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  1. #1
    Ice Eater gmacrider's Avatar
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    Need Help Justifying Bike Commuting

    I'm a hardcore bike commuter that has enthusiastically biked my 15km commute to work practically every working day for over four years now, rain or shine. That's 1.5 hours of biking each day. My company allows me to park my bike in the underground parkade, which is nice and secure. We also have a great fitness center where I can shower, have a steam, shave, and iron my clothes. Sounds nice, eh?

    I recently announced my new policy of working from home when the temp drops to below -25C. Brakes and gears stop working at that temp, plus I have a fully functional office at home with everything I need to perform my job. Well the corporate red-tapers have a real problem with this and are giving me a hard time. I feel I should be compensated for biking and three or four days a year working from home when it's below -25C is no big deal. Keep in mind I'm still working productively.

    I'm meeting with management later this week, but I'm afraid common sense won't prevail and I'm getting pissed off. Do you have any ideas or thoughts that might help me get through to them? Or am I off-base on this?

    I've worked for this company for 20 years and have put in a TON of unpaid overtime during that time.

    Thanks for your time...

  2. #2
    Senior Member d2create's Avatar
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    Why should you be compensated for biking? Just curious. It is your choice.

    But I do agree that with 20 years under your belt and assuming they have been more than happy with your work that it shouldn't be a problem. You could just call in sick, but rather than do that you are willing to work.

    Also, i assume you don't have a car or another way to get to work?
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  3. #3
    aspiring dirtbag commuter max-a-mill's Avatar
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    sounds perfectly reasonable to me, but what do i know.... i could be just as productive at work witout ever leaving my home, but somehow i just don't think my employer would go for that! i gotta be here everyday....

    GOOD LUCK, living in canada you'd seem to have a better shot at this than you would living below the border.

  4. #4
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    It sounds like you are not trying to justify bicycle commuting, but, rather, NOT bicycle commuting. As a senior manager, I might have problems with an employee whose' work schedule varied with outside temperature. I think you have two courses of action:

    1) Ride in when temperatures fall below -25 C. Other commuters do ride in those conditions. They manage to solve problems with brakes and gears and operate normally. Drum or disk brakes, internal gears or singlespeed, and low temperature lubricants are all mentioned as solutions on the icebike list.

    My commute is only 10 km, and the minimum temperatures here rarely fall below -18 C. Consequently, I can't just say, "I do it and you should, too", because your commute can be far more demanding than mine. That brings us to alternative 2):

    2) Drive your car in under conditions when your bike fails to work.

    The bottom line is, yes, depending upon your work situation, you well may be off-base. If you want to work from home sometimes, that is a separate issue.

    Paul

  5. #5
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Looking at it from their point of view, it's hard to see that the company is getting any hard benefit from your bicycling. So there's one less car in the parking lot, big deal. Any benefit you could argue, such as being a happier and healthier employee, is intangible and impossible to quantify. Senior management likes hard numbers. So I'm not sure the compensation angle is going to fly, it might just come off as an unrealistic sense of entitlement, which is sure to rub them the wrong way.

    My company is not big on having us work from home either, although most managers will let us do it once in a while if there's a specific reason. Their argument, and I can see their point, is that being face to face is more convenient, even synergistic (buzzword, sorry), than everyone working in different physical places. Of course, you're not talking everyday, just three or four days per year. Make sure they understand that. And make sure they understand you have everything you need already, and also that you can make other arrangements to fulfill any obligations you have that day, such as being able to conference call into meetings and so forth. If their concern is that you won't be as productive, show them that you've thought through how you can be, don't just tell them you can be. (On the other hand, if they just don't trust people working from home, not much you can do to change that attitude, short of offering to install a camera on your computer so they can check on you throughout the day! )

    Speaking of having everything you need, you might want to check with your desktop support people and make sure that's true. My company has a policy that only company-issue laptops are allowed to log into our VPN, and the software has to be installed on them to allow that. So if you are thinking of your home computer, make sure that it is in conformance with your company's policies and standards, or find out what that would take.

    As noted, you don't say if you have any alternatives, such as a car or public transportation. If not, maybe you could argue a hardship angle: You don't own a car, and it makes no financial sense to buy one, plus get the insurance, for only 3-4 days a year. If there are any other alternatives, such as public transportation or car-commuting with someone else at your company who lives nearby, they might ask you why you can't just do that, so it would be good to consider that, and your answer, before you go in. Also find out how much it would cost to take a taxi, and if that would be a hardship. It's probably just a few dollars out of what you're saving by not owning a car!

    Hope this helps. Good luck!

  6. #6
    cab horn
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    Don't know what the situation is over there but i'd be worried about getting fired.

  7. #7
    Senior Member rule's Avatar
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    "Or am I off-base on this?"

    Well...yeah probably. Where I work, the company is typically the one that does the announcing. Otherwise, we would all be doing exactly what suits us without regard to how it affects one another. You can announce your new plan all you want, but be ready for your company to tell you what they think about it.

    When in doubt, I think that a proposal goes a lot farther than an announcement when it is coming from an employee.

    As far as compensating you for the conditions of your commute...dude, get a grip. I could see them allowing you to telecommute on the few bad weather days if you had proposed it rather than announced it. But if they say no thanks, I can't see you being entitled to any additional compensation because of the manner in which you chose to get to work.

  8. #8
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Just be prepared to explain how they can measure your performance at home. Don't focus on your needs.

  9. #9
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    i work in an office where people work from home 1-2 days a week. i could do it as well, but i choose to go in because it allows me greater access to the people i work close with and face time is valuable, no matter what anyone says to the countary. i feel resentment (and i think my management does as well) when you stop by to ask someone something and there is a note saying "working from home today". i would bring up your case, but not argue it to death. afterall it's their choice, and they are paying you. good luck.

  10. #10
    Retrogrouch in Training bostontrevor's Avatar
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    You could point out that if you're coming in and get injured it's workman's comp. Well, at least it is in the states, dunno about Canada.

    Also, you can talk about the amount of money that they aren't paying to provide accommodations for your car. Parking ain't free.

    Just a few thoughts.

  11. #11
    Along for the ride.
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    I think it was probably a mistake to "announce" your intention, because you've now put
    them in a position where they have to react in some quasi-official manner, rather than
    just dealing with it informally on the few instances where it may become an issue.

    The old saw "it's easier to get forgiveness than permission" seems appropo.

  12. #12
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    There is a saying that "men are usually boldest before the fall." It looks to me like you already have a pretty bike friendly working environment. Don't push it or you may have more time to ride your bike than you had planned, if you know what i mean.

    Some companies tend to look at some employees that have been around a long time as dead wood that may need pruning. Don't count your 20 years as more important than they might be. Sure you think it is a big deal but do they?

  13. #13
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bostontrevor
    You could point out that if you're coming in and get injured it's workman's comp. Well, at least it is in the states, dunno about Canada.
    Not true. At least not in Michigan. Worker's Comp does not cover injuries sustained while commuting, only on the job. Of course in Canada everyone has health insurance!

    To the original post: do you want special rights or just the same rights that everyone else has?

  14. #14
    Senior Member Bolo Grubb's Avatar
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    one of my favorite lines to use with my employees.

    "you can what ever you want, if this is your last day!"

  15. #15
    Ice Eater gmacrider's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the great info, people. I was a little HOT when I posted the original message and should have been clearer on a few items:

    I shouldn't have said "compensation", I should have said that I believe there should be better INCENTIVES for employees to commute with bikes.

    Also, I'm fully geared up to work from home and have been doing it on an exception basis and for on-call work for years. All the latest and greatest hardware and software - fully approved by the corporation.

    I'm not deluding myself into thinking I'll never get layed off (current layoff package includes 1 month's pay per year. Hmmm, at 20 years that's uhh....wow!). But I am a senior analyst and will be difficult to replace. As the work force grows older and devotes more time to non-work activities, the employers must adapt.

    Anyhow, one big lesson I learned as I raise my teenagers is to PICK YOUR BATTLES. Maybe this is a battle that isn't worth fighting. It's only a few days a year that are below -25C and I've handled them in previous years. I guess I was expecting a little more compassion from the big corp and a little less red tape.

    Again - thanks for you comments. Very insightful.

  16. #16
    Senior Member EnigManiac's Avatar
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    As much as I would like to say otherwise, I'd have to side with the company. It is the responsibility of the employee to arrive for work by the appointed time, not the company. If you choose to bike, that is great, but ultimately your choice. It has advantages, but disadvantages as well. Yet, the company couldn't care less, so long as you are on time. Others choose to drive and that has advantages and disadvantages. Again, the company doesn't care how you get to work, only that you DO get to work. It sounds as if they have been accomodating already, but agreeing to allow you not to come in when everyone else was able to is asking too much.

    I live in Canada as well (though in Toronto where it is usually alot more mild) and I commute regularly as well. However, when the temps get to be like they are today (-31---a rare occurence), I take public transit. It's my responsibility to be here, even though I have a better computer at home and could easily do my job from there perhaps even more productively.

  17. #17
    Senior Member roadrasher's Avatar
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    Hi, We live in the same city commute pratically the same distance. I commute every day(yes, including the last week or so in the - 30's). I haven't missed a day at work either through sickness or weather in almost 5 years. I can see your companies policy, what if a cager or transit commuter want's the same privelage you seek? If they allow you to stay home then potentially there's nobody in the office during a cold day. Be thankful for the underground parking, a shower and a gym pass.
    Buy some extra cold weather gear and get on your bike.

    Not to be too much of a jerk, but if you were really a hardcore commuter you'd never had started this thread.

    'Rasher

  18. #18
    Senior Member billh's Avatar
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    As a cyclist I'm sympathetic but I don't think you have a leg to stand on. I have no idea how to persuade management they should offer incentives for bicycle commuting unless the company's product or service relates to health or the environment. I'd say take the bus on cold days or whatever public transport is available.

  19. #19
    Ice Eater gmacrider's Avatar
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    Aah...opinions seem to be trending against me (not for the first time!). As I said maybe it's not a battle worth fighting. Like Roadrash says, biking at those temps isn't really tough (although jerks like him will find most things tougher than the rest of us - heh heh). I've got great gear and am nice and toasty warm. The only difficulties involve frozen mechanics, traction, and - as usual - cagers.

    I'm going to retract my new "policy"...it lasted all of 3 days. Oh well, it was worth a shot don't you think?

    I guess I was just looking for an excuse to work from my nice comfortable office at home.

    Sounds like some of you have jobs where working from home is not an option and I can fully understand that, but with mine I can be FULLY functional from my home office. I even participate in meetings.

    Thanks again for the responses.

  20. #20
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadrasher
    Not to be too much of a jerk, but if you were really a hardcore commuter you'd never had started this thread.
    I don't think this is fair. There is always a point at which cycling just won't work. For the American audience, -25C is -13F, and 15 km is 9.3 miles. That's a dangerous temperature unless you are dressed nearly perfectly. And one minor wipe out could leave you with ripped clothes and exposed skin.

    You have to know your limits when dealing with the cold, especially this kind of cold. If you don't respect your cold-weather limitations, you could end up with frostbite (or worse).

    I have never had to commute below 0F, so I won't try to out-macho this guy.
    Last edited by Daily Commute; 01-18-05 at 01:01 PM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member roadrasher's Avatar
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    Point taken, maybe I was a little harsh.

    'Rasher

  22. #22
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadrasher
    Point taken, maybe I was a little harsh.
    Well, at least I've never made an overly harsh comment, and then regretted it.

  23. #23
    Ice Eater gmacrider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bolo Grubb
    one of my favorite lines to use with my employees.

    "you can what ever you want, if this is your last day!"
    Bolo Grubb, if you worked for me I'd fire you for such sloppy writing!

  24. #24
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    I've commuted (in Canada) at lower temperatures... and gotten frostbite from it. Oh, ain't Canada wonderful?
    Some awesome folks who are working to give Haitians the ability to manage their safety and their lives:
    Haiti Partners

  25. #25
    Senior Member roadrasher's Avatar
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    Hey look,
    He used the term "hardcore commuter" not me.
    Save your sanctimony for someone who gives a damn. I regret nothing.

    'Rasher

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