Recently, SVBC sat down with Stanford Research Park TMA (transportation management association) to debrief about Bike to Work Day. We learned about many great programs they aggressively pursue to decrease SOV (single occupant vehicles) and wanted to share one in particular – the Bike Champion Program.
As an aside, in our ongoing conversations with companies across Silicon Valley, we find there is a big appetite from businesses to learn how to start or grow programs for getting more employees to ride. If SVBC had a penny for every time a company asked, “what can we do, what do other businesses do, to get employees riding bikes?” we’d be rich!
Most people we talk with do not yet have the company buy-in to dump a lot of resources into growing a bike program. So they are looking for those inexpensive, low intensity ways of promoting bikes. A low intensity first step can then show company leadership that they should budget for bikes. That’s precisely why we wanted to share one element of what Stanford Research Park (SRP) is up to.
In January of 2017, SRP through one of their TDM contractors, Bikes Make Life Better, started the Bike Champions program. The idea was to bring together bike enthusiasts across the Park’s 150 companies to figure out ways of getting more SRP employees pedaling. At that first meeting, SRP provided lunch and about 20 people showed up. Fast forward to today, and the group has grown to 60 people who meet every other month over a lunch catered by SRP.
SRP intentionally wanted to allow these bike enthusiasts to determine their own destiny. What would they want to do? What were their ideas for getting more people to ride? How could they, within the company they work at, increase the number of regular bike commuters? With those questions in mind, here are a few of the ways that the Bike Champions work:
- Welcome: For those of you who act as informal bike champions you know that once the word gets out that you can be a bike tutor, people start coming to you with questions. What kind of bike should I buy? What’s a good route? How do a I fix a flat? To more deliberately invite, welcome and advertise individual bike champions, stickers and cubicle signage were made. A sticker affixed to a laptop invites others to ask them questions about bike commuting. Same thing with cubicle signage. Bike Champions are made more visible within companies with signs that literally say, I’m a bike champion and I’m ready and willing to answer your questions about how to ride more.
- Maps: The Champions have put together maps of the most common and safe routes to SRP.
- Repair Kits: They created branded repair kits to give out.
- Classes: Individual bike champions give presentations on different topics like commuting in the rain.
- Cheerleading: Bike Champions serve as primary biking cheerleaders within their companies.
- Sounding Board: And, finally, the Champions are used as a sounding board by SRP on existing and new bike related programs. Are they good ideas, how can they be made better? These are questions that the Bike Champions help answer so that SRP can roll out better ways of spreading the joy of bicycling to work.
Many of you bemoan the fact that your company doesn’t do much to promote bicycling. That sucks but here’s the good news. When SVBC is talking to different companies that have solid bike programs, we ask them why? Why did they decide to put resources into promoting bike commuting? Many times their response is that they did it initially because their employees requested it. Bicyclists started getting organized and making requests of HR or the transportation division. Now those companies find it’s an easy and cheap way to keep a segment of the workforce happy.
So, if your company doesn’t seem that interested, this is one way you could start. Find 5+ of your colleagues that ride and start organizing yourselves so that you can pull more likeminded folks in, grow into a group that gets listened to, and work together to convince the company to put resources into promoting bicycling.