessed a group of engineers waiting at a campus shuttle stop. As the bus idled, they were trying to convince their shy colleague to take one of the campus bikes instead of the shuttle. Holding a giant laptop tightly in his arms, he looked sceptically at the bike. Finally, he put his laptop in the basket and got on. As he rode off, a little wobbly at first, then grinning wildly, his fellow engineers erupted in applause. That was a win for him, and an indicator of how company bike fleets provide immediate, and intangible, rewards.
In just a couple of years, bike fleets have revealed themselves as a bit of corporate magic, yielding significant and far-reaching benefits across transportation, health, and sustainability.
When the Prius hit the road, it changed how people drove. It turns out that seeing our energy consumption in real-time actually motivates us to drive better. Gauges in cars, heart rate monitors and power meters on athletes – they all do the same thing – they get us tuned into and excited about our performance.
Put meaningful, real-time data in front of people and they respond. It’s a lot like playing video games where points motivate our actions and reward our improvements. It’s an addicting sort of thing the mind does when measurement’s involved. (This kind of Gamification is a big buzz in the tech and business world right now, and for good reason.)
As a bicycle consultant who works with companies to remove barriers to bike use, I’m always thinking about what motivates behavioral change. It’s just not enough to want to be more environmentally responsible or physically fit. That’s only enough to motivate a minority of people to ride more.
But these ideals are more likely to become real deals when we break them down into useful and easily accessible data points.
Endomondo (loose translation from the Danish: “a lot of endorphins”) is a smartphone app that uses real-time GPS tracking of most any physical activity, including cycling. The company is filled with people who do fun things and have built a tool to track them.
It’s different from its nearest competitors in that it does a brilliant job of tracking meaningful stats for bicycle transportation, like carbon emissions saved and calories burned, as well as number of trips, miles, duration and speed. (Like lots of other successful apps, there isn’t a single killer function here, just a lot of good design, well-packaged. It’s the sort of thing you get with years of development and 7 million users worldwide.)
Endomondo will tell you how many trips around the world and to the moon you’ve made. Not to mention how many burgers you’ve burned. (I wonder if their algorithm could tell us how many burgers are needed to pedal to the moon.)
Since Endomondo is such a strong platform, the League of American Bicyclists, Bikes Belong and sponsor Kimberly-Clark have chosen it to power the National Bike Challenge, that kicked off May 1st in honor of Bike-to-Work Month nationwide.
Bike-to-Work Day (May 10th in the San Francisco Bay Area) is a time when thousands of wannabe bike commuters get the support they need to give bike commuting a try. Of course, Bike-to-Work Day is a success when it actually converts people into bike commuters, not for a single day, but for any kind of regular or ongoing habit.
To help carry the momentum beyond the month of May, the National Bike Challenge will help support bike commuters through August with real-time stats and prizes. Anyone can sign up, as an individual commuter, part of a 10-rider team, or part of a workplace.
For employers, it’s a fantastic way to motivate, track and reward employees who choose to bike commute. In real-time, an administrator can see all the important metrics. Imagine being able to easily report the number of bike commuters in your company, the number of miles ridden, calories burned, carbon emissions offset and dollars saved.
For employees, it’s a hassle-free way to ride, track, and report your progress. You don’t need to remember to log your miles after the fact or upload data from a device. Just hit the app’s start button before your ride and the stop button sometime after your ride (it recognizes when you pause or stop and accounts for it so you don’t have to). Your ride data is instantly sent to the Endomondo servers. No more honor system; just immediate and useful stats that you can access on your phone or computer. Endomondo will happily keep a diary of where you go, your average speed, and how long you were doing it.
Better than that, the nerding out can really kick in once you get home. There are options to share routes and view routes posted by the community. And beyond the big state and national challenges, there are plenty of others that will help you get out on the road with the motivation to see your results up on a big scoreboard. And yes, you get the graphs and charts that you can analyse till the cows come home – speed and feet of climbing and distance travelled, etc.
But Endomondo does something more. You can use it to hook up with friends to network your fitness into a solid support group. It’s easy to fool ourselves, but when the data’s out there, it’s out there. Maybe best of all, there’s a feature to let people send live encouragement. This is the kind of thing that helps people lock into personal lifestyle changes. Like riding bikes instead of driving.
I’ve been using Endomondo for my own rides and it’s made a huge difference. I get feedback. I’m not on autopilot any more. Like the Prius driver, now I get all of the data on my ride, in real time, and immediately after.
Next up: we look at the rapid growth of Company Bike Fleets at Apple, Facebook and other innovative companies!
Ladies, did you know that in the world of bike commuting, we’re an “indicator species”?
Yep, it’s true. A large body of research suggests that the best strategy for boosting the number of people who choose to get around by bike is to ask women what they want. How ’bout that?
The number of women cyclists has been on the rise since 2004, but men still far outweigh us on the road. The national average of men-to-women riders is still 2:1. Why is this when cities throughout Europe have equal numbers of men and women?
Studies show that women are more risk adverse than men and, even in our progressive culture, still do most of the childcare and shopping (sounds like I’m being sexist, but this is still true).
So what would it take to get more of us on the road? Bike-friendly infrastructure is key so that biking becomes a way of life, for men, women and children. Think Amsterdam and Copenhagen.
San Francisco’s making enormous progress, thanks to the work of the City, SFMTA, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and countless others.
While the city makes major improvements to our infrastructure, there are many things each of us can to do to make bike commuting a viable option. So, what do women want? I decided to ask.
In a recent survey of nearly 2,000 Velo Girls members, here is what’s preventing women (those who are already cyclists) from commuting by bike:
I can totally relate. Having become a no-car household, with meetings all over San Francisco, I’ve grappled with all of these issues.
When I first started riding, I didn’t think I could carry much of anything. Wouldn’t it be heavy and cumbersome? I live on top of a big hill so I’d have to haul things up and down, like a laptop and books, groceries, gear for the gym. I’ve tried different things and here’s the set-up I love.
I have a rear rack with large Ortlieb waterproof panniers that come off and on with one hand but stay completely secure, even over bumpy roads. They carry just about anything and keep it all dry. I also have a wire front basket that stays on my bike, to carry a purse, bag, briefcase or jacket. I have a sleek Timbuk2 backpack that’s made to fit a woman’s body. Each day, I use whatever combination of bags I need.
I’m absolutely amazed by how much I can carry on my bike and how easy it is to haul it up the steepest of hills. Before doing this, I never would have thought it was possible.
I remember my first winter in San Francisco without a car. It rained for days and I felt stuck. It also got dark by late afternoon, making riding the last thing I wanted to do. I thought Muni was my only option. But slowly, and with great reluctance, I figured out how to outfit myself, and my bike, for bad weather and darkness. Now I ride in all weather and it’s so much nicer than crowded public transit on a rainy day.
First, I had to have a way to stay dry, especially when going to business meetings. I wanted a waterproof shell I could throw over anything. I got an amazing jacket from Pearl Izumi that, if my house went up in flames, would be the one thing I would save. It’s lightweight, waterproof, wind resistant and has reflective stripes that light up superbly in the dark. The jacket also has a waterproof helmet cover with a small flap that snaps to the collar, keeping water from running into my jacket and down my back (which is pure misery). Unbelievably, the helmet cover doesn’t look too dorky.
I added a pair of lightweight, waterproof pants and rain boots. If I’m going to a meeting, I plan a little extra time so I can strip off my outer layer and walk into my meeting looking totally pulled together. Pair this with fenders and chain guard, and you’re pretty well set.
As for lighting, there are so many great options. For dark mornings and evenings when it’s hard to see, use a strong headlight on your handlebars or helmet. And, use a couple of red blinkies in back. I love the small, simple Knog lights and have one on my helmet and another on my seat post or rear rack.
For even greater visibility, use reflective materials. I’ve added reflective tape to key parts of my commuter bike and wear reflective leg bands. Wearing light colors is good too. But if you’re like me and your winter wardrobe is dominated by black, get a reflective vest or yield symbol and pin it to your jacket. I know, you look like a crossing guard. But hey! Better a living Glamour “Don’t” than a dead fashionista.
This is a biggie! No amount of fancy gear will compensate for a lack of confidence on the road. Feeling safe is first and foremost to riding anywhere, especially in areas with heavy traffic.
As a recreational cyclist, I thought city riding would come easily. But I was really intimidated. So I took a free, half-day Traffic Skills class offered by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. It taught me, in just a few hours, how to share the road with motor vehicles and ride safely. It was the single-most empowering thing I’ve done as a cyclist. Then I did the half-day outdoor bike skills class offered by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition.
All the bike coalitions offer these classes. And, if you work for a company and have a group that wants a class, we offer in-house classes (shameless plug, but wanted you to know this is available).
Before I started to bike commute, I thought I’d be a sweaty mess. How could I show up at meetings dripping and with helmet head? What I found instead is, if I take a route that minimizes (or eliminates) hills, ride at a slow, comfortable pace, and give myself a few minutes on the other end in a bathroom to freshen up, I’m totally fine. I show up at meetings all the time (in business clothes) and no one believes I rode there.
If your commute is more challenging or you want to push it and work up a sweat, then here are a couple of ideas.
See if there’s a gym near your workplace. Many will offer limited memberships that allow you to use their showers and lockers only. Your employer may even pay for it. The $20/month Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit for bike commuters could subsidize or even cover this expense.
If there’s no gym, consider the wonders of baby wipes. You think I’m kidding, right? I’m really not! They’re a great way to freshen up without a shower. (Anyone who’s been to Burning Man, with its 100-degree temps, lots of dust and limited shower access, knows how true this is.)
And there are other clever ways to work commuting in, such as riding to work slowly to stay dry, then riding home faster to get your exercise.
So ladies, if you’re at all interested in bike commuting, just give it a try. You can do it! And don’t hesitate to tell your employer, city officials and local bike coalition what kind support you want. Remember, we’re an indicator specifies!