Wheeling in Employees: How to Keep Cyclists Happy at the Office

EPA bike room
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.

Be Accessible
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.
NIH Bicycle Commuter Club

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!

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

by B' Spokes

Like most people I live a hectic life and who has the time for much exercise? Thanks to xtracycle now I do. By using my bike for daily activities I can get things done and get an hour plus work out in 15 minutes extra of my time, not a bad deal and beats taking the extra time going to the gym. In case you are still having trouble being motivated; the National Center of Disease Control says that inactivity is the #2 killer in the United States just behind smoking. ( http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/bb_nutrition/ ) Get out there and start living life! I can carry home a full shopping cart of groceries, car pool two kids or just get lost in the great outdoors camping for a week. Well I got go, another outing this weekend.
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I think bike parking is one of the biggest issues. Obviously, the first issue is people are not going to ride somewhere if they have nowhere to put their bike when they get there. Here in Portland at the Oregon Health and Science University (and in the city in general), we have quite a bit of bike parking, and it fills up rather quickly:


I think bike parking rooms are a great idea, and do really help people feel like they are doing something legitimate, give a great covered and secure area for bike storage, and they're still way cheaper than parking garages for automobiles.

I think for most people, the sweating argument is kind of bogus. If you have a really long commute (say, 10 miles or more), I could see it being legitimate, or maybe if you live in Seattle or San Francisco and you happen to have to go up some nasty hills on your way to work, or over the west hills in Portland. I often ride 7-10 miles at a time in my normal clothes and don't get any sweatier than if I were walking somewhere. Just simply leave the house early enough that you don't have to ride as hard as you possibly can the whole way. I ride moderately and still average faster than public transit, and nearly as fast as private automobiles who follow traffic laws :) Having showers available is still a nice perk, but I don't think most people *really* need them.

That would be awesome if more businesses started subsidizing bike purchases. OHSU gives a $50 incentive for every 30 days you ride your bike to work, which isn't a lot, but it definitely helps motivate. They also heavily subsidize yearly public transit passes. With hundreds of employees biking to work and riding public transit, it saves them a lot of parking issues, being located on a hill and having very limited space. It also saves them money, as infrastructure to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists is way cheaper than infrastructure to accommodate cars.
Wo ist denn mein Elefant hingegangen?