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.