10 Steps to Build a Successful Bicycle Program for Your Company

Getting your employees on bikes helps you reach your sustainability goals, supports community health & wellness, and boosts your bottom line.

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bike friendly businesses

Bicycles hang from the ceiling at the Clif Bar headquarters in Emeryville, CA. Photo courtesy of Clif Bar.

You knew bicycling was good for your health and good for the planet, but did you know it was good for your business as well? It seems every day there’s more research confirming that people who bike to work are happier, more productive, and take fewer sick days. So it’s no wonder that more and more companies are making bike-friendliness a priority in their company culture. If you’re interested in building a bicycle program at your company but are unsure where to start, we’ve got your back. The following 10 steps can be tailored and adapted to suit your particular needs and circumstances, but use them as a rough guide and you’ll have your company on two wheels in no time!

1. Parking

This is a simple one, but also crucial. If your employees want to bike to work but they have nowhere to lock up when they get there, they’ll be less inclined to do so. Providing secure bicycle parking is one of the easiest ways to encourage your employees to ride, and neglecting to do so is the easiest way to ensure any other efforts you make at bike-friendliness will fail. Bike parking could be as elaborate as a locked bike room with staples inside, or as simple as a set of staples outside your business. Providing bike parking is the simplest way to send the message to your employees that you care about bicycling and understand riders’ needs.

2. Provide Incentives

Everybody loves a prize! Offering incentives for bicycling goes a long way to encourage reluctant riders to hop in the saddle. Develop an incentive program for your employees that rewards them for miles ridden, or days biking to work per week. Incentives could be financial, such as paying employees a small sum for every day they bike to work, or they could take the form of subsidies for bicycles and bike gear. At Clif Bar – whose founder came up with the idea for the company on a 175-mile bike ride – the Cool Commute program includes a provision for up to $500 to put towards a commuter bike, or commuting-related retrofits to an existing bike. Employees who walk, bike, or carpool can earn up to 3 points per day, and then redeem the points for prizes such as massages, acupuncture, and other health services at the company’s fitness center, or they can choose to convert their points into dollars added to their paycheck.

3. Build a Culture Around It 

While incentives are a great way to encourage new riders to take to the saddle, many people will still feel intimidated by the idea of biking to work. Building a fun and inclusive culture of bicycling at your workplace can bring more of your employees on board. Organize social rides for your employees, such as lunchtime rides to a café or nearby park for a quick picnic. Encourage employees who already bike commute to reach out to their coworkers to bike-pool on the way to and from work. Have resources on hand to connect your employees to the things they need to get started bicycling, such as lists of local bike shops and bike route maps of the local area. New Belgium Brewing, a business founded around a love for all things beer and bicycles, organizes a traveling bike festival, a bike-in movie night, and community bike rides, along with a whole slew of other bike-friendly community building initiatives that position bicycling at the forefront of their company culture.

Organizing a Bike to Work Day or a Bike to Work program is also one of the easiest way to get more employees started on biking to work, offering a friendly competition to encourage more ridership. Check out our guide to creating your own bike to work program to get started.

4. Provide additional amenities

Depending on your space constraints and the distance most of your employees have to commute, additional amenities such as showers and locker rooms can be hugely beneficial. Obviously if you’re running a small café and most of your employees live nearby, this would be neither feasible nor necessary. But for larger companies or businesses where many workers commute long distances, providing showers, change rooms, and lockers can be the missing piece of the puzzle for people who want to ride to work but currently don’t. At the Mountain Equipment Co-Op headquarters, employees can cruise straight into an underground bike locker complete with rows of bike parking, then head into the locker room to shower and change before going upstairs to the office.

5. Offer Education

When you bike every day yourself, it can be easy to forget that cycling is a skill not everybody has mastered. If you’re trying to encourage more ridership in your company, remember that many of your employees won’t feel comfortable riding a bike. Perhaps they haven’t ridden since childhood, or maybe they never learned to ride at all. Help reduce those barriers by offering bike education. You could do this by bringing in local cycling instructors (talk to your local bike advocacy organization) for lunchtime or evening workshops that employees have the option to attend. Williams-Sonoma offers lunch-and-learn workshop sessions during Bike to Work month to try to expand ridership.

If it isn’t feasible to bring instructors in, you can have resources on hand to connect your employees to places in the wider community where they can learn how to ride in a comfortable environment.

6. Provide Services

Beyond the basics needed for employees biking to work, there are a few other things which can make it easier to ride every day – even on the days when things go wrong. Providing a bicycle repair station for your employees offers them the peace of mind of knowing they can still get home if they run into trouble on the way in to work. Your repair station could be as basic as a tyre pump, chain lube, and a few allan keys, or as complex as a complete bicycle tool set with bike stands and maybe even spare parts. Having a how-to book on hand such as The Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair can never hurt either.

7. Think about location

If you’re still in the planning stages of your business, you have the opportunity to go the extra mile with your bike-friendliness. Or, rather, go fewer and safer miles. Look into situating your business in a location that’s easily accessible by bike. This would ideally be along a protected bike lane or traffic-calmed route. If you have some leeway in the type of building you can work in, look for something where people will have the opportunity to bring their bike inside. If your business is necessarily in a rural area or a long distance from where many of your employees are likely to live, it will be even more necessary to look for a space with showers and lockers for long-distance commuters, or at least one where you could build those in.

Google bicycles

The campus bikes at Google HQ in Mountain View, CA. Photo by Roman Boed

8. Think Outside the Office

Creating a culture of biking in your workplace is a great thing, but getting your company involved in the wider biking community is even better! Participation in community initiatives such as open streets events, Bike to Work Days, and Bike to School Days offers your employees the opportunity to feel involved in bicycling as a movement not just an activity, and to experience the positivity that a strong cycling population can bring to a city or town. Whole Foods regularly sponsors Bike To Work Days around the North America, providing free breakfast and coffees for bike commuters in the cities and towns they operate in.

You could get involved through initiatives such as employer-supported volunteerism, financial sponsorship, or even hosting an event, whatever makes the most sense for your company.

9. Provide Bicycles

A few of the tech giants we’re so familiar with have been leading the way for years not only in global tech domination, but in bike-friendly business strategy as well. Google, Apple, and Facebook all have large fleets of bicycles on their campuses for free use by their employees. While bike programs with free bicycles in the hundreds or thousands are obviously out of reach for most business owners, even companies of much more modest means can still provide their employees with bicycles in some fashion. Consider keeping just few bikes on hand that your employees can borrow for lunchtime errands or overnight. At the Clif Bar headquarters, the indoor bike locker also contains a few commuter bikes which are free to use for running errands or a little daytime exercise.

For many people who haven’t been on a bicycle in years, the idea of investing in their own can be unappealing because they don’t see the benefits or aren’t sure if they’ll actually use it. Offering bicycles for short term use can convince the unconvinced that bicycling really is fun and convenient, and may just be the extra push they need to get a bike of their own one day.

10. Set Goals

In almost every aspect of running a business, you set goals and try to reach them. Just as you have metrics to measure your success in sales, brand reach, customer acquisition, or whatever it is you’re trying to achieve, you can and should set goals for your company’s bicycling program. Do you want to see 20% of your staff biking to work every day by the end of the year? Or 75%? Maybe you’d like to see 100% of your staff bike to work at least twice a week. Setting a goal for your bike program will allow you to track your successes, see what’s working, and understand where and when you need to work harder.

Having a strong bicycling program at your workplace is much more than a fun idea or a team building exercise, but an important step in realizing your commitment to sustainability, community health, and wellness. While bike commuting can be a daunting idea for many, having the support of the work community and peers could just be the encouragement needed to hop in the saddle. Building a bicycling program isn’t difficult, it simply takes making a few changes and putting a little bit of effort, and your work will be more than worth it in the end.


reliance foundry

Ready to make your business bike-friendly? Reliance Foundry offers several bike parking options—including bike racks, bike bollards and bike lockers—to suit any location. View our products and read our blog at reliance-foundry.com

2 Comments

  • I am proud to say I was able to bike to work doing the late 1970s almost the entire Chicago fall, winter and spring while teaching high school. My trailer unit where I taught outside the traditional classroom setting because of overcrowding allowed me to bring my Schwinn Super LaTour right into the trailer. I was disappointed to say no one followed my lead and while everyone, especially students, remember I rode my bike, it had little impact on my peers or students, which was hugely disappointing in what was the first gas crisis in the US. This type of program should trigger interest, provide reinforcement and mostly initiate as sustainable and measured benefit. Thank you. Bill Figel, Chicago

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