At our Annual Membership Meeting Wednesday evening in front of a standing room only crowd at Lawrenceville’s Grey Box Theatre, we recognized eleven Pittsburgh businesses and organizations as leaders in Pittsburgh’s bike-friendly transformation.
The inaugural class is a diverse cross section of organizations of various sizes and industries with offices and stores in Pittsburgh. It includes the Sprout Fund, Mullen, Whole Foods Market, REI, Google, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, East End Food Co-op, Springboard Design, Urban Design Associates, Chatham University, and OTB Bicycle Cafe.
Each of these local employers filled out a questionnaire provided by BikePGH. After a review of the questionnaire, BikePGH scheduled a site visit, and followed up the site visit with a Bicycle Action Plan. Each plan summarized the employer’s current efforts and helps guide future plans toward an inclusive environment for bikes. The primary goal is to provide local employers with the information and resources needed to be bike friendly.
The essential elements that the inaugural class shared is a culture at work that supports bike commuting, and bike parking that is abundant, safe, secure, and convenient. Once the essential elements are in place, we weigh the creative things local employers do to support and encourage biking to work. Here are just some of the ideas from last nights honorees:
- The Sprout Fund has financially supported many bike related projects over the last eight years including 3 Rivers on 2 Wheels, Three Rivers Bike Racks, Wheeling Through History, the very first Bike Fest, Bike Commuting 101, and the Bike Friendly Employer program. They have a supportive culture at work, shower facilities, and both essential elements in place.
- Mullen an advertising firm based in the Strip reimburses employees for bike related expenses. They have been an incredible supporter of Car Free Fridays, the Car Free Calculator (to launch this Spring), and Bike Friendly Employer with their design and marketing expertise.
- Whole Foods Market has many employees that bike to work, including the store manager. They regularly sponsor bike related events like Car Free Fridays and Bike to Work Day. Management subsidized memberships to encourage team members to join BikePGH. Last year they began a tradition of a staff bike ride from Pittsburgh to D.C. BikePGH has been recipient of their 5% Wednesdays as well as many other donations from the store.
- REI SouthSide Works boasts many bike commuters. In addition to having the necessary criteria in place, the store manager, Ron Rodriguez, even has an incentive program that awards employees with “Rodriguez Rubles” for using green transportation. Employees earn gift certificates, discounts, swag, and even a day off if they save enough rubles.
- Google has a high percentage of bike commuters who enjoy a key access secure bike storage area. They make contributions on behalf of employees that bike to work to a charity of the employee’s choice, and give periodic massages for bike commuters.
- Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield has a Sustainability Coordinator on staff. They regularly host Car Free Fridays events at Fifth Avenue Place. They supported the development of the Car Free Calculator to encourage us as a region to bike and walk to work more. They have secure, protected bike parking as well as shower and locker facilities.
- East End Food Coop has a high percentage of employees that bike to work. They have a Sustainability Coordinator on staff. In addition to this they were A Car Free Fridays sponsor. Making sure to lead by example, the store manager regularly bikes to work. They hosted their own event to raise awareness of attacks on bicyclists last Spring.
- Springboard Design created a prominent installation at their office entrance for bike parking and easy access to tools and storage. This lets visitors immediately know the high value they place on bike commuting. The company reimburses employees at the same rate for biking to meetings as they do for driving.
- Urban Design Associates has an ongoing Car Free Fridays “bikepool” breakfast club to discuss bicycling topics. Several principles bike to work regularly. There is secure, indoor bike parking in their Gulf Tower office building.
- Chatham University was the first Pittsburgh employer to enact the Commuter Tax Benefit that reimburses employees up to $20 a month for bike related expenses. They recently opened a student run bike collective as part of the Office of Sustainability.
- OTB Bicycle Cafe has menu items named for Pittsburgh themed bike references and organizations, including The Advocate aka the “Bike Pitts-burger.” The cafe hosts and supports many bike events and activities. A display case at the entrance has bike repair items for sale in a pinch. OTB supports many local bike organizations’ events, hosts rides, and now sports two pinball machines raising funds for bicycle advocacy.
A common element all of these employers share is at least one champion at work that rallies management and/or other employees to get behind the effort to support bicycling. Often the champion is a manager or owner, but also determined employees have proven incredibly effective at getting management to see the benefits of being bike friendly.
Bike Friendly Employers are encouraged to apply for national recognition as a “Bicycle Friendly Business” from the League of American Bicyclists. We want to see Pittsburgh companies rank with cities like Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. Believe it or not, despite the frequent accolades, Pittsburgh is still often thought of by those with no connection to the city as just an old steel town. Recognition by the League’s program helps us promote nationally a fundamental shift in Pittsburgh’s culture and livability.
Bike Friendly Employer is supported in part by the Root Award from the Sprout Fund and by the Benter Foundation. In addition to the BikePGH staff, interns David McCoy and Tim Haney have assisted in carrying out the launch of the program.
Photo credit: Rob de la Cretaz
Not a member of BikePGH? Join today! We need you to add your voice! Bike Pittsburgh works to protect cyclist’s rights and promote the vision of making Pittsburgh a safer and more enjoyable place to live and to ride. For more info, check out: www.bike-pgh.org/membership