Chapter 6 Bicycle Promotion Programs
Bicycling has gained significant publicity, both positive and negative, in the San Francisco Bay Area over the past few years due in great measure to the efforts of bicycle activists and coverage by the media. Attention grabbing events such as Critical Mass in San Francisco, conflicts with bike messengers, and protest rides for better bicycle access on Bay Area bridges have gained national attention. Bicyclists have received a vote of confidence from the general public with the recent decision to include a bicycle path on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. AC Transit has added new buses with front loading bicycle racks to many of its local and transbay routes. In addition, bicycle access to the BART system was improved this July by the relaxing of some commute-hour restrictions. The most notable of these was the opening of the Fremont-Richmond line, which serves the Berkeley area, to bicyclists at all times. Through this exposure, both good and bad, bicycling is becoming more visible in the Bay Area. The question now is: What else can be done to promote bicycling as a viable transportation mode, and in particular what can the City of Berkeley do?
Implementing many of the infrastructure and education elements of this Plan will itself promote bicycling in Berkeley. A basic first step towards encouraging people to bike is providing them with safe and convenient bicycle facilities.
This Chapter focuses on promoting bicycle use for commute trips, since commute trips cause much of the traffic congestion and are a group of trips that can be easily targeted with employer programs. It is acknowledged that there are many other types of trips, such as shopping and entertainment. In the future, the City can explore ways to be involved in promoting bicycle use for these types of trips as well.
Guidelines for a Bicycle Promotion Program in Berkeley
In the present climate of concern over the crowded conditions of our roads and the lack of adequate parking, a variety of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs have been implemented by state and local governments and private industry. These programs have focused on education and incentives to get people away from the SOV (single occupant vehicle), with carpools, vanpools, and transit being the most popular alternative modes. Bicycle commuting is often an overlooked or underutilized opportunity for attaining trip reduction goals.
Like the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, Berkeley suffers from congestion on its streets and highways; parking is at a premium in the commercial and residential neighborhoods. The following section provides the City of Berkeley with the tools to develop an effective bicycle promotion program to increase bicycle commuting and alleviate some of the demand on the overcrowded transportation infrastructure.
The following bicycle promotion program for Berkeley is based on research of existing bicycle commute programs in the Bay Area and around the country sponsored by both government agencies and private industry. Although any city, company, university or other organization can implement a bike commute promotion program, the most successful programs result from collaboration between the public and private sectors. The City of Berkeley’s primary role will be to serve as the "model employer" for the bicycle commute promotion program. With the City setting the example, other employers in Berkeley can be more successfully persuaded to institute programs of their own.
Whether the bicycle commute program is sponsored by the City or by a local company, an effective bicycle commuting promotion program must do the following:
Identify benefits of bicycle commuting - Before bicycling will be considered as a commute alternative, the feasibility and benefits of bicycle commuting must be made known to the potential cyclist. Many people are unaware of the opportunities that bicycle commuting can provide. Bicycle commuting reduces the costs of commuting to the employee; bicycle commuting improves health through exercise and can lower employer costs through a reduction in health insurance costs and better performance by employees; bicycle commuting can save time for the employees during the actual commute and can replace time and money spent in lengthy workouts in a gym; bicycle commuting reduces the demand on overcrowded streets and highways and the need for parking; bicycle commuting does not pollute the air. In sum, bicycle commuting is an enjoyable, low cost and healthy alternative to the traditional commute.
Provide an incentive to use bicycle commuting - Many of the existing TDM programs use monetary or other incentives to lure the prospective participant out of their single-occupant-vehicle and into a carpool or transit. These TDM programs should be expanded to include incentives for bicycle commuting.
Support and applaud bicycle commuting - Endorsement of bicycle commuting by those in charge is a significant aspect of a promotion program. Prospective bicycle commuters are more apt to try out this underutilized mode if it is accepted and supported by elected officials and city department heads. Endorsement from "the people in charge" of city government will go a long way towards persuading individuals to bicycle commute, and companies to establish bicycle commute programs of their own.
Implementation of a Bicycle Promotion Program
The implementation of bicycle promotion programs, typically part of an overall trip reduction program, is usually staff intensive. Currently, minimal staff resources are dedicated to the City’s trip reduction program, due to funding constraints. This section proposes many possible programs and activities which are appropriate for the bicycle promotion program in Berkeley. However, the amount of funding available for staff and programs will determine how many of the following programs can be implemented. Programs targeting the entire Berkeley community could be developed and implemented by Berkeley TRiP, if they are provided adequate funding for this task. Local bicycle merchants are natural allies in any effort to promote cycling, and their participation should be solicited.
The bicycle promotion program has been divided into two segments; one directed at city employees and the other geared for the general population of Berkeley.
Elements of a City Employee Campaign to Identify Benefits of Bicycle Commuting
- Info Flyer - Publish a "Bicycle Commute Info sheet" with information on bicycles and other needed equipment, where the safe and secure bicycle parking is located, where bike shops are located, and the available transit-access options.
- Informational Materials - Make available bicycle route maps, safety information, effective-cycling pamphlets and flyers of upcoming bicycle events.
- Bicycle Club - Start a bicycle commuter club and information network to advise the potential bicycle commuter of their best commute routes, to locate experienced bicycle commuters in their area ("Bicycle Buddies") who are willing to assist and escort them during their first bicycle commutes, and to find out what events and activities are coming up. RIDES for Bay Area Commuters provides this service for potential bicycle commuters, including information about bicycle access on bridges and transit throughout the area.
- Bicycle Safety Demonstrations – Hold demonstrations during the lunch hour on safe-riding, how to bicycle commute, and bicycle repair. The City, local businesses, local bicycling clubs or advocacy groups can sponsor these events.
- Bicycle Commute Competition – Hold a competition between city departments and agencies to determine which has the most bicycle commuters during a week.
Elements of a Citywide Campaign to Identify Benefits of Bicycle Commuting
- Media Campaigns – Television and radio public service announcements can help reach a broad audience. A weekly bicycle newspaper column that can discuss local bicycling news as well as advertise upcoming events.
- Bicycle Hot Line – Telephone Hot Line for reporting potholes, missing bike route signs or other bicycle related hazards. The system could also be expanded to provide bicycle news on upcoming events. Also provide comparable service on the World Wide Web.
- Bicycle safety demonstrations – Expand the program of demonstrations discussed above to include presentations at schools, fairs or other city events. Get the Police Department involved in developing and presenting these programs.
- "Berkeley Bicycle Safety Week" – Develop a week-long event to promote the benefits of bicycling to the citywide audience. Include activities in the schools as part of the program. This event can culminate in a "Berkeley Fun Ride" one evening bringing together all the participants.
- City Bicycle Rides - To maintain interest and attention on bike commuting after the "Bicycle Safety Week" is over, a monthly or quarterly City ride could be organized. These rides should be supervised and designed with clear safety guidelines and a pre-determined route. Or a Bike Day could be instituted once a month when everyone is encouraged to use a bicycle for that day’s trips. Or, a ride could be organized with a popular Berkeley personality, like a writer or U.C. athlete.
Elements of a City Employee Bicycle Commuting Incentive Campaign
- Parking – Secure and protected long-term parking must be provided. Options include bicycle lockers, bicycle storage rooms, locked cages, attendant parking or allowing bicycles into the workplace.
- Cash Incentives – There are many types of cash incentives which can be used to encourage bike commuting. The cost of these programs can be mitigated by soliciting sponsorships from stores, restaurants and other retailers. They include:
- Cash dividends for each day of bicycling, similar to a transit subsidy;
- Monthly drawings for prizes;
- Mileage reimbursement for city business travel by bike;
- Discount coupons or credit at bike stores, restaurants or other retail businesses;
- Bike purchase financing;
- Parking cash-out program.
- Convenience Incentives – One of the major obstacles to bicycle commuting is the perceived inconvenience factor. The following list of programs addresses these concerns.
- ‘Guaranteed Ride Home’ (the City currently participates in a program organized by Alameda County)
- Fleet bicycles for business travel (the City has instituted this program)
- Trial commute bikes
- On-site bicycle repair kits
- On-call bicycle repair services
- Flex hours
- Showers and locker rooms (or gym membership)
- Relaxed dress codes
Elements of a Citywide Bicycle Commuting Incentive Campaign
- Bikeways - Implementation of the bicycle network in this Plan will be critical to a successful encouragement program. Bicycle route maps and identifiable route signage systems are also necessary to support the route network.
- Parking - The provision of secure, protected, convenient and inexpensive bicycle parking, as identified in this Plan, is crucial to lure the commuter to the bicycle.
Elements of a City Employee Campaign to Support and Applaud Bicycle Commuting
- "Ride with an Elected Official" – Sponsor a ride for city employees with an elected official and/or department heads to demonstrate their support and enthusiasm for bicycle commuting.
- Special Programs – Organize Berkeley bicycle commute events for city employees to coincide with regional and national events such as Bike to Work Day, Beat the Backup Day, Earth Day and Transit Week.
Elements of a Citywide Campaign to Support and Applaud Bicycle Commuting
Efforts to support and applaud bicycle commuting to the general population of Berkeley will be primarily accomplished through the media campaigns, education programs and special events discussed above. In addition, the City of Berkeley can choose to encourage other Berkeley employers to organize bicycle commute programs of their own. In particular, the City should encourage U.C. Berkeley and B.U.S.D., two of the largest employers in Berkeley, to promote bicycling to their staff, faculty, students, and parents.
With the City’s Bicycle Commute Program firmly established, the City can provide valuable assistance to the employers willing to undertake this important task. An employer resource kit, most likely put together by Berkeley TRiP, could be provided to each interested employer. The kit should include:
Listing of local bicycle stores for employees to find the correct equipment for their bicycle commute.
- Text for a letter from the CEO/President explaining the Bicycle Commute Program and urging his/her employees to consider the bicycle when making commute choices;
- Articles about bicycling as a great commute alternative. These stories can be used in company newsletters, as all-staff memos, bulletin board fliers or any other outreach method in place at the company.
- A list of programs and events for use in the company’s program. The list will provide details of existing events as well as new programs that could be implemented. City-sponsored events should be included in this list.
- A resource list detailing sample bicycle promotion programs, resource centers for bicycle promotion assistance, and local bicycle coalitions. This list will be invaluable for the companies that may not be aware of the benefits of bicycle commuting.
- Route maps showing the best bike commute routes in Berkeley to be distributed and posted. Many potential bike commuters could find the option more appealing with information about the fastest, safest and easiest routes to use.
- Bicycle Safety and Road Sharing Brochures developed through the education program discussed in Chapter 5.
- Sample bicycle promotional items such as T-shirts, water bottles, etc.