How do you create a bicycle friendly business? The reason why is obvious. People today love to bicycle. They’re going to love (and frequent) businesses that cater to them.
So, just how do you appeal to cyclists? One obvious way is to provide secure and convenient bike parking in the form of sturdy, high-grade commercial bicycle racks.
But there’s much more that can be done, including actually paying employees to bicycle.
We’ll get into that in a minute. But let’s get back to bike parking. Because, that’s where it all starts. If you want somebody to bike to your business on their favorite bicycle, you’ve got to make sure that bike is safe. Whether it’s for a consumer or an employee.
Bikes today are not cheap. They can get expensive. (Like the Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod Dure Ace D12 which sells for $11,650. Some consider it to be the best bike in the world).
More importantly, people become emotionally attached to their bikes. They spend quite a bit of time researching which bike to buy. They spend quite a bit of time riding that bike. Their bike is a reflection of their personality. So help them protect it.
Sturdy high-grade, securely mounted commercial bicycle racks are a must. Make sure you have plenty of space for cyclists to park. You can install a long 15-bike wave style rack or several u-shaped bike racks that will hold a few bikes each. Depends on your space limitations.
But remember no bike lock is completely secure. When you install the bike rack, make sure it is visible from the business. If it is near a restaurant, don’t tuck it around the corner and in the back. Put it within 50 feet so people can see it while they are inside. Place the rack where there is frequent foot traffic nearby. Consider using a car parking space.
If the commercial bicycle racks are for employees, same thing. Keep them visible. Near the front entrance. Where workers are able to look out or down and see no one is trying to rip off their bike.
Discourage employees or customers from attaching their bikes to guardrails, trees or sign posts. For one, they get in the way of pedestrians. For another, objects other than bike racks are generally not very secure at all. Signs can be pulled out of the ground, trees cut, bikes lifted up over the top of poles.
Post helpful information at your business about bicycle safety. Provide maps of local bike lanes and paths. List a few bike repairs shops nearby that are reliable. Perhaps ask them to offer a discount for your employees.
If there isn’t a bike lane in front or near your business, get involved in the local municipality with other businesses to request more bike lanes and a better bike infrastructure. Some cities will actually install a bike parking rack to businesses that request one.
Here’s the pay to ride part. There is actually a federal tax credit under the Bicycle Commuter Act where employers can reimburse employees up to $20 per month for reasonable expenses incurred if they commute to work by bicycle. Ask your accountant about it – it’s in the IRS Code 26 sec. 132 (f).
These bike amenities will also help employees save money on gas. Or parking if they have to pay for it.
Another major benefit for becoming a bicycle friendly business, especially for employers, is the health benefit. Bicycling is certainly 100 times better than driving a car. Healthier employees mean fewer employees using the company insurance and taking days off.
Finally, there’s a major morale boost with employees for any business that is bicycle friendly. Being able to ride your bicycle to work is a major perk for most people. In today’s day and age with companies competing for talent that makes your business a very cool place to work.
The League of American Bicyclists has an actual Bicycle Friendly Business program. To date, they have awarded 950 businesses with their BFB designation. They actually have different levels of recognition – Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum depending on the depth of bike friendly amenities provided.
This organization is the nation’s oldest bicycle advocacy group and its simple philosophy is: “We believe that when more people ride bikes, life is better for everyone.”
For their BFB program, they check on how a business is involved in four bike-related activities: Engineering, Education, Encouragement and Evaluation (and Planning).
Achieving this designation from the League could be a major asset to any business. Think of all the thousands of bicycle riders in your city. Think how you could promote this designation to all of those bicycle riders – either as customers for your business or potential employees.
Also think of how this designation makes you an outstanding member of the community – obviously, a business that cares about cutting automobile congestion, reducing pollution and promoting a healthy lifestyle for its citizens. People notice this. It is great public relations. Something the news media will cover.
The bicycle-friendly status isn’t just for small businesses either. The League reports that 28 of the Fortune 500 have achieved BFB status. These are major corporations. They obviously see the value.
Here’s the bottom line. A business can look at a BFB badge two ways. One, it’s a burden. Just another thing to do.
Or they can be smart and just do it. Because the reality is, it’s a relatively easy task to complete. Add a few commercial bicycle racks. Create a bicycle advocacy program. Meet League criteria.
For employers, designate an employee to promote bicycling to the staff and explain what you are offering as a business. It’s a great perk. Saves them money. Boosts their morale. Keeps them healthy. (Come on, Google gives employees free lunches, free snacks, foosball tables and pods to nap in.)
As a retailer or restaurant, it’s a simple, yet highly effective marketing strategy. Promote your BFB status to the public. Use social media. Contact bicycle clubs. Sponsor some bicycling events. Word of mouth will spread about your business. That part is free advertising.
As you can probably know, bicycling is great for America. It’s a positive lifestyle choice for its citizens. Bicycling can also be very rewarding for businesses as well.
Businesses all over are discovering the value of the bicyclist. They should. Because there are 60 million bicycle enthusiasts in the US and every time a town improves their biking infrastructure, more consumers hop on their bikes.
When a business caters to bicycle riders, for example by providing secure commercial bike racks where they can park, they will be rewarded.
Previously, businesses were opposed to removing parking spaces to make room for bike lanes or for bike parking corrals. But study after study has shown that when you cater to the bicycling consumer, they will tend to flock to you area.
In NYC, after adding bike lanes on Ninth Avenue, the Department of Transportation found that retail sales shot up by nearly 50%.
On First and Second Avenues, bike traffic grew 177%, more stores opened, and empty storefronts dropped as a result. That’s a model for other downtowns to emulate.
Officials in North Carolina’s Outer Banks reported their one-time investment of $6.7 million for bike infrastructure has resulted in NINE times the return as bicycle tourism became more popular.
One study by Portland State University tried to determine the real benefits of bicyclers on a granular level. The research was funded by the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium and really tried to dig deep to discover the impact from bicycle riders compared to other modes of transportation.
To do this, researchers conducted short surveys of actual customers as they left bars, restaurants and convenience stores.
What they uncovered was that while bicycle riders did not spend as much per trip as people who arrived at the destination by car, they visited the businesses MORE OFTEN and at the end of the month, SPENT MORE OVERALL than auto drivers.
Here’s the breakdown of Trips per Month, Dollars Spent per Trip and Dollars Spent per Month.
Auto – 4.5 trips – $13.70 per trip – $61.03 per month.
Bike – 7.1 trips – $10.66 per trip – $75.66 per month.
Transit – 5.7 trips – $10.15 per trip – $58.16 per month.
Walk – 5 trips – $11.25 per trip – $66.22 per month.
This flies in the face of conventional wisdom held by most local business people. Yes, someone coming up to your business on a bicycle might not buy a bunch of stuff at one time (one issue is, how would they carry it? Yes, there’s more space in a car).
But, that person is more likely to return to your business more often on a bicycle (hopping on a bike is certainly easier than driving a car, especially when it comes to finding a dreaded parking space).
When it comes to restaurants and bar, it’s a no-brainer. Ride a bike to eat, then work it off on the way home.
Ride to a bar, then you don’t have to worry so much about a DUI (although you can get a DUI for riding under the influence on a bicycle).
For many cities, parking and traffic are the main issues. Just think, remove one parking spot for one car and add commercial bike racks. You then create a bike corral that can accommodate around 20 bikes.
That’s a 2000% increase in the number of customers you are attracting to your business. Got to run quite a few ads to accomplish the same thing.
Congestion caused by cars is a deterrent for most people. But with a bicycle, there is no issue.
The other fantastic benefit of giving bicycles access to a business district is the pace at which consumers drive by. In a car, drivers whiz by on their way to their destination and can’t stop, less they get harassed by the honking horn of the driver behind them.
But with a bike lane in front of a business area, consumers can come and go freely. They are able to take the time to discover what each business is all about.
Then consider the price of gas. Sure it’s less than $3 per gallon now and was headed south for a while, but then it mysteriously shot back up again. Consumers know they are never going to win that battle. Better off using people power instead. Every calorie expended is money not spent at the pump.
Savvy business people are actually now offering discounts to bike riders. Give them 10% off if they visit your business by bicycle. This has several benefits.
For one, bicyclists feel they belong to a select community and your business obviously is acknowledging this group. Secondly, word will spread through that two-wheel community about the discount.
Third, that bicycle rider will not be taking up a valuable parking space that might attract a customer by car. A deluge of people swamping an area can scare customers away. Remember that old adage by Yogi Berra, “People don’t go there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
Clever businesses are now even offering valet bike parking. Pedal up, get off, and a valet will secure your bicycle at nearby commercial bike racks for you.
This appeal to bicycle riders doesn’t just apply to retailers and the hospitality industry. Smart real estate developers are now making sure they add first-class commercial bike racks, bike storage and other bicycle amenities to their projects. They advertise those benefits because they know it creates one more reason why a renter or condo buyer will want to locate there.
To encourage businesses to jump on the bicycling consumer bandwagon, the League of American Bicyclists even launched a Bicycle-Friendly Business program issued to businesses that make the effort to accommodate bicyclists by providing such items as secure commercial bike racks (more detail on that in another blog).
Business would be smart to wear that BFB designation as a badge of honor. More importantly, use it as a billboard to attract customers. Post it on the website. Promote it on Facebook. Announce it frequently on Twitter. Add it to every email blast. Show photos of bikes parked at your commercial bike racks on Instagram and Pinterest.
Sure, this is the age of the iPad and the smartphone. But guess what? More than ever, people want to ride their bikes. Persuade town officials to add more bike lanes in front of business districts.
Add the right amenities such as commercial bike racks to create the right atmosphere for the bicyclist as a consumer. Add reaching out to this group to every marketing plan. It’s a fact. When people stop pedaling, they start spending.