The percentage of bike commuters in Seattle alone increased by 22% from 2009 to 2010, according to US Census data. This increase can be seen during the morning rush hour as swarms of people riding bikes exit the Bainbridge Island ferry, crest the hill on Dexter Avenue into downtown, and huff it to and from suburban communities.
What’s causing the increase? Most Seattle-area workers spend their days indoors and—whether they’re making lattes behind a coffee counter or writing code at a desk—many commuters report that they simply enjoy spending a fraction of their day outdoors rather than on a bus or in a car. The waist-slimming health benefits motivate some, others enjoy the ease of parking a bike rather than a car, and the cost of gas gets some people on their bikes. A less cited—but significant—reason for the increase in cycle commuting is also due to a growing number of Puget Sound employers, large and small, who are going the extra mile to support and promote two-wheeled commuting.
Josh Kavanagh, the University of Washington’s Director of Transportation is responsible for providing commute support to over 65,000 University of Washington students, faculty and staff.
“We are heavily investing in active transportation modes, like bicycling, because it just makes financial sense. We can save on parking construction costs and free up existing parking for redevelopment,” Kavanaugh said. “We know that regular cycling keeps our employees fit and healthy—and that helps control health insurance costs and keep our workforce productive. We also want to be good neighbors and cycling reduces traffic congestion and eliminates air and noise pollution.”
So, what Puget Sound workplaces top the list as most bike-friendly? We’ll soon find out.
Cascade Bicycle Club has just announced the launch of BizCycle, a certification and recognition program for Puget Sound businesses who offer top-notch facilities and support for bike-commuters. Cascade was inspired to create BizCycle by the recent popularity of green building certification programs and the growing demand to differentiate between truly bike-friendly corporate practices and bikewashing. Cascade engaged in research and focus groups during the planning stages of BizCycle to create a set of criteria defining a bike-friendly workplace.
“Local businesses and institutions were very curious about what their peers were doing to promote cycling. They wanted to see what more they could do to improve and how they stacked up against each other,” said Stephanie Frans, Cascade’s Manager of Commute Programs.
Cascade was also motivated to roll-out BizCycle because recent research has shown that adequate end-of-trip facilities are a significant motivating factor for some commuters who are on the fence about cycling to work. For example, researcher Ralph Buehler of Virginia Tech found that commuters with access to showers, clothes lockers, and bike parking at work are associated with a nearly 5 times greater likelihood to commute by bicycle.
Talk to any bike commuter, and they will confirm the importance of workplace cycling amenities and support. Eleanor Kirtley, a marine engineer who lives in Phinney Ridge, reports that only after starting at The Glosten Associates, a downtown Seattle naval architecture and marine engineering firm where employees have access to showers and secure bike storage, did she start regularly bike commuting.
“About a third of Glosten associates participate in Bike to Work month each year. It’s a friendly competition, and biking to work has now become part of my normal routine year-round,” Kirtley said.
BizCycle provides an opportunity for employers to receive recognition for their current efforts to improve livability, decrease the environmental impacts of workforce commuting, and improve the health of their employees via their support of cycling.
Businesses seeking BizCycle certification can earn up to 50 credits for activities in five different focus areas ranging from infrastructure to leadership. There are basic prerequisites applicants must meet, however BizCycle aims to reward the diversity of ways a workplace can support cycling. Providing showers may not be possible for every employer, but credits are available for a range of other activities—from fostering a bicycle-friendly corporate culture to providing urban cycling classes to advocating for improved cycling infrastructure beyond the wall of the office.
Think your workplace deserves BizCycle certification? Let your workplace know about the program! BizCycle is now receiving applications and the first ten people who refer their employer to BizCycle will be eligible for either a free entry to Cascade’s RSVP ride or a free Ortlieb pannier. Spread the word (and make sure your employer enters your name here so you get the free stuff).