Staff commuting

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Provide facilities for employees who walk, run, and cycle to work

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Providing facilities for employees who walk, run, and cycle to work will encourage staff to find healthier, non-polluting ways to commute, while saving your company land and money.

How to provide facilities for employees who walk, run, and cycle to work

Commuter benefit programs, which can include facilities for walkers, runners, and cyclists, aim to provide programs and services for employees to help make the commute easier, affordable, eco-friendly, and enjoyable. Employees who are supported in this way are more likely to feel appreciated by their employers, and in turn demonstrate greater productivity and commitment to the company.

Although the most popular facilities provided for employees include locker rooms, bike racks, and showers, you can go beyond these options by offering additional incentives.

  • Allow flexible work schedules.Alternative schedules allow employees to travel during non-peak times. Also consider allowing grace-time for bike break-downs and showering.
  • Permit relaxed dress codes. Cyclists and runners often carry in their clothes for the day, so making it easier for them to work with a few wrinkles or wear less formal attire will encourage them to make the effort.
  • Pass on your savings. Providing automobile parking is more costly than providing facilities for walkers, runners, and cyclists, so consider reimbursing non-drivers for a portion of the money you save.
  • Offer subsidies for new equipment. Help out those interested in purchasing a bike, good running sneakers, reflective work-out clothing, and other commuting equipment by offering a set subsidy for their new equipment.
  • Reimburse staff who walk or cycle to local business meetings. Those who get to work without their own vehicle may feel stranded when they need to get to client meetings. Solve this by providing funds to take public transit to engagements. Alternatively, you could provide a pool of bikes or highly-efficient vehicles for use by those who don't have their own.

Now that you've had a chance to consider the range of benefits you can provide for your emissions-free commuters, look a little more closely at what it will take to implement these plans.

Showers and change rooms

A huge deterrent for runners, cyclists, and walkers is a lack of changing and shower facilities at their workplace. Installing these clean-up areas can involve plumbing and vent work, installing waterproof walls, tiling, and other equipment costs, may total anywhere from $15,000-$25,000, depending on the number and configuration. But the savings you reap with fewer parking requirements should pay for these up-front expenses over time. Here are some guidelines to consider when installing change rooms and showers:

  • Offer separate locker rooms. Keep things separate for males and females, whenever possible.
  • Determine how many. For offices with 50-100 employees, one shower should be sufficient, provided it's in a locked, private room. If you have between 100-250 employees, provide one shower per gender. If you have over 250 employees, offer at least 4 showers, and one or two that are handicap accessible.
  • Provide lockers. Along with showers, consider installing lockers where employees can store work and workout clothes.
  • Other amenities. Provide an iron and ironing board for those who need to touch up their clothes once they arrive at work.

Equipment for cycling commuters

Taking time to choose the type and location of your bike racks will pay off in how popular they are with employees. When considering how many bike parking spaces to provide, you may want to formally or informally poll your staff to get an indication of the number you'll need.

Bike storage location

The location of bike racks is closely tied to how frequently they're used. Consider these factors:

  • Security. If cyclists worry about their bikes being stolen, they're less likely to use them to commute. Therefore, making sure bike parking areas are secure is very important. Offer local parking where bikes can be seen by passers-by or through office or retail windows. Perhaps assign building security to watch for suspicious behavior.
  • Visibility. The site should be highly visible so employees can locate it easily at the end of a long day of work.
  • Accessibility. Cyclists are more likely to use bike racks that provide easy access to the building entrance. It's also important to avoid areas that require cyclists to carry their bikes up or down stairs.
  • Lighting. To enhance security and safety, bike parking areas should be well lit.
  • Shelter from the elements. Protecting equipment and riders from weather is important. This can be done by locating bike parking under an existing overhang or by constructing a new shelter.
  • Avoiding accidents. Locate the parking area away from pedestrian walkways and automobile parking areas. This limits the possibility of pedestrians injuring themselves, while preventing automobiles from damaging bikes.
  • Inside storage. If you're not able to provide adequate bike parking outside, consider allowing employees to store their bikes in their offices or in a designated indoor storage area.

Bike storage types

Bike racks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some more secure, others less expensive. Regardless of the option you choose, consider purchasing bike equipment that contains some post-consumer recycled content.

  • Bicycle lockers. These are the most secure, weatherproof, and long-term bike parking option. However, they're typically more expensive and are often inefficient space-users. Constructed of everything from molded plastic to metal to particle board, lockers provide solid walls and a roof, usually with a door that is secured with a user-provided lock. Certain models offer vertical storage, which lessens the amount of space needed. Cost: $1,000-2,500 per bike.
  • Bike racks. A good option for short-term parking (such as that needed by couriers), bike racks are inexpensive, space-efficient (especially vertical storage models), and easy to install, although not as secure as lockers. Adding protection from the elements and locating them in secure, locked areas can enhance their functionality. Be sure to choose a model that allows U-shaped locks to be used. Cost: $50-200 per bike.
  • Bike rooms and cages. This option is ideal for buildings that have space in the basement or on the ground floor. Requiring just a simple fenced-off area, these options are very secure, protected from the weather, and more cost-efficient than lockers. Locks or keypads can be provided, which are accessible only to those who bike to work.

Emergency transportation

Some commuters are concerned that if they run, walk, or cycle to work, they'll be stranded in times of emergency. To reduce these fears, you may want to establish a ride-home-policy. One option is to offer a company vehicle for those who need to rush home for personal reasons or during particularly bad weather. Another option is to pay taxi fare for those needing to leave work unexpectedly.

Promote your new facilities

Once you have the facilities and incentives in place, make sure you let your employees know about the program.

  • Publicize bike routes. Your local city or county planning agency should have information on the best bike paths. Ask them to send you route maps and information, which you can post on a centrally located bulletin board.
  • Send out emails and notices. Let all staff know by sending an email blast about the programs and how they can benefit from them.
  • Use your company newsletter. Provide regular information about the program, including practical tips, accomplishments, etc.
  • Post signs. Direct people to the parking and showering facilities.
  • Enhance your company image. Publicizing your commitment to alternative commuting methods through press releases, interviews, and events can be a great way to boost your green image as a business.
  • Organize a company-wide alternative transportation day. Educate your entire staff about the benefits of cycling, walking, carpooling, and public transit.
  • Develop a listserv. Give employees a space where they can communicate with one another about their commuting habits. This way, cyclers, runners, and walkers can coordinate their schedules to make the trek together.
  • Include facilities and incentives information in new hire packets. Make sure every new employee knows about the program and how they can get involved.

Find it! Racks, lockers, and storage solutions for bicycle commuters

There are many manufacturers of bike racks and other alternative transportation equipment and accessories. Check out these great GY picks, but for additional options try the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines Database, which includes suppliers that make bike racks with recycled materials.

Find it! Bicycle parking suppliers (racks, lockers & storage)

Providing facilities for employees who walk, run, and cycle to work helps your office go green because...

  • It encourages staff to use non-polluting methods to commute, thus reducing your company’s overall CO2 emissions.
  • It decreases the land area required for automobile parking, and therefore reduces water runoff and pollution.
  • By taking cars off the road, congestion is cut, noise is decreased, and motor vehicle accidents are reduced.

The capital costs of a single surface parking space can range from $2,000-$5,000; a space in a two to three story structure anywhere from $10,000-$12,000. In addition, these parking spaces must be maintained, at a cost of 1.5 percent on the initial capital cost per year. These concrete auto storage units decrease permeable surface area, increase water runoff and pollution, and to the extent that they encourage people to use vehicles, also increase air pollution, congestion, noise, and motor vehicle accidents.

A recent report entitled, 'The Going Rate: What It Really Costs To Drive' by the World Resources Institute concluded that of the $33.3 billion spent by the US government every year to build, improve, and repair roads, only 60 percent is funded by gas taxes, etc. The rest of the costs are absorbed by property taxes and other non-road-user sources, suggesting that although cyclists do not purchase gasoline, they do support the expensive task of maintaining an automobile society.[1]

Additionally, vehicle commutes are time-consuming. In a recent UK survey, it was found that 4 million people use cars to travel less than three miles to work, even though the same commute would only take 20 minutes by bicycle.[2] Regardless of the many health benefits of a self-propelled commute (15 minutes of cycling per day reduces heart attack risk by 50 percent), and the apparent cost and time savings over driving or taking public transit, commuters spend an aggravating 55 hours each year stuck in traffic.[3][4] Collectively, this adds up to approximately 3.7 billion hours and 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic in the US every year.[5]

Interest in finding alternative transportation methods is increasing. In fact, the number of cyclists in Washington, DC has increased from 1,500 to 10,000 between 1999 and 2002, encouraging the city to add 15 miles of bike lanes since 2001. It now carries the distinction of being the third most bike-friendly city in the country, according to the League of American Bicyclists.[4] Even so, many office workers are hesitant to commit to walking, running, or cycling to work, citing lack of secure bike storage, showers, and lockers.[6]

Companies can green their image while saving money by encouraging employees to find healthier alternatives to driving into work. By diverting five conventional automobile parking spaces to bicycle parking, companies can save anywhere from $10,000-$60,000. This can be used to construct bicycle lockers and shower facilities (with plenty leftover) on two of the parking spaces, leaving three parking spaces for other landscaping options.[7]

Tax breaks and subsidies

Some states offer tax incentives for companies wishing to discourage solo-commuter habits:

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