Enabling Commuters

Cycle London

I love this idea. I have talked with a number of friends about commuting to work. “It’s easy” I tell them. Of course - I have it good. I have a shower on my floor, and I get to bring my bike up the service elevator to my desk. I can walk into the office draped in lycra without raising an eyebrow.

It’s not the distance - the hardest part of the commute is the logistics. Some employers do a great job of helping out by providing the facilities cyclists need. Problem is - not all employers are so kind. The London government looks like they are taking the right steps to bringing these facilities to the masses. Although wide-open public facilities may work, I think there are some better options.

  1. Subsidize a shower-only membership to a gym “ downtown centers are littered with gyms, but oftentimes the membership costs are too high to justify. Commuters only need a subset of the services, so let them pay a reduced amount for it (and have the govt help out).
    1. Provide secure, individual bike lockers in the gym buildings - bury them on the bottom floor of the parking garage for all we care, but cage them off so people can call them their own and keep stuff there. Put in lockers as well so folks can store fresh clothes as well. Laundry services can help resolve the but I have to wear a suit issue.
    2. Create an emergency bus pass program “ there are some days when taking the bus is necessary. Give out passes good for 5 trips a month that commuters can hold onto in a pinch.

The key is lots of locations around a downtown area. Putting all these facilities in one spot is only convenient for those few people that work close. Businesses do a great job of supporting Van-Pooling, Public Transit, and carpooling, but don’t give proper support to cyclists. I think the problem is most don’t know how without a large facilities investment. Maybe we need to talk to Lance and his friends at 24hr Fitness and get the ball rolling.



11 Comments

Couple more:

Keep a spare combination lock (with resettable combination) on the premises for the inevitable time one commuter or another forgets a lock at home

Keep a minimal set of tools and spare tubes, spare batteries, as well as a floor pump, on premises available to the commuters in the company.  Ideally, one would run out to the LBS for these, but one may not have the time on any given day.

Good point Ted.  I was sort of envisioning that each of the individual “cages” would have combo locks, but a common use lock would be a good alternative as well.  Not lugging a U-lock is huge for an enjoyable commute.

For tubes/parts/etc - how about a simple vending maching at each location?  There are only 2 “real” bike shops downtown.  One closes right at 5.  The other is down a steep cobbled hill.  Not so convenient if you discover a slow leak during the day.

I bought a nice floor pump for my office and keep a stash of tubes at my desk for just that reason.

That photo brings back memories! I rode that exact route with morning commuters when I was in [London](/tag/london). I also talked to a few of them and they said opening bike routes in the park made a huge difference for the commute.

Spare parts in the office: genius! ‘Specially the floor pump. Man, that make sense. Thanks.

I’m lucky enough to have an actual office where I can keep my bike out of the weather, but alas, no showers.

Check out Bikestation here in the states: http://www.bikestation.org/

They’ve got stations in several cities on the west coast, including Seattle. Only Santa Barbara has showers though. I love the idea of leveraging business with showers (athletic clubs) to expand this concept. I’d be worried about their ability to enforce a ‘shower only’ membership though—how do you keep the shower only crowd out of the weight room?

BikeStation, at least the one here in Seattle, is on the right track.  I just don’t think it’s cutting it.  It closes at 5 unless you have a membership.  It’s located on the South end of downtown, so chances are your office is no where close.  If you put in 5 locations throughout downtown to close that “last mile” issue and let people ride within a couple blocks of their office - I think you’ve on to something.

Shower only - yeah, that’s tough.  If it’s a large enough revenue stream, the gym will figure a way.

I don’t have a gym membership so I’m not sure how access works but if you had to swipe a membership card to enter (and exit for restricted membership), the gym could simply charge a shower only member for any time over 30 minutes (or whatever turns out to be appropriate) spent in the building.  The rate would be high enough to encourage full membership if people want to use the other facilities.

the bike station link is cool, I like the idea. I also thought bike snobs post on the alleged NYC plans for a bike parking garage. I like the idea, secure parking would definitely be a must in NYC. The bike station website said they seem to be having trouble with their security system if anyone wants to build a bike garage, i devised my own simple bike garage security system theory

Ted Diamond forwarded me this link and asked if I might want to add my thoughts to the discussion. For context I am an alternative transportation commuter who saw that parking was being highly subsidized in our company, and bus travel to a lesser degree while walking, carpooling, biking etc. were completely ignored. Upon doing a bit of research I found the city and state laws around commute reduction and fashioned that into part of an argument for broader subsidization of alternative transportation. My approach was to present multiple angles of attack, so that if one or two failed to resonate, the others might still act effectively. The health angle, the worker happiness angle, the legal angle, the environmental angle, the positive press angle, the recruiting perk angle. Nothing was spared or sacred! The argument needed to be clear, concise, and overwhelming. Nobody is motivated to read a Melvillean manifesto, no matter how marvelous (sorry, reading Moby Dick right now). I also did not want to propose a specific solution. Why not - baby with bathwater. I felt like a specific ask gave them an easy way to say no. “It’s quite clear that this specific facet of your proposal will never work, therefore we can discount the whole thing!” I wanted to define the problem, hand them the data (spoon fed if necessary), and then see what came of it. The outcome of this proposal was that the gym in the building became a part of the travel subsidy. Not a sweeping victory, but something (10 hours of research for a quality of life increase for me and my coworkers? Why the hell not?) and the company still has to address the commute reduction issues they are legally bound to, so this proposal may be submitted again in a revised form once the pressure is on.

Here is the text of the proposal. Feel free to plagarize, modify, steal, or otherwise deface for your own nefarious purposes. I present it anticopywrited (or is it anticopywritten?) Lots of fun links in the appendix (all working last time I checked, which was 6 months ago).

Proposal for the Development of an Alternate Transportation Incentive Program.


Company X currently subsidizes some forms of transportation, while ignoring the costs (and failing to promote the benefits) of others.  The transportation stipend of up to $200, while appreciated by those who must drive to work, fails to promote alternate methods other than public transportation.  Additionally, the public transportation stipend can be seen as a lesser incentive, as its actual value rarely approaches $200 per month.  Due to the generous transportation stipend, fully realized only by those who park in the city, employees are incentivized to drive rather than choose alternate modes of transportation.  I am proposing that Company X develop a comprehensive transportation initiative that while still supplementing parking fees, rewards those who choose alternate forms of transportation such as biking or walking. Ultimately this initiative would provide two things:
1. Cash or credit incentives for all forms of alternate transportation
2. Access to facilities (showers/changing areas) for those who choose alternate transportation methods.

As Company X grows to be a major employer (defined by the city of Seattle as 100+ full time employees), state and city law dictates that a “commute reduction plan” must be developed (see: <a href=“http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/commute.htm#faq,” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/commute.htm#faq,” rel=“nofollow”>http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/commute.htm#faq,</a></a> <a href=“http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/TDM/CTR/efficiency.htm).” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/TDM/CTR/efficiency.htm).” rel=“nofollow”>http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/TDM/CTR/efficiency.htm).</a></a>  As Company X already has a large number of employees that bus, ride, or walk to work, incentivizing alternate forms of transportation (one method that shows compliance) will easily meet the mandated requirements of trip reduction.
Besides the legal imperative, promoting alternate forms of transportation is in the best interest of Company X for a variety of reasons including healthier workers due to more exercise and less stressful commutes, the opportunity for recognition as an environmentally conscious organization, and the symbolic value of such a perk during the recruiting process.  Research in employee retention and commitment has suggested that employees who feel the organization values them and cares about their well being are more strongly committed to the organization, resulting in a stronger work ethic, organizational evangelization,  and a more personal investment in the success of the organization.  Gestures such as rewarding alternate transportation methods represent an “easy win” for Company X to reach out to a considerable number of current employees.
The appendix to this document includes a variety of information regarding communities and organizations that have set up bike and walking incentive programs, along with government sources discussing the benefits of these programs.  Additionally, information regarding how to set up an alternative transportation incentive program is included.
On behalf of myself and current like-minded Company X employees, in the interest of making Company X one of the best places to work in Seattle by actively promoting the health of its workers while minimizing its impact on the environment, I sincerely hope you will consider this request.

Cordially,
Ivan

Fellow Supporters: (names removed to protect the guilty)
Appendix A: Program Examples and Educational Sites Regarding the Establishment of Alternate Transportation Incentive Programs

Washington State Transportation Demand Management Site:
<a href=“http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/tdm” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/tdm” rel=“nofollow”>http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/tdm</a></a> (includes overview of state law and guidance in establishing a program).

Sites Discussing the Establishment of an Alternate Transportation Incentive Program:

U.S. Department of Transportation’s Commuter Choice Primer:
• Discusses how to set up a commuter choice system
• Reveals that programs that focused on financial incentives and disincentives (such as transit subsidies and parking pricing) realized an average 16.4% trip reduction.
• Additionally: Employers that combined both enhanced alternatives (e.g., vanpool provision) with incentives or disincentives (e.g., vanpool subsidies) realized an average trip reduction of 24.5%.
Main document: <a href=“http://www.itsdocs.fhwa.dot.gov/JPODOCS/REPTS_PR/13669.html” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://www.itsdocs.fhwa.dot.gov/JPODOCS/REPTS_PR/13669.html” rel=“nofollow”>http://www.itsdocs.fhwa.dot.gov/JPODOCS/REPTS_PR/13669.html</a></a>
Data above taken from: <a href=“http://www.itsdocs.fhwa.dot.gov/JPODOCS/REPTS_PR/13669/section08.htm” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://www.itsdocs.fhwa.dot.gov/JPODOCS/REPTS_PR/13669/section08.htm” rel=“nofollow”>http://www.itsdocs.fhwa.dot.gov/JPODOCS/REPTS_PR/13669/section08.htm</a></a>


Best Workplaces for Commuters:
U.S. Government website (http://www.bwc.gov) that lists the nation’s most commuter friendly employers. Includes brief descriptions of company incentives, and has an extensive description of how to set up and promote innovative commuting incentive programs and descriptions of case studies on successful programs.


Sites/Articles with Examples of Incentive Programs:

Seattle.gov’s “Way to Go, Seattle!” Commuter Cash program:
• By reducing single car trips to work for a year, commuters can sign up for a cash incentive of up to $150.
• Other incentives include prize drawings.
• <a href=“http://www.seattle.gov/waytogo/commutercash.htm” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://www.seattle.gov/waytogo/commutercash.htm” rel=“nofollow”>http://www.seattle.gov/waytogo/commutercash.htm</a></a>

King County Employee bike incentive program website:
• 51% carpool, bike, or walk to work = $20 voucher for AAA/Washington, Brown Bear Car Wash, Union 76 Gas stations, REI, the YMCA or Flexcar.
• <a href=“http://www.metrokc.gov/employees/transportation/options/bike.aspx” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://www.metrokc.gov/employees/transportation/options/bike.aspx” rel=“nofollow”>http://www.metrokc.gov/employees/transportation/options/bike.aspx</a></a>

Los Angeles Employee Transportation Incentive Program:
• $30 cash subsidy, bike lock, repair kit, bike racks
• 10 days a month to qualify
• <a href=“http://www.lamission.edu/FORMS/rideshare/minimum_requirements.pdf” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://www.lamission.edu/FORMS/rideshare/minimum_requirements.pdf” rel=“nofollow”>http://www.lamission.edu/FORMS/rideshare/minimum_requirements.pdf</a></a>

Tech company Ridespring has developed an alternative commute reward system described below:
Unlike traditional rideshare and car pool programs, RideSpring ACIPs track and reward all workers participating in the company alternative commute program regardless of their transportation preference. Bicyclists, transit commuters, vanpoolers and those who walk to work are able to accumulate alternative commuting points and are eligible for prize rewards each month along with their carpooling colleagues. The more workers utilize commuting alternatives, the greater their chances of winning gift cards to big name stores including REI, the Apple Store, as well as to local businesses such as restaurants, bicycle shops or “green” product retailers.
Prizewinners are announced monthly in emails and on their RideSpring ACIP website, giving employees positive motivation to improve their commute choices, there-by reducing traffic congestion, air pollution and global warming emissions.
<a href=“http://prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=SPITRN.story&STORY;=/www/story/04-17-2007/0004567171&EDATE=TUE+Apr+17+2007,+09:30+AM” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=SPITRN.story&STORY;=/www/story/04-17-2007/0004567171&EDATE=TUE+Apr+17+2007,+09:30+AM” rel=“nofollow”>http://prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=SPITRN.story&STORY;=/www/story/04-17-2007/0004567171&EDATE=TUE+Apr+17+2007,+09:30+AM</a></a>

Sacramento California has an incentive system that gives users the opportunity to win prizes each week that they complete a commute diary that shows non-single commuter trips to work. Additionally they offer a bike subsidy application program for those who promise to log over 50 bike trips to work (http://www.50corridor.com <a href=“http://www.50corridor.com/bike_subsidies_form.asp)” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://www.50corridor.com/bike_subsidies_form.asp)” rel=“nofollow”>http://www.50corridor.com/bike_subsidies_form.asp)</a></a>

Article on how many Oregon businesses offer incentives. Of special note: These range from gift certificates to daily cash payments for each day of “green” commuting and hourly wage increases for participating employees. At the federal level in the United States, a bill entitled the Bicycle Commuters Benefits Act was introduced to the US Senate in April 2006. If passed, it will give employers the option of reimbursing employees who commute by bike $40 to $100 per month tax free, allowing them to recoup costs such as lights, maintenance, rain gear, locker rental, and changing facilities, and offering them a transportation benefit similar to that already enjoyed by transit riders and carpoolers. This would be a business expense for the employer, while for the employee it would be a tax-free reimbursement – an incentive to commute by bicycle.
<a href=“http://www.momentumplanet.ca/?q=node/80” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://www.momentumplanet.ca/?q=node/80” rel=“nofollow”>http://www.momentumplanet.ca/?q=node/80</a></a>

Sierra club article on the value of alternate transportation programs, including:
• Parking “cash out” where users get cash for not using their parking subsidies.
• Bank of America’s LA commuters give $3/day to walkers/bikers
• <a href=“http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/transportation/commute.asp” rel=“nofollow”><a href=“http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/transportation/commute.asp” rel=“nofollow”>http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/transportation/commute.asp</a></a>

Enjoy,
Ivan

I think showers are overhyped. For most places, most parts of the year are colder than 20 degrees C in the morning which means that with the right clothes, and the right biking speed, you won’t sweat.

40% of US urban transport journies are two miles or less, which takes about 10-15 minutes. If you don’t get sweaty from 15 minutes of walking, you shouldn’t get sweaty from 15 minutes of riding either.

I can see showers in Florida and California, and in the summers elsewhere too, but you get pretty far by just changing your shirt when you arrive. A merino wool base layer will work miracles against sweat if you make sure not to overdress.

Ivan,

That’s I think the longest comment ever posted . . .

Erik,

Good point . .. when I used to commute (I now work from home), I’d just have a bottle of rubbing alcohol, some of those makeup remover cotton circles (from my wife’s stash), and would just wipe myself down real fast. No shower required.

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