Wheeling in Employees: How to Keep Cyclists Happy at the Office
YOU'VE DECIDED TO BECOME a bike commuter. Kudos. But how successfully you stick with that resolution depends on whether your office goes the distance.
As cycling gains ground in the D.C. area, some businesses have been bona fide trailblazers. Toole Design — a Hyattsville-based transportation consulting firm — and the World Bank's D.C. office have even been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as two of the nation's most bicycle-friendly workplaces.
Want to know how your employer can follow their lead? Keep reading.
Most folks aren't going to want to hop on I-66 to wheel their way in. So, companies in neighborhoods near multi-use jogging and cycling trials — like Bethesda, which is close to the Capital Crescent — are more likely to lure two-wheelers. Second best are offices near roads with bike lanes (or little traffic).
Employees also have the option of pedaling to the closest Metro station, locking up their Schwinns and riding the rails the rest of the way. For those who want to haul a bike on the train — they're prohibited during peak riding hours — Toole Design planning director R.J. Eldridge suggests a small, foldable model. "You can take it on the Metro anytime," he says.
Keep it Clean
Your cyclists are safely at work. But there's another logistical problem to deal with: They stink.
Eldridge says Toole Design chose its location specifically for its shower facilities. In buildings without them, it's smart to negotiate a group discount at a nearby fitness center. Otherwise, the only real option for riders is a rubdown with wet wipes.
Provide Safe Parking
Outdoor bike racks are fine for cheaper wheels you won't worry about getting damaged or stolen. But riders generally feel safer with more secure storage.
That's why the Ronald Reagan Building was designed with a bike room in mind. Pat Childers, bike administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has its D.C. office in the Reagan, says, "That's what makes the Reagan Building bike room … so successful. It has access to showers, it has lockers, it holds some 100 bikes. When we built it, it filled very quickly." (They're so proud, they've even offered tours of the space so other cyclists can be jealous.)
Build a Community
"If people feel like they're alone out there doing this, it's not worth doing," says Angela Atwood-Moore, a research associate at the National Institutes of Health. As the president of the NIH Bicycle Commuter Club, she's been instrumental in keeping the Bethesda campus' 600 bike commuters informed through a Web site and an e-mail list (to which 300 riders subscribe). Whether it's finding a mentor for a cycling newbie or coordinating meet-up points for Friday's Bike to Work Day (see details below), the club reinforces a sense of camaraderie.
NIH and the EPA sell cycling jerseys with company logos, while Eldridge says Toole plans to enter a team in the Bike MS: Chesapeake Challenge in June.
Show Us the Money
It also can't hurt to offer financial incentives for ditching driving. Employers can institute the recently adopted monthly $20 tax rebate for cyclists, or go further. Toole covers the costs of the League of American Bicyclists bike safety course ($20), and NIH's Bikes for Bucks program rewards riders' mileage with store credit to local bike shops.
But, of course, it's up to the workers to make sure they're not missing out on any other perks. Like the 180 employees at the Calvert Group's Bethesda location. "We offer a $500 reimbursement for a purchase of a bike," says human resources' Lauren Lefkowitz. So far, only a handful have used it. Time to get in gear, folks!
BIKE TO WORK DAY
The weather actually looks — fingers crossed — pretty decent for Friday, which should make for a popular Bike to Work Day. Expect the usual festivities of pit-stop rallies across the region, as well as the big shebang in Freedom Plaza, where you can score free food, T-shirts and other goodies. Find a commuter convoy in your neighborhood, learn how to sustain a bike commuting lifestyle and dig around for other helpful info about the event at Waba.org. — Vicky Hallett/Express
Photos courtesy Eric Vance/EPA, Bill Branson/NIH