5 Steps to a Bike-Friendly Business

As acceptance of the bicycle lifestyle gains traction throughout North America, business owners and entrepreneurs of all stripes are hard at work entrenching bike-friendliness into their business models.

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As acceptance of the bicycle lifestyle gains traction throughout North America, business owners and entrepreneurs of all stripes are hard at work entrenching bike-friendliness into their business models. Why? Quite simply, it’s a smart business move. In addition to reducing the need to invest in costly car parking facilities, recent studies have demonstrated that bicycle commuters take fewer sick days, are happier, and are less stressed. These riders often arrive to work faster and with fewer delays than drivers or transit riders.

How do employees benefit from a bike-friendly business? How do customers? What steps can business owner make to be more bike-friendly? For the uninitiated, here are a few basics:


The easiest and most effective way of encouraging employees to bike to work or to bring bike riders to your business is to supply ample, free, and secure bike parking.


Bicycle commuters will take fewer sick days and will be much healthier and productive. So how can you encourage your employees to ride? Provide incentives! For some companies, that means offering daily subsidies for bike commuters as you may offer transit subsidies or free parking. For others, it’s promoting great bicycle facilities while encouraging and rewarding your employees for participating in events such as Bike to Work Day.


Showers, change rooms, and storage lockers are good for encouraging long distance commuting and commuting year-round, for the cold, wet winter or hot, sweaty summer days.


Encouraging group rides (particularly to and from work), leading by example, offering workshops for the bike curious, hiring bicycle delivery services, providing office bikes for lunch time errands, and promoting your bike commuters and the benefits of biking to work are just a few ways you can incorporate bikes into your business.


The closer your business is located to a bike route, and the closer it is to the city, you’ll have a greater chance of encouraging your employees or customers to bike.

Going the Extra Mile


An increasing number of forward-thinking companies are now providing employees with incentives to get them riding. Canadian bank ING Direct (who are rebranding as Tangerine in Spring 2014) purchase brand new bicycles for new staff and will pay for all maintenance costs related to the bikes. They also equip their brick and mortar locations with a fleet of bikes that can be used for quick trips downtown or borrowed by staff and clients for the evening. For ING Direct, no bike is no excuse.


Sponsor Bike to Work Day events, encourage your city to build more bike lanes and install more bike parking, and support and sponsor community initiatives that encourage more bicycle use. Show that your company is more than just a happy workplace by supporting the creation of a happier and healthier community.


  • Jose

    Personal Locker, Hot Shower!

  • Monique Wahba

    Just smiling when I read “a fleet of bikes.” Great idea. Businesses are so accustomed to a fleet of cars but the bikes would be much cheaper, take up so much less room, and would go a long way toward encouraging a cycling culture at work.

  • Duncan Hurd

    Ramon, while your comments point to some of the obstacles that employers and business owners can face in encouraging employees to ride to work, your comments also ignore the fact that the suggestions in this article all come from real world examples.

    I’m not even going to tackle your absurd definition of “ample,” but will state that insufficient bicycle parking is a major deterrent to riding to work, yet is almost always more than possible to overcome. In downtown Toronto, a cluster of tall office buildings currently has a long waiting list for their secure and sheltered bicycle parking for employees. Those who do not have a spot are stuck with arriving early to snag a short-term parking spot outside of the building where heavy foot traffic and a constant stream of users increases the risk of bicycle theft. For smaller businesses, ample may mean simply providing a single bicycle rack that is bolted to the ground and not located next to a dumpster or other unappealing place.

    Your next assumption is that most businesses are somehow located in a magical bubble where there are zero existing deterrents to driving. From ever rising commute times via transit or personal vehicles to the price of gasoline, there are plenty of “extrinsic incentives” already in place. Employers who pay their employees even a nominal amount (a small Toronto company offers $5 a day to people who ride) find that these costs are worth every penny and what it takes to attract the type of workforce that they want to employ. For even larger companies, something you can read about in an upcoming issue of Momentum Mag, the costs of providing a small fleet of loaner bikes is once again next to nothing compared to providing additional car parking or subsidizing leased vehicles, even including insurance.

    As for the additional amenities, workplaces that require uniforms almost always already have changerooms and it may only take ensuring that these are adequate to help support cycling to work. This is all very dependent on the workforce, location, and climate. Again, there are companies both big and small that are providing these amenities based on real needs and I yet to find any business installing them just as a “feather in their cap.”

    And, finally, let’s take a look at location. Amazon in Seattle is helping fund cycle tracks right outside of their office. In New York, landlords are finding that if their properties are located on or in close proximity to bicycle routes they experience fewer vacancies than nearby areas (and can charge higher rents). A Vancouver business that vocally opposed a cycle track at its front door has now found that being on a bicycle route has increased the number of customers and revenue. It’s “unrealistic” to think that only bicycle-related businesses have any business locating near bicycle routes.

  • Ramon

    What “articles” like this do, however, is create unrealistic expectations within the potentially-biking community and suggest that bicycling is not possible without these high-cost amenities for cyclists. Here is some good detail, again, in order presented:

    (1) Supplying “ample” parking implies that there’s not enough demand to meet supply and that there has been over-investment. If you install 200 bike racks in one area to facilitate the parking of 40 bikes, the common opinion will be that too much money is spent to facilitate the too-few cyclists. If you know there to be 40 regular cyclists, install parking for 50 at most- just enough to spark latent demand. When the racks begin to fill regularly, install more. This way, you can advertise that cycling is “blowing up!”.

    (2) Do NOT provide extrinsic incentives before intrinsic incentives. This creates a non-sustainable initiative and will result in fewer people biking. Instead, provide intrinsic motivation first by adjusting automobile parking rates that actually pay for the full cost incurred by providing parking. This gives people the option of paying to park a car on a monthly basis or *saving money* by taking any other mode (carpool, vanpool, bus, train, walk, bike, skate, scooter). As solo commuting rates drop, permit prices will need to rise encouraging more people to take cheaper, more sustainable transportation modes. Lesson: Paying people to bike makes the company lose money and creates an unsustainable expectation. Making people pay for parking allows people to choose to save money without costing the company anything.

    (3) Showers, changing rooms, and storage lockers are nice. Every bike commuter would like them. However, the vast majority of bicycle commuters don’t shower after the ride in, change in a bathroom stall, and store their work/riding clothes in a back pack or bike pannier. This is evidence that such amenities are not *needed* for most bike commuters, but act as “feathers in the cap” for businesses to say “We’re bike friendly!”. By suggesting that a company doesn’t sufficiently facilitate cycling because of the lack of these amenities, helps potential bike commuters add more to their list of “I will bike if/when…” instead of just trying it out.

    (4) As an LAB Certified Instructor, I get to teach bicycle education workshops all the time. They have to be at lunch, though and I can only expect 30-40 people to show up at any lunch education session (out of 30,000) because people are working hard and will often work through lunch or simply take a lunch. Moreover, providing bicycles for lunch runs is fraught with insurance risk (not impossible, but certainly not easy), but this article makes it seem so simple.

    (5) It’s unrealistic to suggest a business locate itself next to major bicycle thoroughfares unless it’s a bicycle-relevant business.

    Instead of listing things that a “real” bike friendly business would do, give the details of happy bike commuters and go from there.

  • Ramon

    These are nice suggestions, but they need details. How does a work site do any of this?

    (1) “… supply ample, free, and secure bike parking.”

    How much is ample? Is that too much? How secure is secure? Does it mean using an enclosed building? And if that’s the case, how could a business provide all that stuff for free?

    (2) “… daily subsidies for bike commuters as you may offer transit subsidies or free parking. For others, it’s promoting great bicycle facilities while encouraging and rewarding your employees for participating in events such as Bike to Work Day.”

    Paying people to ride a bike is just as bad as paying for people to park their cars. Promotion of bike facilities is good? So if Bob’s Business sent out an email saying, “Try riding on this bike trail here for fun,” they’re getting the job done? Bike to Work Day is a single day of the year. Why would celebrating what amounts to a “Bike Pride” day be particularly good?

    (3) “Showers, change rooms, and storage lockers… ”

    These are good for any business to have. They’re also cost-prohibitive for most business and bring about a large number of risk management issues. Please speak to the cost and risk.

    (4) “offering workshops for the bike curious, hiring bicycle delivery services, providing office bikes for lunch time errands, and promoting your bike commuters and the benefits of biking to work…”

    These are nice, but very, very subjective to the work environment. Except for possibly providing bikes for lunch runs. But even creating a bicycle library requires a good deal of work. Procurement, upkeep and repairs, a check-out system for the bikes and the helmets that will undoubtedly be required, etc. This is no “simple” concept for anyone.

    (5) “The closer your business is located to a bike route…”

    SOME business may be able to re-locate with relative ease, but most can’t. Furthermore, if everyone were to make this attempt, property values (and thus rents) at major bicycle thoroughfares would sky-rocket and price out smaller business. I think the better solution would be to encourage business to become more community-aware and possibly sign letters of support for traffic-calming around their businesses.

    • df

      Seriously? That is a long comment just to rebut or discard a basic list of suggestions. Not every article needs to be a detailed manifesto. This was obviously meant to get the conversation started with a list of high-level options. Did a bicycle murder your family or burn your house down or something?

  • D Wiegand

    The company I work for provides a great multimodal transportation offering for their employees that support all forms of alternate commuting – but especially cycling. Besides all the things mentioned in the article, they provide mechanics tools and spare parts, and include “We-go” cars onsite at work that you can reserve for errands during the day, bike racks on all the vanpool vans (so you can bike only one way, or get a ride home easliy with you bike should you need it), as well as free vouchers for cab rides home in emergencies or cases of having to work late. Basically, someone in HR collected all the objections to riding to work and addressed each one rather efficiently!

  • Peter Bragg

    One of the biggest issues at our offices was secure bike parking/storage so bike are now part of the office furniture. Next step is getting the landlord to put in showers!

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