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Four simple ways to encourage employees to bike to work!

Culture | Posted on May 13, 2013 by Joseph Byer

Joseph Byer leading the pack to celebrate Softchoice’s 2012 listing as one of Canada’s Greenest Workplaces by Maclean’s magazine!

It’s no secret that in North America, more and more commuters are choosing two wheels instead of four, or giving up their transit pass to avoid the crowded subways and busses. There are many more reasons than just traffic frustration as well including health benefits both physical and mental.

Aside from the reasons on the personal level, there’s no shortage of reasons for companies to promote the use of the bicycle as an efficient means to get to work every day.  For that to work, there are some things to consider that will encourage those would-be cyclists to drop the excuses and start pedalling!

As a year-round bike commuter, I’m lucky to to work for a company that not only provides shower facilities but also has a very casual dress code for regular in-office work days. Occasionally I may have to “suit up” to meet clients, but for the most part jeans and a T-shirt are perfectly acceptable.

So what can other business do to make it easier for employees to choose the cycling option?

1. Showers are a great idea, but may not even be necessary. Speaking to my own experience, I do like to hammer it at a cruising speed of 30km/h as I treat my 30+ min ride each way as my daily exercise. Thus I’ll often don the “spandex warrior” look and bring a change of clothes, knowing I’ll get a rinse off when I arrive. But on more than one occasion, I’ve had to roll right into my desk to take care of urgent matters. I find that after some of the less vigorous rides, cooling down in my bike-wear for about an hour then changing into work clothes is doable without a shower. Just a layer of deodorant can do the trick. Depending on the intensity of the ride and level of fitness your mileage may vary with this tactic.

With this in mind, even one or two shower stalls may do the trick. At Softchoice, 3 showers in each men’s and women’s change rooms are adequate and this is for 500+ employees at our Toronto HQ. Your company would need to take location into consideration, whether it’s the average temperature in your neck of the woods or whether the office itself is uphill or downhill. Trust me, this can make the difference between a nicely refreshed rider and one whose heart rate has topped out!

2. Have a place for cyclists to store their cycling clothes at the office; somewhere they can hang dry that won’t be in anyone’s way or pose an unhygienic hazard. Our office has many closets for coats, but also some clothes racks stashed in out-of-the-way places that are perfect for me to hang my base layers. This is especially important for those wet or snowy days so there are less deterrents to cycling when the weather isn’t perfect.

3. Offer a business or basic causal dress code. It would help many more employees arriving on two wheels if they could dress in business casual or ideally, basic casual. I’ve overheard conversations about “I would’ve biked to work today, but I had to wear a suit.” The prospect of wadding up a dress shirt, pressed slacks and a jacket into a back pack is enough to make the most seasoned cyclist say “Nuts to this, I’ll just drive…” Although some people really can pull off the uber-dapper look while cycling, it just doesn’t work for most. And for those that don’t necessarily need a change of clothes, it would be much easier to ride to work in Jeans and T-shirt, if the office allowed it.

4. Above all, offer a safe, accessible and secure place for employees to stash their bikes. That might mean a secure or highly-visible and patrolled area outside, possibly a locked cage, or a place indoors/inside the office. Bike theft is particularly rampant in cities like Toronto, but not just the bikes that are targets; “harvesters” are constantly grabbing pretty much any useful component that isn’t welded to the frame. This includes wheels, bells, lights, handlebars, brakes and brake levers, seats – and even in once case, when I left it unattended, thieves made off with the quick-release clamp. So a standard parking lot with a bike rack is not sufficient as bikes and their parts are more susceptible to theft. How often have you left your car unattended to find someone made off with just the transmission or the horn?

So there are four healthy actions a business can take to ensure healthy, happy employees. Some require more drastic changes than others, but ultimately, taking any one of these individual steps will send you on a path towards promoting a brighter future for your employees and the planet.

This post originally appeared in Joseph Byer’s own blog Joepocalypse.

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