Happy Bike to Work Day, the kickoff event for Bike Month, which runs May 29 to June 30. How can employers motivate their employees to start peddling to and from the office?
Benefits Canada caught up with a crew of intrepid bike commuters to get their perspectives on what really works and what’s really needed (hint: secure bike storage and onsite showers and change rooms are big draws).
The cyclists were participating in the Toronto Group Commute, which started at various points across the city and ended with a free pancake breakfast at city hall.
Steve Purificati, Real Food for Real Kids
“I’ve cycled to work every day for the past six years or so — all weather, all seasons. Our company’s pretty good about supporting biking to work. They have a lot of bike racks, so there’s safe places to store your bikes. We’ve recently moved to a new area of the city, the Portlands, and they’ve made sure that all of our locker rooms have showers, locker space, things like that, so if you are biking in worse weather conditions, you have space to clean up for the work day, which is big. We also run some bike repair workshops through the year. We’ll do some lunch and learns about how to repair a bike, how to fix a flat tire, safe cycling practices.
“The other further thing we’re trying to do is to make our area a safer place to cycle. The Portlands, where we’re stationed now, it’s pretty industrial. There’s not a lot of pedestrians, not a lot of safe infrastructure for bikes, and we’re trying to improve the area to make it safer to ride in.”
Zoe Scantlebury, Mountain Equipment Co-op
“They’ve got bike storage, which is super wonderful. It keeps everything dry. They also have showers at work, so when it’s hot and sweaty in the summer, we can get nice and clean before having to start work.”
Terrie Tucker, Ryerson University
“I’m a fair-weather cyclist. I don’t know if there’s an active ‘let’s support bike-to-work concept’ but of course there’s all kinds of facilities there. There’s a bike share there. It makes it easy.
“I don’t think that it’s Ryerson’s responsibility [to encourage me to cycle more]. I used to work at a hospital, and the hard thing was you get to work and you’re all stinky and sweaty. And so you really need facilities to shower and change. For me, that’s the most important thing that an organization can do.”
Daniel Woolfson, City of Toronto
“There’s been a lot of talk about new bike facilities that have been in the works for a long time. Hopefully those get built to encourage people to bike from longer distances. I’m pretty lucky — I don’t have much of a challenge biking into work. I come in my work clothes because it’s such a short ride, but for people who would be biking from longer distances, it would be great to have direct facilities to change into your work clothes and shower if necessary.
“I also think the promotion of safe streets and protected bike lanes in the city would be something great that [the city] — not as my direct employer . . . but councillors in the city — should promote as much as possible.”
Kirsten Dahl, Ontario Nature
“They let me park my bike in the office which is a huge plus because I’ve had parts of my bicycle stolen frequently if I park it out in the street. It’s always nice to have a safe place to park it during the day.
“I would love to have a change room or showers. I used to work in the U.K., and that is almost commonplace because so many people are biking to work. They also have a government-run [program] encouraging employees to bike to work where your employer actually buys your bicycle and the cost comes out of your paycheque slowly, incrementally. So it really encourages a lot of people to bike. I would love to see something like that here, but I know it would be a big jump. Showers and change rooms would be a great start.”
Anton Lodder, Opus One Solutions Energy Corp.
“We’re based in Richmond Hill but we have a satellite office here [downtown Toronto] for the cool kids. . . . Almost everybody who works down here bikes or walks because it’s closer and there are ways to do that.
“It’s a pretty old office. We don’t really have any facilities [like showers or bike racks]. People park their bikes out on the ring posts outside and they cross their fingers. That would be really awesome — a place to park their bikes that’s secure. I used to work at a place by St. Lawrence and we could park our bikes in the basement. It was not fancy or anything; they didn’t have a shower, but you knew it wouldn’t get stolen or rained on. You could leave it there if you had to go somewhere so that was really handy.”