Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bicycle Friendly Business

As a League of American Bicyclists active member for the past several years I have watched as many great and inspiring programs have been launched to foster the bicycle culture growth in America.

A municipality can be awarded commemoration as a Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) on several levels. A state, by the commitment of the municipalities within its boundaries, as well as its own initiatives, is also graded and noted as a Bicycle Friendly State (BFS). These two programs must, by their scope, have an "all-in" commitment across several agencies to be successful. But the program that excites me more is one where there is not a lot of political concessions, and potentially foiling infrastructure investment, necessary to score points.

The Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) program can be simple to plan, easy to implement and, depending on the business location, be an extensive marketing boon to aid the organization's bottom line.

To qualify all a business must do is complete 50-question application that measures their specific commitment to bicycling for their employees. It also helps if the enterprise has an active involvement with as many official advocacy organizations and governing agencies as possible. The establishment can have any number of employees (Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals has 120,000 but there are many entities with less than ten employees) and serve any number of sectors/industries (i.e., retail, construction, hospital, government, schools). The key to receiving the award, (whether Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Honorable Mention) is having a manageable program that primarily benefits the bicycling efforts of their employees as well as, but secondarily, the local area.

In Tennessee, for example, the most recent 2011 list has 212 Market Restaurant in Chattanooga with 38 employees (Silver 2009), Mast General Store in Knoxville with 47 employees (Bronze 2010), RPM Transportation Consultants in Brentwood with 11 employees (Bronze 2009), and Pointe General Contractors in Chattanooga with 42 employees (HM 2010). The first two are in the retail sector and can, by the nature of retail, serve not only employees but also customers. Still, even the last two organizations can benefit residually, with potential new business referrals from folks who see the BFB designation as an attractive trait of the company.

As well, it is no coincidence that three of the state's entities are in BFC communities and the fourth, RPM, is a major player in the bicycle infrastructure planning and design arena. Brentwood is also a close neighbor to Nashville, which should soon be able to attain BFC recognition.

Is there a downside to the effort? How can there be when the company is doing something that promotes the efforts of the greater good in alternative, active transportation. I urge everyone, even non-cyclists, to take a look at the list and try to patronize the businesses, if possible.

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