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Encouraging bike commutes post-COVID

When the times come to make our way back into the office, commutes will be changed. Many people will be weary of the crowded, confined spaces of public transit in the beginning. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not discounting the importance public transit will play in the transition back. We’re saying it will take time for your employees to feel comfortable riding face-to-face with other commuters.

Feature image for encouraging bike commutes post-COVID

Lately, we’ve been in communication with as many customers and industry leaders as we can  in order to get a grasp on the current and future state of commuting. There’s a lot of speculating and predicting going around. One constant we’ve heard is the emphasis on getting employees to bike to work. 

There’s naturally going to be a gravitation towards driving because of the privacy and seclusion cars provide. However, it’s probably not realistic for all your employees to drive alone to work based on the cost of additional parking alone! (Plus, it’s going to be really, really bad for climate change.) So, to avoid that, we’ll have to help make bicycles as reliable for commuting as cars and public transit.

Company-operated bike rentals

We recently wrote about a new initiative one of our customers is rolling out to encourage biking to work post-COVID: company-operated bike rentals. This is often in addition to third-party bikeshare companies. We are huge fans of bikesharing, obviously, but for some people, it isn’t always the most convenient. Because bikeshare companies are based in more urban areas, employees who live just outside the range of a bikeshare dock or operating zones can face more roadblocks.

A company-operated bike rental program keeps the monetary burden off employees, while providing the benefit of having a bike at their disposal. It’s said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Three weeks to a month is enough time for employees to figure out the best time to leave their home and the office, which route is best for them, and if they actually like biking to work. This also allows for different groups of employees to take advantage of a bike rental throughout the year. To make the most of your program, it will be important to collect data on what is working and then adapt based on what you find.

Deciding who has access to bike a rental bike can be done in a variety of ways. One way can be based on department: Giving the option to a few people from each department can provide structure, as well as easy scheduling of who will have access and when. Another option could be providing access to employees who relied most on public transportation. Since these employees might be the first group who are looking into new commuting options post-COVID, they’re prime candidates for a bike rental program. A third option is based on where employees live. Depending on their proximity to the office, employees might see this as an opportunity to adopt a new commute and would be great candidates for participation.

Corporate bikeshare account

If the upfront and maintenance costs of creating your own bike rental program is a little more than your company can handle, working with a bikeshare company is a perfect option. Most bikeshare companies have corporate accounts you can set up, benefitting both you and your employees. For example, Capital Bikeshare provides tiered account options that change the cost for employers and employees. Corporate options may vary from city to city, but it’s worth the investment. Employees could be skeptical toward adopting a bike, especially with the financial implications that come along with it. A bikeshare membership is the perfect fit for employees who are considering buying a bicycle, but want to be sure it’s the best option for them.

Working with TMAs

A concern that has always been associated with biking to work is: “How will I get home if something happens to my bike?” This is understandable! You can hit a pothole, your chain could break, or you can get a flat tire. Needless to say, there’s a possibility something can go wrong. This is where working with a transportation management association (TMA) proves to be a huge benefit for employers. 

TMAs work with individual commuters as well as employers to make commuting easier. Having a guaranteed ride home in case something goes wrong gives employees added peace of mind.  The Allston Brighton TMA in the greater Boston area offers just that with their Guaranteed Ride Home Program. Qualified commuters get up to six free rides home in the case of an emergency – like a damaged bike. It would definitely be a smart move to reach out to a local TMA about similar programs.

TMAs also act as the liaison between employers and the city. If the predictions and initiatives we’ve been hearing about hold true, and bike commuting does see an increase, TMAs could play a vital role in helping your company adapt  to make commuting as easy as possible after this. Working with a TMA will make your life easier too.

Learn bike commute route now

It’s no secret commutes are almost nonexistent right now. That means city throughways are clearer now than they have been in recent memory. Now is a perfect time to encourage your employees to learn their bike route to the office. In normal circumstances, cars honking, swerving, and speeding can cause anxiety, especially if you don’t know exactly where you’re going.

Learning now won’t make bike commutes 100% better, but it’s a big relief knowing exactly where to go – and what’s a better time than when streets are as clear as ever? In addition to learning a new commuting method, it’s an opportunity for your employees to get out of their homes and clear their mind. This can improve both physical and mental health, which is important for everyone right now. Then, when the time comes for employees to return to the office, they’ll have a head start on considering a bike as an option.

Electric bikes

Public transit has traditionally been the lifeline that connects professionals from their homes to their offices. However, it’s going to be extremely likely that your employees are going to need some time before they return to riding the metro or bus consistently. Bikes are a great alternative to public transit, but for some employees, switching to a traditional bike may not be reasonable for the length of their commutes. It’s just too far – but that may not be the case on an e-bike!

Electric bikes have seen a significant rise in popularity in the United States over the past few years. E-bike sales grew 83% between 2017 and 2018, accounting for 10% of all bike sales in that time. One reason: They’re just as environmentally friendly as pedal bikes and can decrease commuting times. This option is a fix for employees who generally rely on public transit. Most of our employees don’t own cars and have no backup for commuting, and will be in a position to find a new commuting option – like an electric bike. 

The top three reasons people are reluctant to switch to a bicycle as their main form of transportation are hills, the distance of their destinations, and arriving to their destination sweaty, according to a survey by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities. The same survey found that nearly 83% of people who own an e-bike feel they can go further than a traditional pedal bike, and 34% of respondents regularly use their e-bike for commuting. So what does this mean? It means e-bikes can lead to higher bike adoptions rates because of the physical barriers that can be holding your employees back.

Another reason e-bikes have grown in popularity is increased availability through bikeshare companies. Dockless bikeshare companies including JUMP and Helbiz offer easy access to riders who want to try e-bikes without committing to purchasing one. New York City’s bikeshare operator, Citi Bikes, is now allowed to offer e-bike options for riders thanks to a bill passed earlier this month. Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C. added 500 e-bikes, growing their presence in the area. Renting e-bikes for daily use can help with the financial burden of buying a personal electric bike, especially if it’s used a couple days a week.

These could be a true game changer for employees who used to take public transportation, but may now be too worried to do so. They may live a little further out and thus might normally feel it’s too far to bike, but an electric bicycle can make all the difference.

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