By Kelsey Bridges
Bike share systems have gained popularity across the country and many cities planning to implement, or already have introduced, their own systems. Bike share systems need bicycle riders, which creates a need for accommodations for bicyclists. One of the primary hurdles in starting a bike share system is overcoming the obstacles that accompany riding in general: bicycle parking, showers at work, on- and off-street bicycle lanes, and creating a bicycle culture. While providing amenities such as bicycle parking and work showers are important, getting people to use the system also plays a large role. One way to attract riders is to focus attention on places people commute, such as their workplace.
A handful of companies are breaking into the field of corporate bike share, including Facebook, Wells Fargo, and Salesforce. These companies understand the positive social, health, and environmental benefits of bicycling and have chosen to accommodate employees who want to participate. In order to make sure the liabilities of participating in a bike share are mitigated, companies must take a few precautionary steps. First, employees must sign waiver agreements so that if they are injured they do not press charges against the company. Second, employers should provide basic bicycling instruction to educate employees about bicycling laws, bicycle maintenance, and helmet use. Third, providing maps that show local bicycle routes and tips is helpful for veterans or those new to bicycle commuting. Finally, any corporate operated bike share system should provide bicycle parking, repair, and maintenance to employees.
The beauty of corporate bike share is that businesses do not necessarily have to provide their own bike-sharing program, but can participate in one that already exists. While businesses should still follow the steps above, they can forgo the responsibility of maintaining their own fleet, which can be burdensome. Divvy, a Chicago bike share system, offers corporate and community memberships, which can be used for a full commute, or to finish the last mile from the train station or bus stop. Depending on the size of the fleet, the cost per day can range from $7 to $3.50 a bike. This option is often less costly than subsidizing employees for public transportation or personal vehicle use
College campuses often have similar programs which can be useful references if a business chooses to operate their own bike share program. Roughly 90 universities in the U.S. have some type of bike sharing program, whether it is one that can be used by the greater public or is reserved specifically for students. Systems range from general check out to more technological automated systems. Rutgers University, for example, has a bicycle rental program that rents out very quickly. Rentals are available for 10 dollars a month or 25 dollars a semester.
Bikes Make Life Better is an organization that helps corporations transition into bike share users. They assist with infrastructure, operations, employee engagement, and integration into corporate culture services. Infrastructure support consists of purchasing bikes fleets, helmets, GPS, and providing adequate bicycle storage and maintenance facilities. Companies also need to offset a liability risk, which requires on-site bike repair and drafting waivers. Bikes Make Life Better also works to market bike share within firms by creating maps, providing safety work shops, conducting feedback surveys, and orchestrating Bike-to-Work Days.
Breaking down bike culture commuter barriers can be difficult and bringing in experienced professionals to promote the programs can be beneficial. Companies may struggle to understand how the benefits of encouraging bicycle use fit into their corporate structures. Bikes Make Life Better assists with organizing and utilizing bicycle tracking information to assess the effectiveness of bike share and also can help integrate bike share into pre-existing wellness initiatives corporations already have in place.
Although New Jersey does not have a large-scale bike share system yet, there are two set to roll out this year: one in Jersey City, which will link with Citibike in New York, and Nextbike in Hoboken and Weehawken. NJDOT is actively supporting Nextbike. Earlier this year it awarded Hoboken a $530,000 Transportation Alternatives Grant to be used in shaping the cities bicycle infrastructure. This grant will help Hoboken add bicycle lanes and sharrows to 75 percent of their streets, providing an extensive network for Nextbike. NJDOT offers several assistance programs that encourage bicycle infrastructure such as their Bikeway Grant program and Bicycle/Pedestrian Planning Assistance Consultants that aid in creating circulation plans in local communities. It will be exciting to see how the efforts of the anticipated bike share systems develop with continued joint efforts from NJDOT and other involved agencies.