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How and why Facebook promotes bicycle use on and off campus.
The Menlo Park office of Facebook opened in 2011 and since then the company has been working to build a fun workplace culture: one that includes promoting bicycle use among 4,000+ staff.
Located 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of San Francisco, CA, in the Silicon Valley, it is easy to miss the headquarters of this social media giant – except for the sign featuring the company’s distinctive “Like” thumbs up icon and address at 1 Hacker Way.
Menlo Park is a neighborhood of mixed technology campuses and houses. Most people living in the area are within 5 miles (8 kilometers) of the Facebook campus and many of the roads are relatively bike-friendly for those who choose to ride their bike to the campus. The Bay Trail is a popular route for bike commuters and many are looking forward to a seamless connection to the trail once an underpass is completed in 2015.
After clearing security and signing in (via Facebook, of course), the main entrance at Gate 10 leads into an inviting courtyard resembling a university campus. Its car-free path is the main artery connecting one side of the campus to the other. Inside the campus it is easy to forget where one is, as there is no corporate branding to be seen. This is a conscious decision by Mark Zuckerberg as he wanted to build a fun, non- corporate, company culture.
A quick walk through campus reveals bicycles propped up in bike racks outside of most of the unmarked modern buildings while others lean against pillars and walls with some standing on kickstands. In the car-free space, walking and biking around the campus is very relaxed; some employees bike to meetings with laptops sitting in the front baskets.
The Transit Hub
One of the perks of working at Facebook is access to a free, full-service, bike repair shop located in the middle of campus. Commonly referred to as “The Hub”, the shop opened a year and a half ago as a place to help employees get to and from work efficiently. Activities at The Hub are overseen by Kurt Martin, a consultant hired by Facebook and owner of Bikes Make Life Better. While Martin oversees, the day- to-day operations are run by Shea Mack, the bike shop manager.
Designed to make it easy and convenient to use, employees can drop off their bikes at The Hub in the morning, picking them up serviced and ready to ride for their commute home.
Also in The Hub is a 24-hour self-service station that includes how-to-videos on bike repair, a repair stand, and a bike part vending machine that holds a stash of replacement parts particularly useful for when the bike shop is closed. Facebook estimates that 56 percent of people working at the Menlo Park headquarters have used The Hub at one point. The Hub also offers weekly classes and clinics for those that need a little extra help getting started including how to ride and basic repairs.
One of the most exciting bicycle initiatives at Facebook is the campus bike share program. Fleets of bicycles are always available and free to use for all employees who can hop on and hop off to get around the campus quickly.
There are currently 200 bicycles in the campus fleet – all from different bike brands and without distinguishable Facebook branding. This number is expected to grow soon as Facebook gets ready to open its second campus across the Bayfront Expressway.
For many, the campus bikes are not only a free bike share system, but also a safe, easy, and accessible way for people who may have not been on a bike for some time to ride in a calm and car-free environment.
“The most exciting thing is seeing people jump on bikes and ride,” shared Kurt Martin in The Hub. “We are seeing non-riders turn into riders and that is really exciting as it means more people riding bikes.”
In addition to the campus bikes that remain on the property, a growing number of loaner bikes, currently around 40, can be signed out and taken home with employees for up to a week. There are also intern bikes – loaners offered to interns for transportation to and from the campus. “A lot of people come from abroad to intern at Facebook, and this gives them the opportunity to have access to transportation,” said Martin.
Also spotted around the campus are meeting bikes: side-by-side rides covered by a canopy roof and frequently used by top executives.
More recently, Facebook has been replacing service vehicles on campus with cargo bikes, reflecting the importance that Facebook has placed on growing its campus bike program.
Bike To Work Day
A highly celebrated event at the Menlo Park campus is Bike to Work Day. This Bay Area advocacy group effort encourages people to bike to work, or to try biking to work for the first time, each year in mid-May.
An impressive 10 percent of employees, around 400 in total, participated in Bike to Work Day in May 2014. Even more impressive was that close to 100 of these riders made the 35-mile (56-kilometer) trek from San Francisco. While some employees live closer to campus, many travel by bike from all over the Bay Area.
In the Community
As the Facebook campus prepares to expand, plans are in the works to open an underpass below the Bayfront Expressway to connect one side of the campus to the other. The currently unnamed underpass is set to open later in 2015 and will also be open to the public. This new underpass will provide a direct link to the Bay Trail, a popular route for many bike commuters.
Facebook also works closely with their local Boys & Girls Club, donating bicycles from their fleet and providing expertise.
So why are bikes so important to the Facebook Menlo Park headquarters? “Bikes are a business tool,” said Martin. “They are the most efficient way of getting around campus.”