Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Headcount Train

Should companies back bike programs? Apple does. Apparently they make no fanfare about theirs. You don’t have to be a World Class market leader. Companies who do usually feel it’s worth it for healthy lifestyle, improved concentration, and mood boost. This translates into reductions in HMO premiums and unproductive days. Nationwide, commutes average only 11 miles, so majority are quite bikeable. Every year vehicles collisions and repairs cause appreciable attendance disruptions.

Marathon Terminus as seen from Green Monster, 2004.
Corporate commitments run from free (merely reassessing policies) to major (revising infrastructure and supplying appliances).
1. Encourage participation: Allow riders to carry bikes to and store in their cubicles. Apple has a bike garage, presumably with surveillance cameras. Leaving bikes unguarded for 8 hours would give most cyclists separation anxiety.
2. Permit flextime: Reduces fear of arriving late in bad weather or when issues arise, like flats.
3. Hold learning sessions during work hours: Invite speakers, organize info sharing either in person or over intranet, and post an experienced staff cyclist as part time liaison. Hold lunchtime rides for beginners in parking lot.
4. Arrange for changing rooms, lockers, laundry facilities, showers and vending machines: Probably won’t become a profit center, since you’ll have to hire a someone to oversee, police, repair, and restock machines with sample sized detergent, deodorant, shampoo, and shower gel. Might break even if appropriately scaled. Manufacturing facilities often already have a janitorial staff and showers for treating those upon whom chemicals have spilled.
5. Buy a fleet of bikes to share: You could start your own VeLib that does generate revenue by charging a small fee to the many employees who’d ride a couple times a week. You could have a repairman, sag wagon, and stock of parts and tools. Unless thousands get involved, this is more likely to lose money or require subsidies. However, commonality among bikes would control costs. Like any fleet, bikes can be insured against damage or loss.

As a practical matter, bike sharing only gets capable people reacquainted with pedaling. Real cyclists rather use own equipment tailored to suit them personally without hygiene worries. A fleet would have to be regularly cleaned and maintained. Advise a limited 2-year startup that gets scaled upon response. People who want to cyclo-commute will generally buy own $300 hybrid, then graduate to a $1500 roadie. Diehards invest in $5000 speedsters. Accordingly, buy several hybrids with gel saddles, metal baskets or plastic panniers plus some 1-speeds with rugged helmets for novices to borrow and train. Extra wheelsets, even those no longer serviceable, can be used to explain flat repairs. Tire levers are something that local bike shops might be interested in donating as advertising. Count yourself lucky if management cares enough to offer any of the above, because, apart from Apple and a few forward thinking companies, most don't. Some days, though, you're grateful to survive terrorists nearby because your nose was to the grindstone.