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Half of school children walked or biked to school in 1969, but only 13 percent were doing it in 2009.

Bike to work programs enhance workplace wellness

In preparation for Bike to Work Week and the Bike Commuter Challenge, June 11- 17, Debbi Brooks, divisional vice president of wellness for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, contributed a guest post for the Active Trans blog. Debbi has more than 20 years of experience developing and executing innovative workplace wellness programs. She will be the keynote speaker at the Bike Commuter Challenge team leader luncheon on July 12.

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Debbi Brooks

People who adopt healthy lifestyles—even with small-to-moderate time sacrifices such as biking to work—are more productive, take fewer sick days and use fewer health care resources.

Healthier employees translates into big savings for employers. 

One study found that for every $1 spent on wellness programs, medical costs were reduced by about $3.27 and absenteeism costs reduced about $2.73.

A workplace bike commuting program is not only good for employee health and an employers' bottom line, it's also a great way to combat rising gas costs, congested roadways, air polluton and the stresses of everyday life.

Whether you’re an employer interested in developing a bike commuting program or an employee interested in advocating for one, here are a few preliminary questions to ask before pursuing a program. 

  • Does your company support innovative ideas to improve employees’ health and well-being?
  • Is your company near bike-friendly streets?
  • Do you have on-site, secure bike parking/storage or can it be easily added?
  • Can you offer showers, lockers or changing facilities to employees? (If not on-site, can arrangements be made with a local health club to use their facilities?)
  • What are your employees’ current commuter habits? How far away do they live?
  • How many employees have an interest? How many already bike to work?

If a bicycle commuting wellness program is right for your company, here are some ways to make sure it’s fun and easy for employees to participate:

  • Work to build a community of people who bike to work.
  • Do some homework. What do other workplace bike commuter programs offer? 
  • Educate employees on bike safety and provide them with bike route maps.
  • Offer free or discounted tune-ups at a local bike shop.
  • Provide incentives such as transit reimbursements or discounts/subsidies on the purchase of cycling equipment.
  • Join community Bike to Work Week events or sponsor recreational rides. Offer free food and prizes to participants.
  • Recognize and reward employees who regularly bike to work.
  • Continually promote the program to employees via emails, newsletters, your intranet and posting information in high-traffic areas.

If your workplace decides to go ahead with a bike commuter program, be sure to particate in events like the Bike Commuter Challenge, organized by Active Trans.