Monday, March 7, 2011

Bicycles in the Workplace

Automobiles for employees are often quite heavily subsidized by their businesses and workplaces.  Your workplace most often provides you with a parking stall so that you can park your vehicle upon arrival.  Parking stalls are not cheap by any measure, and can run from $25,000 for a surface parking stall to $50,000 for an underground parking stall.  That is a large amount of money being thrown around just so that a car can be parked for 8 hours a day.  Companies will most often also provide their employees with a vehicle/fuel allowance. 

Companies could be making it easier on their wallets by giving their employees a bicycle allowance.  Businesses could own a set of bicycles which are available for their employees to use to make deliveries, attend close-by meetings, or to grab a quick bite to eat. 

Recently while taking the C-Train through downtown Calgary I have noticed Calgary Police force members in full winter gear riding bicycles.  It should be mandatory for all postal workers, police members, civic workers to use a bicycles in denser neighbourhoods.  This is the precedent that I would to see our government set by making public employees bike.  Police officers should use bicycles to patrol every street downtown,  among other popular streets such as 17th ave in Calgary or Whyte Ave in Edmonton.  This would provide police officers with the maneuverability in tight spots that is simply not possible with a vehicle.  Since police would be able to mingle with the crowd more, they would be able to exert more of a presence. 

Postal workers could use bikes with attached racks to carry all of their postage, cargo bikes could even be used to allow postal workers to deliver large packages.  Not only are our governments saving money, but they are also creating a more active and thus healthier lifestyle for our public employees.  These employees instead of sitting in a comfy seat for the majority of a 8-hour shift are now getting physical exercise.  When we encourage people to commute by transit or pedal power, we remove cars off the road and reduce the costs to our health care systems.

If a business is located downtown or in a dense neighbourhood, they could be generating significant savings by not subsidizing automobiles for their employees.  Businesses could also join forces with the local transit authority to provide their employees with a discount on transit fares.

Workplaces should also make it easier for their employees to bicycle to work by providing some amenities and policies.  Employers should allow a more flexible range of hours, so that an employee can show up within those hours and start working.  If you set a rigid schedule you make it very unforgiving for cyclists who have a wide array of obstacles they could encounter on their commute to work.  Work establishments should at least provide the very basic bike rack for employees to lock their bike upon arrival.  It is surprising how such a simple thing is for the most part neglected.  Employers should also make arrangements to have a shower installed so that employees can clean themselves of dirt/sweat.  Businesses should also provide the tools or lubricants necessary to give your bike a tune up and ensure a safe commute.  Businesses could also arrange to have monthly group bike rides, among other bike friendly events. 

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