Chapter 6 Bicycle Promotion Programs 

Bicycling has gained significant publicity, both positive and negative, in the San Francisco Bay Area over the past few years due in great measure to the efforts of bicycle activists and coverage by the media. Attention grabbing events such as Critical Mass in San Francisco, conflicts with bike messengers, and protest rides for better bicycle access on Bay Area bridges have gained national attention. Bicyclists have received a vote of confidence from the general public with the recent decision to include a bicycle path on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. AC Transit has added new buses with front loading bicycle racks to many of its local and transbay routes. In addition, bicycle access to the BART system was improved this July by the relaxing of some commute-hour restrictions. The most notable of these was the opening of the Fremont-Richmond line, which serves the Berkeley area, to bicyclists at all times. Through this exposure, both good and bad, bicycling is becoming more visible in the Bay Area. The question now is: What else can be done to promote bicycling as a viable transportation mode, and in particular what can the City of Berkeley do?

Implementing many of the infrastructure and education elements of this Plan will itself promote bicycling in Berkeley. A basic first step towards encouraging people to bike is providing them with safe and convenient bicycle facilities.

This Chapter focuses on promoting bicycle use for commute trips, since commute trips cause much of the traffic congestion and are a group of trips that can be easily targeted with employer programs. It is acknowledged that there are many other types of trips, such as shopping and entertainment. In the future, the City can explore ways to be involved in promoting bicycle use for these types of trips as well.

Guidelines for a Bicycle Promotion Program in Berkeley

In the present climate of concern over the crowded conditions of our roads and the lack of adequate parking, a variety of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs have been implemented by state and local governments and private industry. These programs have focused on education and incentives to get people away from the SOV (single occupant vehicle), with carpools, vanpools, and transit being the most popular alternative modes. Bicycle commuting is often an overlooked or underutilized opportunity for attaining trip reduction goals.

Like the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, Berkeley suffers from congestion on its streets and highways; parking is at a premium in the commercial and residential neighborhoods. The following section provides the City of Berkeley with the tools to develop an effective bicycle promotion program to increase bicycle commuting and alleviate some of the demand on the overcrowded transportation infrastructure.

The following bicycle promotion program for Berkeley is based on research of existing bicycle commute programs in the Bay Area and around the country sponsored by both government agencies and private industry. Although any city, company, university or other organization can implement a bike commute promotion program, the most successful programs result from collaboration between the public and private sectors. The City of Berkeley’s primary role will be to serve as the "model employer" for the bicycle commute promotion program. With the City setting the example, other employers in Berkeley can be more successfully persuaded to institute programs of their own.

Whether the bicycle commute program is sponsored by the City or by a local company, an effective bicycle commuting promotion program must do the following:

Identify benefits of bicycle commuting - Before bicycling will be considered as a commute alternative, the feasibility and benefits of bicycle commuting must be made known to the potential cyclist. Many people are unaware of the opportunities that bicycle commuting can provide. Bicycle commuting reduces the costs of commuting to the employee; bicycle commuting improves health through exercise and can lower employer costs through a reduction in health insurance costs and better performance by employees; bicycle commuting can save time for the employees during the actual commute and can replace time and money spent in lengthy workouts in a gym; bicycle commuting reduces the demand on overcrowded streets and highways and the need for parking; bicycle commuting does not pollute the air. In sum, bicycle commuting is an enjoyable, low cost and healthy alternative to the traditional commute.

Provide an incentive to use bicycle commuting - Many of the existing TDM programs use monetary or other incentives to lure the prospective participant out of their single-occupant-vehicle and into a carpool or transit. These TDM programs should be expanded to include incentives for bicycle commuting.

Support and applaud bicycle commuting - Endorsement of bicycle commuting by those in charge is a significant aspect of a promotion program. Prospective bicycle commuters are more apt to try out this underutilized mode if it is accepted and supported by elected officials and city department heads. Endorsement from "the people in charge" of city government will go a long way towards persuading individuals to bicycle commute, and companies to establish bicycle commute programs of their own.

Implementation of a Bicycle Promotion Program

The implementation of bicycle promotion programs, typically part of an overall trip reduction program, is usually staff intensive. Currently, minimal staff resources are dedicated to the City’s trip reduction program, due to funding constraints. This section proposes many possible programs and activities which are appropriate for the bicycle promotion program in Berkeley. However, the amount of funding available for staff and programs will determine how many of the following programs can be implemented. Programs targeting the entire Berkeley community could be developed and implemented by Berkeley TRiP, if they are provided adequate funding for this task. Local bicycle merchants are natural allies in any effort to promote cycling, and their participation should be solicited.

The bicycle promotion program has been divided into two segments; one directed at city employees and the other geared for the general population of Berkeley.

Elements of a City Employee Campaign to Identify Benefits of Bicycle Commuting

Elements of a Citywide Campaign to Identify Benefits of Bicycle Commuting

Elements of a City Employee Bicycle Commuting Incentive Campaign

- Cash dividends for each day of bicycling, similar to a transit subsidy;

- Monthly drawings for prizes;

- Mileage reimbursement for city business travel by bike;

- Discount coupons or credit at bike stores, restaurants or other retail businesses;

- Bike purchase financing;

- Parking cash-out program. 

- ‘Guaranteed Ride Home’ (the City currently participates in a program organized by Alameda County)

- Fleet bicycles for business travel (the City has instituted this program)

- Trial commute bikes

- On-site bicycle repair kits

- On-call bicycle repair services

- Flex hours

- Showers and locker rooms (or gym membership)

- Relaxed dress codes

Elements of a Citywide Bicycle Commuting Incentive Campaign

Elements of a City Employee Campaign to Support and Applaud Bicycle Commuting

Elements of a Citywide Campaign to Support and Applaud Bicycle Commuting

Efforts to support and applaud bicycle commuting to the general population of Berkeley will be primarily accomplished through the media campaigns, education programs and special events discussed above. In addition, the City of Berkeley can choose to encourage other Berkeley employers to organize bicycle commute programs of their own. In particular, the City should encourage U.C. Berkeley and B.U.S.D., two of the largest employers in Berkeley, to promote bicycling to their staff, faculty, students, and parents.

With the City’s Bicycle Commute Program firmly established, the City can provide valuable assistance to the employers willing to undertake this important task. An employer resource kit, most likely put together by Berkeley TRiP, could be provided to each interested employer. The kit should include: 

Listing of local bicycle stores for employees to find the correct equipment for their bicycle commute.