These are all positive and encouraging moves from an employer but he contacted me asking if he could do even more to encourage his employees to commute by bike.
I suggested he consider the following facilities, services and incentives that various companies around the world provide their bicycle commuting employees. Some such as secure parking should be considered essential infrastructure, while other items represent incentives and bonuses that employers can offer employees to entice them away from their cars.
The primary need bicycle commuters express is the need for safe, secure parking for their bicycles, undercover and out of the elements if possible. Wise or not many commuters have invested hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in their bicycles and ensuring they'll be there at the end of the work day is their main concern. In fact many people I contacted when researching this article said secure parking alone was their only requirement for bicycle commuting, anything more was considered a bonus.
In hot and humid climates bicycle commuters expressed an interest in showers. Some may argue that we should ride according to the weather as to not work up a sweat, but during summers in Japan it is impossible to even stand in the sun without sweating let alone cycle, so dropping speed does not help. In the absence of showers many commuters carry an extra set of clothes, a towel, baby wipes and deodorant. For many showers would be welcome, but are not essential.
Extra clothes, towels, baby wipes, deodorant, helmets, cycling shoes, bicycle commuters come with a lot of baggage and having somewhere convenient to store that during the day is is essential lest damp clothing get stored under a desk or, heaven forbid, forgotten for weeks in a desk drawer.
The culture of fear has taught us that cycling is a dangerous activity (it's not) and we must insure ourselves. In fact Japanese companies are required by law to ensure their employees for the duration of their commute. As Japanese employers choose the most economical policies available cycling is never covered as a valid form of commuting to work, hence many companies ban cycling to work. To negate the issue and make bicycle commuting more attractive employers could cover their employees cycling accident insurance.
In Japan companies must also cover the cost of employees travel to work, usually in the form of a monthly train pass. Bicycle commuters currently occupy a grey space with the majority collecting commuter fees while cycling to work. Companies can save money by paying bicycle commuters a commuting fee based on the distance they travel, or the average number of rainy days that can be expected in a year. Whatever the method used to calculate the payment, bicycle commuters should not end up having to pay for the occasional train commute.
Related to the topic above, some employers go so far as to offer bicycle commuters a cash incentives. Based on the number of consecutive days spent cycling, distance cycled or simply an arbitrary lump sum a financial incentive is a great way to get people cycling. In return employers benefit from happier, healthier more alert and productive employees.
Many employees don't cycle because they lack the confidence and skills, others believe they're not physically fit enough and can't possibly go the distance. Without getting on a bicycle on the first place employees never come to understand just how easy, fun and invigorating cycling is. Employers can encourage more employees to ride by offering a day of bicycle safety and skills training, getting people on bicycles and giving them the skills to ride safely. In addition to promoting cycling as a valid form of transport, by including employees who have no intention of cycling they, as motorists, get a look at the issues cyclists face on the roads which will hopefully make them more considerate of cyclist in the future. Its a great team building exercise too!
A long commute can leave an employee famished, therefore some companies are known to give bicycle commuters free breakfast in the company cafeteria. Not only are employees being well fed, socialising over a cafeteria breakfast has the added benefit of improving communication at the workplace.
Dry Cleaning Pick Up and Drop Off
This is a luxury item, but it allows employees to leave business suits and shirts at the office rather than having to ferry them back and forth from home on their bicycles. This service could also be used to give bicycle commuters cycling gear a good clean up once in a while. Sure its a luxury, but one that makes a lot of sense.
Some employers provide bicycle commuters with a "Cycling Pack" of convenient accessories for bicycle commuting at the beginning of each year. The pack may include such items as lights, reflectors, locks, tools, inner tubes, rain wear etc. The presentation of the cycling pack presents another opportunity to educate cyclists about cycling safely and promote cycling to work.
On Site Equipment and Tools
A bicycle pump, patch kit, some simple tools readily available at the bicycle parking lot is a very small gesture employers can make, but one that is greatly appreciated by employees.
Not everyone is comfortable with the mechanical side of cycling and the thought of mechanical failure and ending up late for work could be preventing employees from cycling. Some companies have been known to have a bicycle mechanic visit monthly to take care of any issues employees may be having with their bikes. Others nominate a mechanically skilled employee to be available to assist with changing a flat tyre and other simple maintenance tasks as they arise. The security of knowing there is support available when things go wrong well help more employees make the shift to the bike.
Bicycle commuters are social creatures. Giving them a forum to share ideas and information, be it a company mailing list or online forum is a great way to keep enthusiasm high among riders. Such a forum allows commuters to alert each other to dangers they've noticed on the roads around the office such as roadworks or particularly dangerous drivers, it allows them to share alternative route information, and to organise group rides to and from the office if they believe in safety in numbers. In addition to this a little friendly banter, and the sense of belonging to a group, may keep people who would otherwise drift away from bicycle commuting around for a while longer.
Cycling to work benefits employees, employers, the environment and even the economy. As an employer in the face of the numerous benefits cycling employees bring a company you'd be crazy not to support cycling to work.