May is National Bike-to-Work month for a reason. In the northern half of the country, it’s the time of year when good weather finally arrives, takes off its jacket, and stays awhile. Like hungry bears emerging from their caves, bikes across America roll out of garages and basements, ready to hit the road. A beautiful day can be just the nudge we need to put down our bus passes and car keys and strap on a helmet.
Of course, not everyone is so inclined. There are a million excuses to leave that bike at home. There’s nowhere to park it near the office. I don’t want to be sweaty when I get there. I like to listen to podcasts and zone out on the subway. Despite the fact that biking to work makes commuters feel happier, lose weight, and get more work done, few Americans actually do it.
A bike-friendly workplace can tip the scales for the reluctant cyclists among us. It shuts down some of those excuses, but it also signals that biking is a normal way to get to the office. It can be a big encouragement to know that one’s company is committed to making the bike commute a reality. Here are some things to keep in mind as you shift gears into a cyclical state of mind.
Find your space
Providing a safe place for bikes is absolutely essential. Nobody wants to spend the workday worrying if their bike will still be there when they leave. If you can find the space for it, a bike room with a lockable door is the gold standard of bike parking. Installing wall racks can help you fit more bikes into a small space. If your office is on an upper floor, check with your building manager to make sure it’s okay if employees bring bikes in the elevator and that there’s a clear path from the street to the bike room.
If setting aside a room just for cycle storage is out of the question, then it’s time to embrace the outdoor bike rack. Install one at the entrance to your company parking lot or garage, or reach out to your city’s department of transportation to have them drop a rack on the sidewalk in front of your building. Due to high demand, many cities have set up specific online forms to request new bike racks. Take advantage!
Hit the showers
Most bike commuters tend to work up a bit of a sweat on their way in, so providing an office shower is a major show of support. Look into adding a shower stall and changing area to one of your existing bathrooms. If the cost involved is out of the question, try setting up a group membership with a local gym so your employees have somewhere to freshen up. When summer rolls around, this will feel like a godsend.
Pile on the benefits
Bikeshare programs in New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, and several other cities offer corporate membership packages. With an annual or monthly subscription, your company can offer employees unlimited bikeshare memberships at steeply discounted rates.
In addition, all employers are eligible to give bicycling commuters a $20 reimbursement per month for the expenses incurred while biking. Employees only need to bike three times a week to qualify. It’s a win-win arrangement– your company can deduct the reimbursement from its payroll taxes.
Get the gear
Keep some basic tools on hand for workday repairs and maintenance. There’s no need to set up a full-service bike shop behind the reception desk, but a few essentials will get you a long way. For about $40, you can get an air pump, a spare tire, a tire patch kit, and a multi-tool. With a bit of knowledge you can easily find online, these simple items can address 90% of everyday bike issues. Plus, riders will feel more secure knowing that if they have a mechanical snag on the way in, they’ll be able to fix it and bike home the same day.
Grow the community
No one wants to feel like they’re the only one biking to work. To foster a group mentality among riders, set up a bulletin board, email list, or Slack channel where they can compare notes and share tips. Bring in a guest speaker to talk about topics like bike safety or campaigns to increase bike lanes in your area. Take advantage of National Bike-to-Work Month to hold an event, with plenty of free food and giveaways. The League of American Bicyclists has a terrific Bike Month Guide on how to plan an event for your company, with fun ideas like a car vs. bus vs. bike race and a breakfast rally. You can also join up with a city-wide or neighborhood-wide mass ride, such as those offered by Transportation Alternatives in New York City. Like most things, biking is even more fun when you do it with other people.