How the world’s coolest companies win using bike fleets
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.
Bikeshare’s Fast. And Fun.
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
The inspiring examples of company bikeshare
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.
The intangible rewards of bikeshare
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.