People have turned to bicycles for commuting, exercise, and entertainment, and businesses have taken note in rapidly increasing numbers. Cities across the country have been building bike-friendly infrastructure to promote a healthier, more sustainable form of mobility.
Companies are starting to make themselves more accessible for employees and customers who arrive by bike. By doing so, they hope to leverage the benefits of cycling for their employees, community, and company culture. Tragically, though, there remain many obstacles in the way of those who wish to travel or commute by bicycle.
Cities have been built around the car for so long that traversing them by bicycle can often feel dangerous. Without secure bike parking, leaving a bike unattended can be risky. Many commuters don’t have a place to change or shower before work either.
Fortunately, businesses and cities can overcome these deterrents by investing in cycling. As more research comes out, it has become clear that these kinds of investments have been paying off in a big way.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of cycling’s many benefits, some businesses remain hesitant about adopting it. Yet, it’s in everyone’s best interests for businesses to embrace a bike-friendly company culture and advocate for cycling in their town. Let’s explore why.
Everyone Wins When Cycling is Encouraged
When you hop on your bike, you become the most efficiently moving animal on the planet. More efficient than any gas or electric car and even more efficient than the most graceful bird or fish. Businesses can harness this efficiency and the numerous other benefits of cycling by creating the right company culture. These companies can be more successful and sustainable while simultaneously promoting a happier, healthier workplace.
When businesses advocate for cycling, either through their policies or by encouraging local government, they can create tremendous stakeholder value. It’s even possible that this value will ripple through the community, multiplying its effects.
Suppose a business encourages its employees to take up cycling by providing incentives or accommodations, as Exact Sciences did with this bike room. That business can benefit from healthier, more productive employees. But the benefits reach far beyond this one business.
The benefits of promoting cycling are not just to the community’s economic health but also its environmental and physical health. Cyclists save money on transportation and healthcare and tend to spend more than non-cyclists, benefiting other local businesses. This is due to the fact that increased trips by bicycle mean less CO2 and more exercise.
This sounds great, but it gets even better as these benefits of cycling tend to perpetuate themselves. The more the community embraces cycling as their preferred transportation method, the more investments get made to accommodate cyclists, resulting in more trips by bicycle. In this way, small changes made by businesses significantly impact the well-being of a whole community.
For a glimpse of what a more mature cycling infrastructure can look like, we can look to Europe. Cycling is far more ubiquitous across Europe, which means the benefits of cycling are far more pronounced. European studies have attempted to measure the social cost and benefit of driving, cycling, and walking across the European Union.
These studies concluded that driving brings an external social cost of €0.11 per kilometer after balancing costs and benefits. In contrast, cycling and walking bring a benefit equal to €0.18 and €0.37 per kilometer. Over the course of a year, cars are associated with an extra €500 billion in costs, but bicycles bring in a benefit of €24 billion, and walking brings in another €66 billion.
The Benefits of Cycling for Businesses
At this point, we have seen how the community benefits from cycling, but what about businesses specifically? What exactly can businesses gain by making their company culture more bike-friendly?
For starters, businesses can save on healthcare costs by promoting employee health. Studies have shown that individuals with a sedentary lifestyle are at double the risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity and increased risk for several other ailments. Employees who spend most of their working day sitting at a desk are especially at risk.
Employees with sedentary lifestyles cost businesses more in healthcare, absences, worker’s compensation, and disability. According to the CDC, employee health programs can cut these costs dramatically.
One of the best ways for businesses to impact employee health is through cycling. Cycling can be used for commuting instead of employees setting aside extra time for exercise. Employees can be encouraged to ride a bicycle in several low-cost ways. Businesses can organize employee bicycle rides, provide information about cycling in the area, create bicycle parking, provide access to bike pumps and tools, and much more.
The benefits of cycling and better employee health don’t end with healthcare savings, though. Employees who bike to work tend to have better mental health and are more productive. Studies show that commuting to work by bike lowers stress and increases energy levels, attention, and focus.
Does your business want to attract young and emerging talent? Then investing in cycling is critical. Between 2001 and 2009, millennials, age 16-34, took 27% more trips by bike and 15% fewer trips by car. As these trends continue, it becomes more necessary for businesses to accommodate cyclists to attract young talent.
More than ever, people are supporting businesses based on their values. Young employees and customers alike also prefer to support businesses that take social responsibility seriously. Developing a bike-friendly company culture is an excellent way for companies to build a reputation as a business that values sustainability, employee health, and social impact.
Businesses can also benefit from encouraging their town to invest in cycling infrastructure. When towns promote cycling by creating more bike lanes or bike parking, local businesses reap the benefits. For example, one of the first protected bike lanes in the country is located in Manhattan, New York. Since fully embracing the benefits of cycling, Manhattan has experienced a 49% increase in retail sales along the bike lane. This is in comparison to just a 3% increase across the borough. Property values have also been shown to rise when cities invest in cycling.
What Can You Do To Encourage a Bike-Friendly Company Culture?
At this point, the benefits of cycling are clear and well known, so what can you do to encourage your employer to invest in cycling? Thankfully, the list is long and full of both small and large changes.
- Lead by example: Start biking more often!
- Create a cycling group at work: organize rides, provide information about local cycling options and resources.
- Ask your employer to create secure, off-the-street bike parking.
- Ask about the possibility of incorporating bike rooms, showers, and lockers.
- Spark conversations about your company supporting local cycling advocacy groups.
- Inquire about your company partnering with a local bike shop to provide maintenance for employee’s bicycles.
- Explore the possibility of your company providing incentives to employees for every mile they ride a bicycle.
By adopting a bike-friendly company culture that embraces the benefits of cycling, businesses and their communities can become more successful. Cycling will not only enable companies to save on healthcare costs. It will also empower them to create healthier, more productive, and friendlier workplaces that attract emerging talent. On top of that, cycling can help create greener and more sustainable communities.