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Bike Commute Challenge 2014

Learn how to register for the challenge, what counts as a bike commute, and how to best get ready.

It’s almost September which means it’s Bike Commute Challenge time!

Every year, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) organizes the Bike Commute Challenge to encourage more people to commute by bike. The challenge pits workplace against workplace to see who has the highest percentage of bike commutes during the month. In 2013, over 1,000 workplaces competed with over 10,000 riders biking 1.5 million miles.

Go to the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge website to register and talk to your coworkers about forming a team!

Bicycle commuter

How the Challenge works:

  1. Register for the challenge and join or start your workplace team.
  2. Log bike trips online during the month of September.
  3. At the end of the month, BTA tallies up the percent of bike commutes and announces the winner on October 10th.

What counts as a “bike commute”?

  • Riding both ways to work by bicycle.
  • Riding one way to work by bicycle (and the other way by any other mode).
  • Riding part way to work by pairing biking with transit, driving or any other mode.

Top things you can do to get ready for the challenge:

  • Have a bike repair kit in your office.
  • Set up a bike buddy system to pair new riders with experienced bike commuters.
  • Help each other determine the best bike route between home and work and how long to allow for the trip.

For more details, see tips 2-5 in our “7 ways to support and encourage your workplace bike commuter” blog post.

Quick Links

7 ways to support and encourage your workplace bike commuters

From bike parking to bike buddies, our certified businesses are making bike commuting easier.

Portland is one of the best bike cities in the U.S. With over 181 miles of bike lanes and 79 miles of off-street bike paths, Portland is a great city to bike.

Here are 7 of the most common ways our certified businesses are encouraging and supporting bike commuters:

1. Indoor/Covered Bike Parking
Indoor bike parking provides people with a safe place to put their bike, helmet and other gear during the workday. Inside or out, it may be easier than you think to find space for indoor or covered bike parking.

Bike racks at Food Front NW
Many Portland businesses create simple, DIY bike racks like these, using bike hooks and wood (even simple 2x4s). Food Front NW’s bike rack is in their break room along with a bike repair kit and lockers.

Tip: Convert an underused supply closet, room, break room wall, or unused outdoor area into bike parking!

Lensbaby covered bike racks
Covered outdoor bike parking at Lensbaby in Southeast Portland.

Find out how to get free bike racks, sign up for a bike corral through the City, or get tips for creating your own bike rack.For more, read the case study our friends at Bike Portland recently posted about the outdoor bike parking at Green Zebra Grocery and other bike amenities they offer for bike commuters.

2. Bike repair kit
Providing a bike repair kit at work allows bike commuters to take care of maintenance problems like flat tires, small adjustments, or tires needing air.

Tip: Leave your repair kit indoors near bike parking and make sure employees/coworkers know about it. Make the kit available to customers, visitors and clients to encourage more biking.
Bike repair kit list

3. Bike Buddies
A bike buddy – a coworker to commute with for the first few days – is a great way to encourage first time biker commuters. The bike buddy breaks down those initial barriers – “What time should I leave the house? What route do I take? How do I avoid busy roads?”

To get your workplace started with bike buddies, put up a map where employees can mark their bike commutes. New bikers can find a bike commute buddy from the map and connect with their buddy to arrange when and where they’ll meet and ride.

BPS Bike Buddies map
Here at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), we used Bike Buddies to encourage more people to ride to work for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s annual Bike Commute Challenge (see 5 below).

4. Route planning
Bike buddies can also help new cyclists with route planning. Experienced cyclists or members of your office green team can help determine the best route between home and work, and suggest how long to allow for the trip.
 
Tip: Order free citywide and neighborhood bike maps for your office.
 
5. Participate in the Bike Commute Challenge
Every September, the Bike Transportation Alliance hosts its Bike Commute Challenge. The Challenge pits workplace against workplace to see who can bike more in the month of September. Participating in the Bike Commute Challenge is a great way to attract new bike commuters and have fun!

Tip: You can sign up now, before the Challenge starts, and encourage others too as well. Then you’re ready to go when September 1st rolls around, and everyone can get credit for their miles starting day one.

PGE Bike Commute Challenge participants
Bike Commute Challenge participants at Portland General Electric pose with their bikes

6. Incentives
Incentives are another great way to encourage people to start biking to work or to bike more often. Here are 3 examples of incentives to get more people to bike commute:

  • Have a raffle! Each person gets a raffle ticket every day they bike to work. Twice a year, draw a winner to receive a free bike tune-up. Or, draw winners more often for smaller prizes, like free lunch or a gift card to a bike shop.
  • Publicly praise people who bike to work and encourage them through small acts of thanks, like homemade cookies provided by the office’s best baker.
  • If your workplace offers subsidized transit passes or subsidizes driving or parking, give an equivalent monetary incentive to people who regularly bike to work. Click here for an additional opportunity to provide bike bucks through the Bicycle Commuter Benefit.

7. Showers, changing rooms and lockers
For some employees, the main barrier to biking to work is wanting to be clean for the workday and needing to wear different clothing while biking than at work.  Providing showers, changing rooms and/or lockers reduces this barrier.

For renters, some office buildings already have changing rooms and lockers. Talk to your building manager about getting access for your employees who bike.

TIP: If your business doesn’t have showers already, work out a deal with a nearby fitness center, community center, or gym to allow bikers, walkers and lunchtime joggers to have access to showers and lockers.

Questions about where to start, or how to implement any of these suggestions? Contact us. We’re happy to help!

Quick links for more bike info:

Bike commuters at Fluid Market Strategies
Happy bike commuters pose for the camera at Fluid Market Strategies.


Success stories from your peers

Green-minded staff from different organizations around Portland gathered at Sustainability at Work’s third Problem Solved event to share successes and trouble-shoot challenges.

logoWe captured the top tips from attendees, as well as success stories that you may be able to replicate at your own organization.

Transportation

Kelley Martin, Integral Consulting

  • ZGF Architects swapped their leased vehicles with zipcar memberships.
  • Integral Consulting replaced parking subsidies with subsidized Trimet passes and incentives to bike commuters. This increased sustainable transit and saved the company money!
  • With these strategies, and staff education, Integral Consulting reduced their car miles traveled by 20,000 and increased transit participation by 44%!

Recycling

  • Fortis Construction removed desk-side trash cans and made sure everyone had a desk-side recycling bin. This made recycling more convenient than trash.
  • Fortis also collects “beyond the curbside” recycling, like extra plastics, to be taken to a recycling depot. Some staff have started doing this at home too, since learning how to at work.
  • Does your organization collect extra recycling to take to a recycling depot, or would you like to start?
  • Integral Consulting discovered they could hire B-Line, a sustainable urban delivery company, to pick up a variety of hard-to-recycle items and deliver them to recycling depots.

Reduce wasteCourtney Norris, Fortis Construction

  • Food containers:
    • ZGF architects encourages staff to sign up for GO Box, a reusable container system for take-out food, by subsidizing membership.
    • Using reusable lunch containers reduces the piles of take-out lunch containers that fill many workplace garbage cans.
  • Paper:
    • Reduce misprints, improved confidentiality and cut paper use by setting up printer “mailboxes.”
    • PGE’s IT staff set up printer mailboxes and saw great results.
    • Get crafty! Use scrap paper to make note pads.
  • Dishware
    • Fill a tote with durable dishware to wash and reuse at company lunches and events.
  • Moving locations?
    • Set a goal of re-using as much as possible in the new space, and think through what that will take.
    • One company did this, and ended up with only a single dumpster of waste.

Quick links from attendees’ suggestions:

  • B-line - Extra recycling pick up by bike.
  • GO Box – reusable take-out food container program.
  • zipcar – sign up for car-sharing at your workplace.
  • Trimet – pre-tax and/or subsidized employee transit passes.

Ready to make your organization more sustainable? Contact us to connect with an advisor or peers!

Top tips from your peers

We captured the top tips from attendees, as well as success stories that you may be able to replicate at your own organization.

logoGreen-minded staff from different organizations around Portland gathered at Sustainability at Work’s third Problem Solved event to share successes and trouble-shoot challenges.

Top Tips

Start small.

  • Small changes are easier to make, and it’s easier to capitalize on successes.
  • Pilot new practices – with a small group, or for a short amount of time – before implementing on a large scale.

Educate.

  • Focus on employee education at each step in a new initiative.
  • Share information in multiple ways and places: meetings, emails and web content.
  • Repetition helps the information stick, and caters to different learning styles.

Know your culture.

  • What’s your company culture? Suit and tie or quirky and creative?
  • Find messaging, actions, and activities that will resonate with your coworkers.
  • Find champions that know the company’s culture.
  • Know what motivates your coworkers - recognition, prizes, food – to take action.

Get support.

  • Don’t be shy about reaching out to peers.
  • Look to local universities like PSU for student support.
  • Strategically engage management to make sure they have your back.
  • Use Sustainability at Work staff for guidance – that’s why we’re here!

Celebrate.

  • Make your achievements known, and have fun with it!
  • Celebrate within your Green Team, or involve all staff in a celebration (it might help them pay more attention to the achievement!)

Ready to make your organization more sustainable? Contact us to connect with an advisor or peers!

Recycling containers – from simple to sophisticated, tips for a successful set up

Whether you’re looking to revamp your office recycling or are just starting out, here are some ideas for your workplace recycling system.

Five things to consider for a successful workplace recycling system

  • Make it easy. Place a recycling bin next to every garbage can and place compost bins near where people eat.
  • Use labels. Label recycling, compost, and trash containers clearly and prominently.
  • Be consistent. To decrease confusion, make your recycling and compost systems consistent throughout your workplace.
  • Provide Reminders. Provide periodic reminders of what gets recycled, composted, and trashed. Contact us to schedule a refresher presentation.
  • Work with Janitors. Talk with your janitorial staff, especially if you’re changing your current set up. Clarify if they’ll be emptying all containers, or if staff need to empty desk containers into central collection containers.

Example setups from some of our certified businesses.

Sleek
Some workplaces value aesthetically pleasing waste areas. Recycling, compost, and trash bins can be placed in cabinets. This approach keeps different types of waste bins together and requires clear and informative labeling for proper disposal.

Labeled recycling bins
Schwabe, Williamson, & Wyatt’s bins are contained but also visible. Labels make it clear what gets disposed of where.

Well-labeled, accessible recycling bins
The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) places their waste bins near where people work and labels their compost “Food Scraps,” clearly informing people what goes into the bin.

Informative
For some people, remembering what gets disposed of where is a challenge. Large visual signs and labels are a great way to help people remember what goes where. Sustainability at Work offers free recycling and compost signs for businesses, or you can make your own!

Recycling bins labeled with images
Fortis Construction’s waste bins are nicely labeled with images showing what goes into each bin.

Color-coded waste bins
The waste bins at PECI are nicely color coded – blue for recycling, green for compost, and black for trash. Large signs above show what goes into each bin. People can see into the bins as a reminder of what to put where and as a way to encourage proper disposal.

Non-curbside
Some workplaces produce non-curbside recyclables such as batteries, toner and ink cartridges, computers and other electronics, plastic film (bubble wrap, shrink wrap, plastic bags), and other rigid plastics such as cups and clamshells. These items can be collected separately and taken – usually by staff volunteers – to a recycling depots. Call to find depots near you: 503-234-3000.

Several bins for non-curbside items
Mahlum’s recycling area uses extra bins to collect and sort non-curbside recycling items such as plastic bags and film, cork, Styrofoam, batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, and electronic equipment.

Free and simple is good too!
Many businesses use our free recycling boxes under desks and in break rooms. We also provide posters to use on, or near, waste containers.

You could also make your own posters, though we recommend running them by us to confirm all the information is correct. Recycling and composting can be confusing, and we’ve seen posters that unintentionally create confusion.

Guest post written by Mia Reback, a summer intern with the Sustainability at Work program.