In honor of Bike Month and the Group Health Commute Challenge, we’re putting together a series of videos that follow first-time bike commuter Stacey (weird, she looks a little bit like me) as she prepares for and starts riding her bike to work. Here’s the first installment to get things started:
No, the prize for the Group Health Commute Challenge Video, Photo and Story Contest is not a ride on the Space Shuttle. We are nonetheless delighted to recognize a winner and two honorable mentions for the week, all of whom submitted work on the theme of Prepare to launch: skills and safety.
Our first-place winner is Sean Sheldrake of Ballard, who submitted this photo titled Minivan. It looks like the family is ready to go and well set up for safety, too, with helmets, lights and flags. Congratulations, Sean, and thanks for your entry!
Our first honorable mention is this winsome safety haiku from Amy LaZerte, sustainability office assistant at North Seattle Community College:
Silly Green Helmet
Drivers notice me and wink
Safety with smiles
And finally, a blog post titled Fashion Flashback: Cycling Style from the Nordstrom blog, submitted by Jared Pearce and Suzanne Asprea (aka Screamin’ Suza) of Nordstrom’s team Helmet Hair. The post celebrates women’s launch into cycling and freedom, and how that went hand-in-hand with fashion change, with a nod toward safety, too.
Thanks to all of our contributors this week for sharing a slice of your life on two wheels. And now for next week’s theme:
On the road
What does it take to be a bike commuter? You have to be in incredible shape, right? And bike to work every single day of the week? And have all the latest bike gear and garb?
Not so! In fact, such all-or-nothing thinking will go a long way toward discouraging would-be bicycle commuters.
Sure, some commuters are ultra-fit and some bike to work every day. But many of us—perhaps even most of us—don’t start out this way.
Take Birage Tandon, who works in finance for Bellevue Christian School. Birage hadn’t biked in over 25 years when co-worker Mare Sullivan invited her to join her team, the BCS Hillslugs, for the Group Health Commute Challenge.
Mare is one of those captains who really know how to motivate riders. She came over to Birage’s house and helped her take down her bike and clean it up. She offered to ride with Birage.
In short, Mare got Birage riding again, for the first time in years.
Birage committed to riding one day per week during last year’s Challenge. To meet her goal, she overcame some of the challenges that all new bike commuters face, such as coordinating necessary changes of clothes for a workplace that lacks showers; facing the fear of biking on stretches of road without bike lanes and with lots of traffic; and feeling self-conscious as a cyclist.
(When I asked her how she’d feel if there was a bike trail on her commute, she said, “Oh, if there was a bike trail leading from my house to work, I’d bike every day.” Safe bicycle infrastructure goes a long way toward encouraging riders.)
Birage did it! Not only that, but the 2010 Commute Challenge motivated her to begin a regular exercise routine, which she’s kept up all year. “Now I work out two to three times a week,” she says. She also goes on the occasional recreational bike ride with her husband. Because she’s in better shape, her commitment to the BCS Hillslugs this year is to bike two days per week during Bike Month.
Starting to commute by bike, like developing any new habit, can be difficult. Birage’s story shows that we can take small steps toward the goal and embrace benefits as we go, like the good health that comes from regular exercise. Sophie, in our video, does the same.
Her experience also points to bigger-picture shifts that encourage cycling, like more bike lanes and multi-use trails, and more workplaces that offer showers and bike parking.
With so many cyclists taking to the streets this May—a record 10,400 Commute Challenge sign-ups so far!—our region is demonstrating, loud and clear, the demand for community and employer investments in cycling. It stands to reason that in time we’ll see more and more people like Birage taking down their bikes, dusting them off and going for a ride.
The Group Health Commute Challenge Video, Photo and Story contest is rolling along wonderfully. We’re happy to announce our first winner, Max Thornton, who submitted this picture, “Carp Diem,” on the theme Getting Started. Thank you, Max. You’re now in the running for one of the grand prizes given out at the Commute Challenge After Party on June 7.
We have one honorable mention, as well, the following video from Tim Willis. We wish they’d been wearing helmets in the video, but it sure captures the freedom of being on a bike on a beautiful spring day like today at the start of Bike Month.
Thanks also to Abby Bass for forwarding her blog post on music to listen to before riding. (Note: that’s BEFORE riding. Leave those ear buds at home and stay safe out there!)
Without further ado, I’m happy announce the theme for the coming week:
Prepare to launch: skills and safety
Videos, photos and artwork due by noon, Wednesday, May 11. Have fun!
Back in September, Cascade Bicycle Club got a visit from Alan Dodson, Michael Henderson and Becky Roberts of the Seattle architecture firm Miller Hull. The threesome had biked from Miller Hull’s downtown office to deliver a $1,500 check, the end result of the firm’s effort to boost employee participation in Cascade’s Group Health Commute Challenge last May.
Miller Hull—which has entered teams in the Commute Challenge for five years—pledged in 2010 to donate one dollar for every mile logged by employees during Bike Month. They split the contribution between Cascade and Bike Works, a nonprofit that builds sustainable communities by educating youth and promoting bicycling.
The incentive served not only to encourage bicycle commuting at Miller Hull, but also to reflect the firm’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It was wildly successful. Participation in the Commute Challenge doubled at the office compared with any other year, for a total of 3,000 cycling miles logged by 24 employees, or an average of 125 miles per rider.
“When the partners at Miller Hull challenged our office to ride by donating one dollar per mile to bike friendly organizations, it was a game changer,” said Alan Dodson, who organized the Commute Challenge effort at the office. “As the mileage began to build…1000, 2000…our riders’ excitement snowballed as we realized that our efforts were going to lead to a significant donation.”
Michael, who started bike commuting as a result of the Challenge, said, “It was a great opportunity to get in shape. I’d try to get to work faster every day.” He added that the competition helped make biking normal and easy for him. He and other participating employees still commute regularly by bike, and Miller Hull continues to support them. The firm purchased an office bicycle that staff can use for errands during the day, and the building where they work added 15 to 20 bike parking spots in the garage.
Miller Hull’s Commute Challenge teams are now ramping up for another great year, in which they’ll defend their first place trophy in the highly competitive architecture and engineering sector.
Cascade thanks the whole bicycling crew at Miller Hull for their generous donation and leadership in promoting bike commuting. We cheer them on as they pedal forward, just as we put their contribution to work helping other individuals and businesses bring out their bikes and ride.
If you are an employer or work for one that would like to increase bicycle commuting, we can help. Visit www.cbcef.org/bike-commuting-employers.html or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about the types of services that Cascade offers, such as workplace bike-ability assessments, bicycle infrastructure planning and customized classes. Of course, you can also offer your employees an enticing incentive like Miller Hull did.