Five Rivers MetroParks has been awarded bronze-level “bicycle-friendly business” (BFB) status, conferred by the League of American Bicyclists on Wednesday, Sept. 14, during the Interbike trade expo in Las Vegas. Five Rivers MetroParks was one of 111 new bicycle-friendly businesses that “actively promote bicycling for transportation, recreation, exercise, and sport,” according to information from the LAB. “A BFB practices social responsibility by weaving bicycling into the business culture and gives employees the opportunity to be active stewards of their personal and environmental health through bicycling.”
According to MetroPark officials, the process of obtaining the certification was as valuable as the title itself. “The application contains checklists and indicators that help you evaluate what you’re doing—or not doing—in terms of being bicycle-friendly,” says Five Rivers MetroParks Outdoor Recreation Program Manager Andy Williamson. “The process helped us, as an entire agency, to see what we’re doing well and what we can do better. It’s an eye-opening experience.”
There are a total of 344 awardees in 40 states—the Buckeye State boasts three businesses based in Columbus and one Cincinnati-based business. “We are happy to recognize these businesses for their investment in bicycling as a vehicle for improved employee health, social responsibility and economic growth,” said LAB President Andy Clarke. “Some of the most successful companies in the world are showing that investing in bicycling is not only good for health and sustainability but also the bottom line.”
Microsoft, Inc. is one of the new BFB winners, recognized at the silver‐level for incentive programs such as supplying funds for employees to purchase bikes and gear, subsidized bike tune‐ups, bicycling skills clinics and a free shuttle service for cyclists cut off by an interstate bridge. “For Microsoft, supporting bicycle commuting is simply a smart business strategy and helps us do our part to protect the environment,” said Lynn Frosch, Microsoft real estate and facilities transportation manager. “It helps us attract and retain employees and reduces our carbon footprint. That’s why we offer programs and amenities that help offset the cost of biking to work and make it as convenient as possible. It’s an integral part of our sustainable transportation program.” As a result of Microsoft’s efforts, the company has increased bike commuting, reduced parking demands, improved health and productivity.
Five Rivers MetroParks currently is the single BFB in the Miami Valley and the only park district in the country to earn such distinction, but it doesn’t have to be lonely at the top. “The LAB provides technical assistance, a report on your application, and feedback on what you’re doing right and how you can improve,” Williamson explains. “The best part is that the application and feedback are free! You don’t have to be a huge corporation to become a BFB—anyone can promote cycling at work or incorporate cycling as an employee benefit.”
In addition to an extensive network of bikeways, downtown Dayton employees can take advantage of the state-of-the-art RiverScape Bike Hub located at RiverScape MetroPark. Amenities such as these contributed to Dayton obtaining bronze-level bicycle-friendly community status in 2010. Bicycle-friendly status is conferred following these “5E” guidelines:
- Engineering: Safe cycling access; bike racks for employees and guests; showers and lockers for commuters and lunchtime riders.
- Education: Bike-safety programs; mentorship for new commuters; and equipment tutorials.
- Encouragement: Benefits for bike commuters; paid mileage for trips made by bike; loaner bikes for errands and short trips; and earn-a-bike programs.
- Evaluation: An assessment of what’s already being done and what to aim for in the future; in-house bike coordinators; and target ridership numbers. This is also the section to highlight your business’s unique programs and policies that promote and celebrate bicycling—from loaner bikes for short trips and in-house spin classes to supporting charity rides and sponsoring bike-racing teams.
- Enforcement (for communities, not businesses): Measure the connections between the cycling and law enforcement. Identify if there are bicycle divisions of the law enforcement or public safety communities, if the community uses targeted enforcement to encourage cyclists and motorists to share the road safely, and the existence of bicycling-related laws such as those requiring helmet or the use of side paths.
Five Rivers MetroParks hosted the inaugural Miami Valley Cycling Summit and has helped coordinate concurring summits, bringing community leaders, government representatives, cyclists and business owners together to discuss the potential for cycling and how it can be a boon to the region. “A recent study by Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission revealed that bikeways helped bring about a $15 million return on investment to the region annually,” Williamson says. “This is one example of a direct benefit from cycling.” This dollar figure is just one measure based on tourism; the Miami Valley has not yet realized the long-term effects of improved wellness through active, healthy lifestyles and reduced stress from traffic congestion or respiratory benefits from reduced vehicle emissions. “We are proud of the roadmap that the Bicycle Friendly Business program provides and how these companies used it to transform into a BFB,” said Bill Nesper, director of the League’s Bicycle Friendly America program. “When employees bike, great things happen.”
To apply or learn more about the free BFB program, visit the League online at bikeleague.org/businesses. Learn more about the region’s bicycle amenities, download maps, find classes and get connected at metroparks.org/cycling.