It’s National Bike to Work Day, and there's no better time to look at the connection between small businesses and biking.
A new wave of research shows bike-friendly cities may be the friendliest for small businesses, too. City planners have been tracking who spends the most money at local establishments, and it turns out those guys and gals with the helmets and messenger bags are opening their wallets the widest at local businesses:
- Cyclists spent 17 percent more than drivers at local businesses, according to a study of New York’s East Village.
- Bikers in Portland spent 24 percent more at bars, restaurants, and convenience stores than motorists.
- Pedestrians and cyclists visit stores more often and spend the most money each month, according to a study of Toronto’s Bloor Street.
To get to the bottom of these numbers, we talked with Steve Taylor at the League of American Bicyclists (@BikeLeague) about what small-business owners can do to make their company more bike-friendly for their customers and their employees.
The Key to Being a Bike-Friendly Business: Rock Star Parking
Being “bike friendly” means it's easy for a cyclist to visit your business. And if you want to make it easy for cyclists to visit your store or restaurant, Steve Taylor says parking is key.
A bike rack near your business offers convenience, but it also helps you attract “walk up” customers who lock their bike to the rack, see your business, and decide to scope it out.
Road tip: Many cities will provide bike racks for you. For instance, in Chicago, you can request a bike rack through the Department of Transportation.
Do a little homework to see if you can request a bike rack from your local municipality.
Why Being a Bike Friendly Business Is Awesome for Workplace Productivity
You're probably used to seeing your blurry-eyed employees stumbling into the break room for coffee each morning. There’s nothing wrong with a jolt of caffeine, but according to Taylor, people who bike in often feel better when they get to work and are more productive.
Science backs him up, too. A study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, as reported in the online magazine Bicycling, showed subjects who pedaled for 30 minutes scored higher on memory, reasoning, and planning tests.
But a bike ride is also good for your employees’ spirits. “We love to talk about how biking is great for health and great for the environment, but the most important reason that most people bike is because it makes them happy,” says Taylor. “That has benefits across the board.”
Road tip: Happier people tend to get along better with the people around them, which can translate into a less stressful and more collaborative workplace.
Know the Risks of the Road and Your Workers’ Comp Insurance
Bicycling is good for the brain and body, but cyclists also face dangers. And if your employees bike for work errands, their cycling injuries can cost you.
Sprains and strains can lay an employee low for a bit, especially if they’re new to riding. More disconcerting, however, is the possibility of a collision causing serious injury. The clear answer, says Taylor: "Wear a helmet."
Your employees are responsible for getting themselves to and from work, which means Workers’ Compensation Insurance usually doesn’t cover injuries from their commute. However, an injured employee may be covered if they’re hurt…
- Traveling between work sites.
- Running work-related errands.
- Making deliveries for the business.
Get more details in “Does Workers’ Compensation Pay for Bike-to-Work Injuries?”
Road tip: If your employees ride their bike for work-related travel, you may want to make it a policy that they wear proper safety gear and maintain their bike. But you can also encourage workers to be smart on their commutes. Take a look at the League of American Bicyclists’ Smart Cycle Tips for ideas.
How to Get Your Employees to Bike to Work
Taylor says that getting your employees on their bikes starts with identifying their barriers. Here are his responses to some of the more common complaints:
- I can’t find a place to park. If installing a bike rack isn’t realistic, Taylor says designating a storage room or other safe area might do the trick.
- I’ll be too sweaty for work. Taylor points out, “You don’t have to get sweaty biking to work. You can bike slow and take your time.”
- I might not want to bike home. A bike might seem like a burden if starts to rain or your employees want to hit happy hour. But Taylor says a bike might actually be more convenient: “You can’t put your car on the front of a bus, but you can do that with your bike.” Check out your city's transit options and give your employees the information.
- I don’t know how long the ride will take. Taylor recommends first trying the ride on a Saturday or Sunday. “The traffic may be worse in some areas on a weekend, but there’s less pressure. Don’t try it on Monday to get there for your 9 a.m. meeting.”
Road tip: For many, biking to work means moving out of their comfort zone. Fight the instinct to resist change with information and opportunity.