Building a cycling community at work

Bicycle advocacy comes in many different forms. Fundamentally, you are doing bicycle advocacy work every time you get out and ride your bike on public roadways. Just being out there is a statement of sorts. However, one of the best ways to promote cycling as an activity is to present it as fun.

In many groups I get identified as “the bike guy.” This is natural, especially for folks that know about my work here at VeloReviews. As “the bike guy” advocacy is accomplished without much thought. One coworker, who didn’t really ride previously, asked my advice about what to select to use as a new commuter bike. We ended up going to the bike shop together as he picked out his new ride. You could almost think of this as accidental advocacy. I don’t specifically remember encouraging him to ride, yet here I was offering my thoughts about what bike to use to completely change his normal commute habits. While it was really just friends hanging out, it was advocacy work nonetheless. I was happy to do it.

However, at the start up I work for I’m just one of a group that often ride to work. A lot of this has to do with where I live and work. San Francisco can be a nightmare to drive in and find parking. Because of that there are many who take to the bicycle that may not have in other situations. No parking tickets and you can carry your bike right up to your desk. Couple that with bicycle friendly mass-transit options and even people that are living 10, 15 or 20 miles away and haven’t ridden since they were kids can find a bike an attractive mode of transportation.

It was into this environment that I hit on a great idea completely by acident – social activities for work that involve the bicycle. In my case, it was a weekly breakfast meetup before work. I started out asking if anyone was interested in a weekend group ride, and one of the responses I got was about breakfast. Brilliant!

The idea is simple: invite coworkers that ride to work (or more importantly from the advocacy standpoint, those that have bicycles but don’t normally ride to work) to meet for breakfast before work one day a week. Pick a spot reasonably close to the office, and invite folks to ride there. Then, enjoy breakfast and everyone rides to the office to work for the day as a group.

This has all kinds of benefits, and everyone wins. Employers and company owners will like the “team-building” and company culture benefits. People that do not necessarily work together on a daily basis will find common ground – cycling – that can lead to weekend rides and other activities. Discussing work challenges – such as a stalled project – while riding can lead to all kinds of new and innovative solutions. And of course the act of riding has been shown time and time again to improve mood and worker productivity.

However, what was most interesting for me were the emails I got that were not from folk already riding bicycles. People telling me that they had been thinking about riding, and wanted to attend as a motivation to reach that goal. People asking for advice on bikes – presumable to pick up a new hobby and ride to our weekly breakfast gathering. Folks asking about maybe setting up rides during lunch. It really is encouraging to find such a simple thing prompting folks to get out and ride their bikes.

You don’t have to be an advocate to promote cycling. Just share your passion with others in a fun way and folks will just want to join in.