How Can We Make Bike Commuting “Normal”?

Lots of blogs around the Streetsblog Network are tackling issues related to bike commuting this week in honor of the upcoming Bike to Work Day on Friday. Baltimore Spokes
weighs in with a post about how employers can tailor workplaces to
encourage employees to ride in. Here are a few of their ideas:

20090511_bike_450.jpgInside the very popular bike room at the Environmental Protection Association’s DC office. Photo by Eric Vance.

Be Accessible:
Most folks aren’t going to want to hop on I-66 to wheel their way in.
So, companies in neighborhoods near multi-use jogging and cycling
trials — like Bethesda, which is close to the Capital Crescent — are more likely to lure two-wheelers. Second best are offices near roads with bike lanes (or little traffic).

Keep it Clean:
[One company] chose its location specifically for its shower
facilities. In buildings without them, it’s smart to negotiate a group
discount at a nearby fitness center. Otherwise, the only real option
for riders is a rubdown with wet wipes.

Provide Safe Parking:
Outdoor bike racks are fine for cheaper wheels you won’t worry about
getting damaged or stolen. But riders generally feel safer with more
secure storage.

Build a Community: "If
people feel like they’re alone out there doing this, it’s not worth
doing," says Angela Atwood-Moore, a research associate at the National Institutes of Health. As the president of the NIH Bicycle Commuter Club, she’s been instrumental in keeping the Bethesda campus’ 600 bike commuters informed through a Web site and an e-mail list (to which 300 riders subscribe).

Show Us the Money:
It also can’t hurt to offer financial incentives for ditching driving.
Employers can institute the recently adopted monthly $20 tax rebate for
cyclists, or go further.

Meanwhile, in Detroit wants to project a different image of bike commuters. Like, they want them to look normal:

if Metro Detroit has any hope of increasing the number of people biking
to work, we need to make it look normal, starting by showing bike
commuters in normal clothes.

Blue jeans. Khakis. Collared shirts. Perhaps a suit on occasion.

to work doesn’t mean one must dress like Lance Armstrong. We need to
show people that ride bikes to work, not cyclists that ride to work.

What are your suggestions for helping to make bike commuting a "normal" choice?

  • M

    Along the same lines, it might be useful for a company to relax the dress code to make it more reasonable to bike home instead of requiring people to completely change out of suits. As much as it might be nice to see someone in a suit on a bike, I’m also realistic in that biking does get a little dirty some of the time. I don’t care if my jeans get dirty. I might care a bit more with nicer clothes that require dry cleaning. If this isn’t possible, having a place where employees can store their clothes might be nice in addition to a shower.

    It also might be useful for companies to have “company” bikes that can be used by the employees as a group. Some jobs might require people to go out on quick errands during the day instead of always driving. An example of this is a California Pizza Kitchen in Pasadena that has a 3 wheeled bike with a basket that is used for food deliveries. A company bike could also allow an employee that isn’t familiar with biking to join in with coworkers on rides. I’m not sure how liability issues would work with this, but I’m sure something could be worked out since many companies also have company vehicles.

  • I think the bike-friendly dress codes (and showers!) are key. I also think that promoting multi-modal transportation is important, so that people can bike part of the way if that’s the best way for their commute. Also, subsidies. Provide a financial incentive to bike instead of drive. For example, most of my commute is by bus, and since I don’t use parking at my office, my employer pays for part of my bus pass. But I purchased my bike without employer assistance–yet that’s what helps me efficiently cover the mile between my house and the bus stop so that I can make use of that pass.

    Another complication in my area: overlapping bus/rail systems run by different transit authorities, with few transfers between lines. That adds up.

  • I think pushing multi alt transporation ways is key (especially in LA) and then rethinking the idea of how to live. It’s never going to be normal to bike the distance that is required to bike to be car free in LA. Even in places where cycling is normal like in Amsterdam, it’s normal, because no one is doing over 10 miles communtes on a regular basis, I bet they aren’t even doing five.

    Ways to make cycling normal.

    Jobs AND FUN centered around housing.
    AFFORDABLE housing around job centers.
    Good public transit (good means, reliable, extensive and not disgusting)

    Those three things will make cycling normal, without one it’s doomed. Without affordable housing it’s going become this elite rich person hobby like being into local organic eating. Without the job being close by it’s going to become this aggro, extreme person thing. And without good transit you’re going to limit alt transit to just the 20-35 year old set, childless (or not caregivers), and not differently abled.