Williams-Sonoma Bike Fleet: the perfect tool for the job

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.

Fun and easy way to get to the Williams-Sonoma’s Farmer’s Market at the Ice House courtyard

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.


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