The idea behind the Bike Friendly Business program is to promote workplace environments that encourage, support, and promote bicycling. Towards that end, the League of American Bicyclists has created an award system. Businesses apply to become a Bike Friendly Business and they’re awarded platinum, gold, silver, or bronze levels based on a variety of criteria. Fort Collins currently has 39 Bike Friendly Businesses (BFBs), a Bike Friendly University, and the city as a whole is rated as a Platinum level Bike Friendly Community.
Jeff and I recently visited Sue, Richard, and Kristen at the Health District of Northern Larimer County, a silver level BFB, to find out more about how bicycling is supported in their office. We spent most of our time with Sue, who has been involved in planning and organizing many of the bicycle related projects and amenities for the building.
It all started with the Wellness Committee. As you can imagine, everyone working at the Health District was already pretty interested in health and wellness. But we all get busy at work, and the more we sit around at our desks, the less we’re out and about being physically active. Even in offices where we might think fitness is par for the course, it’s easy to get into the American habit of letting exercise fall by the wayside. So the Wellness Committee was looking for ways to get people moving.
In 2012, as kind of a last minute idea, they decided to enter the Health District into the National Bike Challenge as a team. Employees would register online to be part of the Challenge, then they’d join the Health District team and all of their bicycling activity would benefit not only themselves, but would also help their workplace compete against other local “challenge hosts.” The goal wasn’t to turn everyone into Pro cyclists. The idea was just to get everyone moving a little more than they already were. Even baby steps could get you entered to win a prize (which were often gift cards to a local bicycle shop).
The Challenge was a hit and the Wellness Committee found other similar competitions that they could participate in. For awhile the City of Fort Collins had Bike to Work Day Wednesdays in which businesses could win a bicycle. The Health District won a bike two years in a row. The bikes are now available for employees to check out during the day. Some hop on a bike to run and get lunch from the nearby shopping center. Others take a short spin just to get their blood pumping.
The Wellness committee also started putting loaner supplies together. Sometimes people would donate an old (but still usable) helmet or a pump or some other thing that could be stored at the office for use by employees. All of these items, as well as bike maps, manuals, bike lube, etc. are kept in an easily accessible shelving unit. And if people donate items that aren’t as easily shared (like a bike rack), then that item is used as a prize during bicycling competitions.
Over time, the bike program continued to grow. An educational component was added. “Lunch & Learn” events were set up where Bike Ambassadors would come in and speak on various topics — such as biking in winter. Fun events, like the Hawaiian Shirt Ride, were developed that encouraged employees to bike with their families. People began to realize that bicycling could be fun.
Eventually the bicycle program grew to the point where they decided to apply to become a Bicycle Friendly Business. They didn’t add anything new to their program. They just signed up with what they were already doing. And they were given a silver level award in the program!
Then, in 2014, they were national winners in the National Bike Challenge!
So this year they’ve had matching bike jerseys made and employees can earn $5 tokens towards the cost of a shirt ($55 total).
There’s also points for every cycling challenge level that a person reaches. High point earners get bragging rights (with a cool sign that you can hang on your office door).
And there are fun contests where you can win a gift card. One is a photo contest (Show why Bike to Work Day is awesome.) and the other is Bike Roulette. (You get to check a box for such things as “Rode even though I didn’t feel like it” and “Attended a bike topic lunch-n-learn.)
Not everyone rides a bicycle for the same reasons. Some people really love and need the movement. Others enjoy the social aspects. And still others just appreciate saving a buck at the gas pump. The bicycle program at the Health District of Northern Larimer County takes this into account. There really is something for everyone.
The goal of the program isn’t to make every employee into a bicycling demi-god. The goal is to grow people’s confidence in biking. And so far, the program appears to be doing exactly that.
Thanks so much to the folks at the Health District who shared their time, their ideas, and all of the group photos shown above.