It’s no secret that we’ve been long-time advocates for bicycle programs and bicycling to work. They’re efficient, sustainable, and healthy. What’s not to love? (Nothing, we know, rhetorical question.)
But just because we talk about implementing bicycle programs at your workplace doesn’t mean it’s something you can do with a snap of your fingers. You have to think about parking logistics, employee hygiene, and many other factors. That’s why we’re here — so you don’t have to!
Bicycles and bike-to-work programs should be centerpieces of commute management programs – especially now. A steep rise in drive-alone commutes isn’t going feasible once employees return to the office.
A major concern around companies and organizations returning to the office surrounds employees driving and parking. Employees are likely going to opt for more secluded forms of commuting, given understandable concerns around being in close quarters with strangers on public transit. Unfortunately, if all of your employees decide to drive, you will need more parking spots — and a lot of money. (Let’s not forget the environmental impact of more commuters driving alone, too.)
Encouraging and assisting your employees to adopt bike commutes, even a few days a week, can help mitigate some of these parking issues. You can accommodate 10 bikes by repurposing just one car parking spot for bikes. That’s a lot of space and a lot of money you could be saving if your employees bike instead of driving alone.
Another bike parking solution we’ve heard recently is repurposing unused conference and meeting rooms into bike storage rooms. When your employees begin to work in the office, you may have policies against meeting in confined rooms with multiple people. Larger conference rooms work for meetings because of the ability to distance. That allows you to use smaller meeting rooms as bike storage, you will occupy less space in your parking garage and employees will feel even more secure about their bikes.
In addition to saving space (and the environment), let’s talk about the money you can save. It’s no secret that parking can be very expensive. As Donald Shoup says, free parking isn’t really free at all. We may be paraphrasing a bit, but that is the basis of his ideas.
That means someone’s paying, and that someone is usually you, the employer. Paying for your employees’ parking can cost you a lot of money. Depending on the city in which your office is located, a parking spot can go for $200-$300 per month. Crazy! Now think how much parking will cost you if there’s an increase in drive-alone commuters.
Bike parking, on the other hand, doesn’t cost nearly as much. You can turn smaller meeting rooms into bike storage for free. If that isn’t viable and you need another solution, bike racks are incredibly less expensive than a parking spot – plus, it’s an upfront cost rather than hundreds (or even thousands) per month.
If you don’t have the room, or authority, to add bike parking in your parking garage, you can always circumvent the parking issue entirely and provide subsidized bikeshare memberships. There are more than 110 bikeshare systems in the US, meaning most major and mid-major cities have them. Paying for your employees’ memberships saves you time, money, and space. Plus, employees no longer have the financial burden of buying their own bikes and may be more likely to give it a try.
Employee happiness and productivity
Studies have found that biking or walking to work leads to better mental health and happiness. If your employees are happy and focused, you can expect to see an increase in productivity. After being inside working from home for more than six months, mental health should be a huge priority for employers and employees. Encouraging bike commutes can be an important piece in ensuring your employees are mentally and emotionally ready to return to the office.
When your employees bike to the office, chances are they’ll be sweaty and want to freshen up. This is where you need to think about the end-of-trip experience. Do your employees have the option to shower? Will they be able to socially distance? Is there storage for their personal belongings? These are questions you need to answer if you are serious about getting your employees to bike to the office.
Installing a shower at the office can also be a marketing tactic for you. Employees are five times more likely to bike to the office if they can shower once they arrive. If you don’t have the power to install a shower, you can try and work with your property management to get one installed. Whatever you can do to improve your employees’ end-of-trip experience will go a long way in changing their commuting behavior.
More bike-to-work initiatives
Okay, we’ve given you reasons why bicycle programs should 100% be included in your commute management program. Now we’re going to tell you more ways to help your employees.
Bike rental program
Earlier in the blog, we talked about offering a bikeshare subsidy. If you happen to be in a city that doesn’t have a widespread bikeshare program, or none at all, there’s a workaround: an internal bike rental program.
Offering an internal bike rental program can help your employees adopt bike commutes. For starters, it takes the financial burden off of your employees. Not all bikes are $1000+. In fact, you can find reliable bikes for around $450. While cheaper than high-end bikes, $450 is still not a small cost for an individual. But for companies, it’s a little more reasonable. If you can afford even five bikes to start, that’s a start.
Again, we know businesses have been impacted by COVID, so a bike rental program might not be in the cards for your company right now. If your employees want to bike, but need help with purchasing a bicycle, you could offer some financial assistance. Maybe $200 towards a new bike, or a percentage of the total up to a certain amount. Whatever you’re able to do financially is better than nothing.
The unspoken rules-of-the-road are foreign to employees who don’t regularly bike to the office. Learning them isn’t easy either. Hosting events with either employees who regularly bike to the office, or with local bike associations can help with that issue. This can be a bike-to-work day or week. You can also help you employees create a bike club, where employees ride to work together, and get more comfortable with a newer commute and more familiar with your bicycle programs.