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Old 05-03-08, 04:48 PM   #1
bragi
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Buying employees bikes instead of parking spaces

I just read this article in one of Seattle's newspapers, and it strikes me as a very good idea:

Bikes-for-employees test at Children's Hospital

The list of companies offering employees bicycles as a cleaner, cheaper way to get to work is about to grow.

Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center said Wednesday it plans to test such a program in mid-July. In exchange for a commitment to bike to work at least two days a week, employees will get one of four different types of bicycles, including electrically assisted models "for people who need help with the hills," said Paolo Nunes-Ueno, the hospital's transportation manager.

The plan is to give away 100 bicycles this year; if that goal is reached, the program may continue next year. The hospital has promoted car-less travel before; it charges employees $50 a month for parking but pays workers that much if they give up a parking space. As of last fall more than 160 of its 2,800 workers, or about 6 percent, biked to work, Nunes-Ueno said.

The hospital now proposes the bike giveaway program will increase that share to 8 percent of its work force this year and 10 percent in 2009.

"What this allows us to do is, Number 1, take advantage of the blessing of the (nearby) Burke-Gilman Trail," Nunes-Ueno said. "Our goal as an institution is to reduce vehicle trips."

The hospital will save the cost of new parking spaces, at perhaps $40,000 apiece, and th program could help reduce the traffic impacts of a planned expansion that would double the number of hospital beds and dramatically increase traffic delays at nearby street intersections.

Nunes-Ueno said the hospital thinks the program will save the hospital $60,000 to $80,000 during this year's biking season. Hospital and Cascade Bicycle Club officials will ride some of the hospital's new fleet on the fourth annual Vulcan Bike-to-Work Breakfast at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel next Wednesday.

This is at least the second such program announced in the Seattle area. The law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, LLP., recently promised to provide bicycles to employees who commit to riding them to work at least three months each year.

As of mid-March, 35 of the law firm's employees had signed up.

Chris Cameron, director of bicycle commuting for the Cascade Bicycle Club, said the bike-giveaways are another sign that bicycles increasingly are accepted as a commuting choice in an era of rising gas prices and health conciousness.

"It is quickly going to be a viable piece of transportion instead of this little freak side show," Cameron said of bicycles. "We're taking the main stage, along with the other (options)."
Posted by Larry Lange at April 30, 2008 6:09 p.m.
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Old 05-03-08, 04:54 PM   #2
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freak sideshow? I'm flattered....

Good on them though. Parking spaces cost $40,000 a piece? Pretty good deal on cheap real-estate at $50 a month. I know it's not that simple, but perhaps a rise in the rental fee would do good as well.
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Old 05-03-08, 05:20 PM   #3
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I suspect I know the people who will take up the idea -- the cleaners, the aides, the generally poorer people on staff.

I bet the highly paid doctors and administrators won't be in on the deal.

The idea of increasing the rental fee for parking only increases the gap between rich and poor. Eliminating parking altogether might be better, but then you have to have the infrastructure in place to handle such a radical step.

In addition, apart from the bike giveaway, are the people involved to participate in free training courses so they can learn how to ride the bikes efficiently, without hurting themselves, and to maintain them in working order? I doubt it. The key statements for me are that one about the trail being so accessible (no training needed to ride on a MUP, eh?) and the kicker at the end about the freak show.

The other significant issue is that bikes still do need a significant area undercover to park, an area for people to move around in and change facilities. How is this to be addressed in the plan?

I have been associated with two projects that were similar in one way or another. The take-up was actually minimal compared with the amount of money involved (notional and actual). The only saving grace in this case may be that it's backed by the Cascade Bicycle Club and it's in Seattle where a strongish cycling culture already exists, but that's still no guarantee.

And what happens at the end of the "cycling season"?

It's just another example of people looking to cycling as a transport "solution" when they know diddly squat about it.
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Old 05-03-08, 06:34 PM   #4
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I don't agree that the people who take advantage of the bicycle plan will tend to be the less well-paid (i.e., less well-educated) members of the staff. The people I know who commute to work by bicycle (all five or six of them) are all professionals with fairly high incomes. If someone offers you a way to save $600/year, have an exercise program automatically built into your day, and throws in a free bike, what's not to like, even if you are a surgeon?
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Old 05-03-08, 09:05 PM   #5
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What an awesome idea. Let's hope this catches on - not just there, but generally.
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Old 05-04-08, 12:09 AM   #6
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I don't agree that the people who take advantage of the bicycle plan will tend to be the less well-paid (i.e., less well-educated) members of the staff. The people I know who commute to work by bicycle (all five or six of them) are all professionals with fairly high incomes. If someone offers you a way to save $600/year, have an exercise program automatically built into your day, and throws in a free bike, what's not to like, even if you are a surgeon?
I'm just speaking for myself here. But if I made $300,000 a year, drove around a luxury car that doubled as a living room and someone said, "ride your bike to work you can save a whopping $600 a year", I'd probably say, "no thanks, I'll ride my pinnarello on the weekends and drive to work."

The reason is because a) my time's worth a lot more than the janitor who's being paid 1/10th my salary, b) I probably have a nice big house far from work, c) i work longer shifts and have more stress and would prefer physically resting on my way home, d) driving would be much quicker going back into the suburbs.

I live in NYC and in moderate traffic, I just break even between riding to work and driving. If traffic is light, it's about half the time to drive. And I don't even mean strolling in the park, I'm really pushing it when I'm riding.
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Old 05-04-08, 12:38 AM   #7
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slvoid: I get that. But it's generalizing the situation both ways. I can see both a Janitor making $30,000 and a Surgeon making $300,000 being pig-headed about not giving up their vehicle... It's all about personalities. My father-in-law doesn't make $300k, but he makes more than most, and he commutes. He's just frugal. He's not trying to save the environment, and doesn't need to pinch pennies, but does anyway.
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Old 05-04-08, 01:15 AM   #8
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slvoid: I get that. But it's generalizing the situation both ways. I can see both a Janitor making $30,000 and a Surgeon making $300,000 being pig-headed about not giving up their vehicle... It's all about personalities. My father-in-law doesn't make $300k, but he makes more than most, and he commutes. He's just frugal. He's not trying to save the environment, and doesn't need to pinch pennies, but does anyway.
I understand that too, but just remind him that he can't take it with him.
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Old 05-04-08, 03:27 AM   #9
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Why do you think we have the overconsumption syndrome in places like North America, Britain and Australia? It's all because "I can". When people's incomes drop, or prices overtake their income, change might occur.

$600 is a spit in the ocean for anyone on an income over, say, $50,000.

I recognise, bragi, that the five or six people you know who cycle to work are professionals with a high income. But did they need an ill-considered "program" to change from being a freak show to bicycle commuters? Or did they have a culture of cycling already in their lives. And I would have thought you would have known a much larger number of people who commute than five or six, living in Seattle as you do.

The most significant issue will always be retaining people in programs like this unless there are incentives other than cheap parking. I see it as a cynical self-serving program for the employer; I bet the costs will be about half of one car space.

Those employees who do take up the idea are unlikely to sell their cars, so the ongoing motoring costs they incur will remain. Some may sell their vehicles eventually; most will look at the thing sitting there doing nothing, think about winter cycling, revert back to taking the car and probably flog the bike off at the local flea market.

The other really significant issue is where do the 6% of people who are claimed to already ride to work sit? Sure, they get $50 a month, but where's the new bike (or cash in lieu) for them? It's an issue that stands to create a "them-and-us" situation because of the disparity in treatment.
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Old 05-04-08, 10:21 AM   #10
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Why do you think we have the overconsumption syndrome in places like North America, Britain and Australia? It's all because "I can". When people's incomes drop, or prices overtake their income, change might occur.

$600 is a spit in the ocean for anyone on an income over, say, $50,000.

I recognise, bragi, that the five or six people you know who cycle to work are professionals with a high income. But did they need an ill-considered "program" to change from being a freak show to bicycle commuters? Or did they have a culture of cycling already in their lives. And I would have thought you would have known a much larger number of people who commute than five or six, living in Seattle as you do.

The most significant issue will always be retaining people in programs like this unless there are incentives other than cheap parking. I see it as a cynical self-serving program for the employer; I bet the costs will be about half of one car space.

Those employees who do take up the idea are unlikely to sell their cars, so the ongoing motoring costs they incur will remain. Some may sell their vehicles eventually; most will look at the thing sitting there doing nothing, think about winter cycling, revert back to taking the car and probably flog the bike off at the local flea market.

The other really significant issue is where do the 6% of people who are claimed to already ride to work sit? Sure, they get $50 a month, but where's the new bike (or cash in lieu) for them? It's an issue that stands to create a "them-and-us" situation because of the disparity in treatment.
This program obviously won't get everyone out of their cars, but it's a step in the right direction, and I think the hospital should be lauded for giving it a try. Other places, like the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, give their employees free bus passes instead of parking spaces, and a large number of employees are very happy with that arrangement; they get free transportation to work (and elesewhere if they want), and don't have to deal with driving in heavy traffic. The main idea is this: if you give people a viable alternative to using cars to get their jobs, many if not most will be happy to leave the car at home.

And the reason I don't know more people who commute to work via bike is because not that many people do it, not even in Seattle; bicycle commuters here make up about 2-3% of the total, though the numbers have been increasing a lot lately. In addition, many of my friends and acquaintances, having been born and bred in the USA, simply can't imagine how anyone can get from here to there without a BMW, or, if they voted for Obama, a Prius. When they see a lot of other people going places without cars, though, I'm hopeful more of them will give it a try themselves.

Last edited by bragi; 05-04-08 at 10:26 AM.
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Old 05-04-08, 02:18 PM   #11
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My take on the OP's article is that the hospital is having a difficulty with sufficient car parking and that the administration sees it as being worthwhile to spend a little cash on a variety of programs to see which one has the biggest bang for the buck.

In that case, the cost of the 100 bicycles is probably peanuts compared to the cost of a new parking garage or having to move the whole hospital. The bicycle program might not be all that successful, but the total effect of all its similar programs might be just enough to save a large sum of money.

I wonder if you can pick out the bike you want. Perhaps the surgeons can order up a Pinnarello each.
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Old 05-05-08, 07:53 AM   #12
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My employer has a similar program, no bikes , but pay for parking or get paid about $480 a year difference. Last year at this time I was driving about 45 miles a day thinking pretty soon I will have to buy a new car. Now I have taken them up on the program and have only driven 4 times since June, once this year. Now I am going to get rid of that car. These programs work, just slowly. With increases in gas they will work faster.

I make over $50k a year.

"I'll ride my I'll ride my pinnarello on the weekends and drive to work."

And I ride my Pinarello on the weekends, too. ;-)
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Old 05-05-08, 08:42 AM   #13
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I see it as a cynical self-serving program for the employer; I bet the costs will be about half of one car space.

"Our main goal is to reduce vehicle trips"... this is the only actually comment from the transportation manager in the article. So what if they're saving themselves money... it's what a business is supposed to be doing. Giving away bikes, or encouraging people to use them, doesn't necessarily make them bike advocates -- nor obligate them to attempt to be.
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Old 05-05-08, 09:33 AM   #14
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$600 is a spit in the ocean for anyone on an income over, say, $50,000.
Assume 2000 billable hours (50 weeks x 40).
Divide $50k by 2000 = $25 per hour

$600 = 24 hours of your life

This assumption is pre-tax, health care, benefits, etc. - the numbers look better when you take those things into account - as your take home pay drops, the amount of time you have to work to make up that $600 goes up.
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