As we wrap up Bike Month in Colorado and bring on another summer of bicycling fun in Fort Collins, it’s a great time to acknowledge the successes we’ve had locally with encouraging more and more cyclists to bike to work.
Yet even as bicycling is becoming an increasingly mainstream form of commuting transportation, bicycle commuters of all abilities appreciate (and sometime need) occasional encouragement.
Fort Collins is home to many cool bike-related activities — so many it could make your head spin. The signature event is the annual Bike to Work Day celebration, an event that energizes local bike commuters and brings the business community together to provide food, beverages and a fun atmosphere to bicyclists on the fourth Wednesday in June.
This year, more than 100 businesses and organizations came together to host 42 breakfast stations across town, serving thousands of riders and showcasing that bicycling is an easy, fun and healthy way to get around town. And it’s fun when you rendezvous with your co-workers.
Over the years, Fort Collins has established a reputation for employer engagement in bike-friendly business programs. From the mid-1990s to 2006, the city of Fort Collins SmartTrips program worked with local businesses to encourage employees to drive less and use alternatives to driving alone.
The effort has evolved in recent years to a volunteer-based, grassroots effort focused solely on bicycle commuting and is not tied to municipal funding. Led by a group of volunteers and the Fort Collins Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) Peer Network, Fort Collins now has bragging rights as being No. 1 in the nation for the most BFBs in one city, with 39 businesses participating.
Local businesses can join the network to become a BFB, a designation outlined by the League of American Bicyclists. Through the BFB program, employers are recognized for their efforts to encourage a more welcoming atmosphere for bicycling employees, customers and the community based on four essential elements to being bicycle friendly — engineering, education, encouragement and evaluation and planning. Deserving businesses are recognized at the bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels. All applicants receive valuable feedback and assistance.
According to Peer Network member Jeff Nosal, businesses realize that their actions impact others in the community.
“By being bike friendly, they achieve many goals: community outreach; healthy, happy employees; climate goals and networking opportunities,” he said.
All of these add greatly to the quality of life in Fort Collins.
Last fall, the Peer Network hosted a workshop and actively pursued potential applicants, encouraging a record 23 businesses and organizations to apply. Another workshop is being held to mentor additional new businesses into the BFB program.
According to Nosal, the next steps as a group are to help take businesses to the next level, into advocacy.
“If we have a strong network of businesses that are advocating for better infrastructure and programming, then it will be much easier to get things done,” Nosal said.
If interested in finding out how to get your business involved, contactwww.bikeleague.org/business, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sylvia Cranmer is a member of the Bicycle Pedestrian Education Coalition, chair of the Fort Collins Bicycle Advisory Committee and a member of Bike Fort Collins.