Increasingly, private companies are looking for ways to reduce their parking expenses and mitigate clean-air compliance problems by offering employees cheap or even free bikes. Now, once committed motorists are riding their bikes to work at an increasing rate.
On September 30, the US Census Bureau released the latest figures on who is biking to work. The survey results show that within most of the bicycle friendly cities, the bicycling mode share increased significantly since 2000. In Portland, Oregon, bike commuters total around 6 percent of the commuting population, making it number one amongst the 30 largest cities in the country. Minneapolis came in number two with 4.3 percent of its commuters using bikes and Seattle and San Francisco were at 2.9 and 2.7 percent respectively.
The survey’s results show that in 2007, an average of 10,987 Portlanders rode their bikes to work, which jumped to 17,365 in 2008. Statewide 37,582 people pedal to work. Though Census officials caution that the annual survey comes from small samples, there is no doubt that commuters are finding other ways to beat the morning commute.
One Oregon brewery helping to bolster these numbers is the Standing Stone Brewing Company, located in Ashland, Oregon. It is a large, brick building with many bicycles along the sidewalk in front. On August 26, owners Danielle and Alex Amartico launched what they call the “RPM Club”, a free bicycle to each employee who agrees to at least 45 round-trip pedal-powered commutes per year.
Immediately, 17 employees signed up, including several who had not previously been bike commuters. The bikes, emblazoned with Standing Stone’s logo, provide the brewery with advertising, keeps employees healthy and takes a few cars off the roads. Not to mention, the brewery receives a Business Energy Tax Credit from the state of Oregon which covers 35 percent of the cost of the bikes. Seems like a win-win if you ask owner Alex Amartico, who is now a mini-celebrity in town. Thanks to press coverage, other businesses, both locally and elsewhere, are considering starting their own program. “The barista at Starbucks knew my name from the local paper and said she was writing her employer’s to start a similar program,” Amartico commented. And why not?
“Companies spend thousands per employee on health care, why not spend $300 on a bike?” asks Alex Amartico. The bike program is only the tip of the iceberg for the budding brewery’s commitment to sustainability. Their plan includes four basic activities they believe in: reducing, reusing, recycling and returning as well as water and energy conservation, waste management and pollution prevention.
Large companies like Apple Computer have also implemented bicycle programs. They provide free use of mountain bikes for employees at their Cupertino, CA, facility. The Downtown Management Commission of Boulder, CO, has also made available 100 bicycles and 50 helmets for residents and tourists. Champlain College in Burlington, VT, gives bikes to students who agree not to keep a car on campus.
Think this kind of program might work in your company? Try giving free bicycles to employees and see what happens. The program could make for a great marketing campaign since customers will want to learn about what you do or sell through press about your green initiatives. If you still aren’t sure about whether or not this kind of bicycle program would be popular in your company, then stroll (or bike) down to your local pub, have a beer and talk it over.