People for BikesPeople for Bikes

May 1, 2023

Bike-to-Work Week Isn’t Working

By: Ryan Birkicht, director of enterprise partnerships

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Want to build a lasting bike culture at your company? Follow these steps.

There is a reason (among many) why circus entertainers don’t invite members of the audience to juggle flaming bowling pins during their act. It’s because they’d be setting that person up to fail. Not only that, they’d also potentially scare that person away from ever wanting to go to the circus again. That said, given the proper tools to succeed, most people could still master the skill of juggling, and enjoy it, too.

Similarly, being asked to ride your bike alongside vehicular traffic as a form of active transportation isn’t something we should expect people to just roll out of bed and be able to do. Nearly every survey that polls cyclists’ concerns lists safety as the top reason why people don’t ride more. 

Despite this reality, every May, organizations across the country send out corporate communications encouraging their staff to try swapping a car commute for a bike commute during Bike-to-Work Week. There’s nothing wrong with that, and we hope companies keep it up. Still, I’d like to suggest encouraging all types of bike riding so individuals can get comfortable riding a bike when and where it makes sense to them. By taking this approach, we stand a better chance of converting more folks into bike commuters down the road.

Think about where you feel most comfortable riding your bike. For most people, those places tend to include off-street bike paths/trails or on-road areas with minimal traffic. These low-stress riding opportunities are an integral part of making riding a bicycle fun, but they’re not necessarily what’s encouraged with Bike-to-Work Week. Instead, we’re asking participants to bike on the road, during high-traffic hours, under a deadline to get to the office on time. For new or infrequent riders, that could be the last time they ever consider riding a bike as a form of transportation. That’s a huge miss.

With a slight reframe, we can accomplish the underlying goals of Bike-to-Work Week and usher in a new era of bike commuters transitioning away from single occupancy car trips. With these simple steps, any company or organization can make the most of May Bike Month (or any month for that matter): 

1. Start with senior leadership
Those at the top of any organization are typically concerned with keeping the ship moving forward and above water. Making sure they understand the benefits of fostering a bike culture at work is imperative so they can level-set around a shared expectation and communicate that vision with stakeholders (i.e. staff, board, investors).

2. Establish or leverage an employee-run committee
Having a group of individuals who believe in the mission of getting more people on bikes can help ensure activities are fun and engaging. If a bike committee feels too specific for your organization, consider tapping into an existing wellness committee or employee engagement team. 

3. Celebrate every bike ride
Create a program that acknowledges and celebrates all forms of bike riding. PeopleForBikes created this May Bike Month Challenge, which reframes bicycling as a tool for joy and encourages participants to ride their bike 31 times during the course of the month (one bike ride per day). It doesn’t matter how far they ride, what kind of bike they ride, or where the ride takes place, the end goal is to simply get people riding.

4. Reward the behavior
Finally, it’s important to reward the behavior you want to see. If the goal of your organization is to have more people riding bikes, there needs to be an incentive to encourage that behavior change. Start big and ratchet things back as more and more people pick up the habit. Here are some reward ideas to get you started. 

If you see the value in creating a bike culture at work, PeopleForBikes is here to help you make that a reality.  You can set up a time to learn more with our team using this calendly link. We’re already helping businesses across the country improve their bike culture through ride encouragement programs using Ride Spot. Your organization could be next! 

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