Bike Friendly Business Movement to Get Push from Santa Monica Bike Center
August 22, 2013 — The League of American Bicyclists hopes to reward businesses that encourage employees to ditch their cars and ride to work, but the “Bike Friendly Business” program has yet to take hold in Santa Monica.
The national bike advocacy group’s five-year-old program, which offers bragging rights and publicity to businesses designated “bike friendly” based on the incentives and opportunities they offer to encourage their employees to ride bikes, is off to a slow start with only three of the bayside city’s hundreds of local businesses participating.
But Ron Durgin, who runs the Santa Monica Bike Center at Second Street and Colorado Avenue, hopes to change that.
“My assumption is the biggest obstacle facing businesses is the lack of knowledge that this program exists,” Durgin said.
Officials at The League of American Bicyclists agree that part of the reason the free program — which ranks businesses on a four-tiered system — hasn’t taken hold in Santa Monica could be that businesses just don’t know about it.
“It could be an outreach issue, certainly,” said Alison Dewey, who heads the Bike Friendly Business program. “The League and many local advocacy organizations promote the program throughout the country so we certainly have a lot of ground to cover.”
That’s where the Bike Center — opened in November 2011 as part of the City’s plans to revamp Santa Monica’s bike infrastructure — comes into play. (“Santa Monica’s Bike Center Rolls in New Era,” November 21, 2011)
“(O)ur strategy will be to first develop an outreach campaign to make business owners aware of the opportunity,” Durgin said.
“Then we can help the businesses that are interested get through the process of applying for (Bike Friendly Business) designation,” he said
The process itself can sometimes be confusing for local businesses, which have to fill out a 10 page, 54-question application before The League can begin to determine whether they qualify for one of the four ranks.
“It can be kind of daunting,” said Brad Edwards, general manager of Helen’s Cycles. Along with REI Santa Monica and the Bike Center, Helen’s Cycles on Broadway is one of The League’s three Bike Friendly Businesses in Santa Monica.
Daunting it may be, but Edwards thinks going through the process is worth it.
“It’s supporting the local bike movement (and) supporting the growth of bicycle-friendly infrastructure,” he said.
“There is a larger need to come together as a community and really designate businesses as bicycle friendly,” Edwards said. Being a Bike Friendly Business “sends the message to the employee that the business is looking out for the health of the individual as well as the community as a whole.”
Durgin thinks Santa Monica, with its environmentally-conscious culture, a growing network of bike lanes and a local government actively trying to encourage people to ride to work, is ripe for the program to take hold.
He estimates that there are at least a dozen businesses in town that would qualify as Bike Friendly Businesses if they just applied, inclusion in a growing national community.
“The League has a pretty long list of businesses who have achieved BFB designation and they share the success stories in the annual BFA (Bicycle Friendly America) yearbook, which ultimately becomes a great tool for helping other businesses,” Durgin said.
The Bicycle Friendly Business program is part of the The League’s Bicycle Friendly America initiative, through which the national advocacy group evaluates and ranks universities, local governments and even states based on their efforts to support biking.
California ranks 19th on the list, with Washington at the top and North Dakota bringing up the rear.
For its efforts to encourage bicycling, Santa Monica earned The League’s title of a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community in 2009, one of 44 in the state.
Encouraging biking, especially in Downtown Santa Monica, has been one of City Hall’s strategies in its war on traffic in the growing city.
Over the last two years, with the adoption of the Bike Action Plan, Santa Monica has seen an expansion of its bike lane network, development of a bike-share program for City employees, more bike parking around town and education programs aimed at teaching motorists and riders about the rules of the road. (“Santa Monica Adopts New Bike Action Plan,” November 24, 2011)
Now, it’s time to actively involve Santa Monica’s business community in that transformation, Durgin said.
“Once a business is engaged, I believe the questions in the application will help them understand what to shoot for and then develop initiatives to meet the objectives,” he said.
“I believe Santa Monica residents and business owners will benefit when more people use bikes for daily trips to go shopping, commuting and running errands,” Durgin said. “Likewise, business owners that encourage employees to ride a bike to work helps reduce citywide air, noise and space pollution that would otherwise occur from automobile trips.”
For more information about the Bike Friendly America initiative, visit bikeleague.org. Businesses interested in knowing more about the process can contact the Bike Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.