My favorite part of my job as the Bike Commute Challenge Program Coordinator this year has been the opportunity to visit a wide variety of offices and workplaces over the past couple months. From law firms to software companies, government agencies to environmentally-focused nonprofits, I’ve had the opportunity to take tours of buildings and offices of which I’ve biked by for years but have never been afforded the chance to actually step inside. I’ve been warmed by the hospitality of all of my hosts (bonus points to those workplaces who offer sugary sweets), and it is tremendously inspiring to see public, private and nonprofit workplaces heeding the call to make bike commuting an accessible, easy and obvious option for their employees by providing shower access, indoor bike parking, and economic incentives for riding.
With that said, my visit to New Relic suggests to me that this software firm, which has newly relocated to two entire floors of the US Bancorp Building in downtown Portland, might officially set the golden standard as a bike-friendly business eager to market itself as such to customers and employees alike. The instant I walked off the elevator to the 28th story of Portland’s second tallest building, I was greeted by a beautiful, locally-designed indoor bike parking room that holds over 50 bicycles. New Relic plans to double the size of the indoor bike parking area to hold over 100 bicycles by installing another five walls of hangers a floor above in the near future.
I was given a tour of the New Relic space by employee Jesse Dearing, whose work with New Relic includes application performance and monitoring solutions. Jesse noted that while the investment in amazing bike facilities was spurred by New Relic Vice President Bjorn Freeman-Benson, the firm has been encouraging employees to ride bicycles “since as long as we’ve been a company.” Dearing told me that while the state-of-the-art, locally-designed bike parking facility is now a landmark for the building, it was at first a tough sell with the landlord, who was concerned with people with bikes using the building’s freight elevator. Dearing described the right of New Relic to use the freight elevator to park bicycles indoors as “the deal-breaker” in the company’s negotiations for the lease; the landlord acquiesced, and now tenants on all 42 floors of the tallest building in Portland have access to the freight elevator to ensure their bicycles are parked safely indoors. The bike parking room, labelled “Amsterdam” on the office maps, is adjacent to an impressively well-stocked bicycle repair hub.
The stats for the New Relic Bike Commute Challenge team suggest that these initiatives to make biking to work part of the office culture at the company have had a tremendous impact on how employees choose to get to work. The New Relic Bike Commute Challenge team, captained by Chris McCraw and Brent Miller, is approaching three thousand miles travelled by bicycle; the firm ranks second in the Portland Tech Industry BCC League for welcoming six first-time bicycle commuters to the Challenge this year, and the company has held weekly prize drawings for bicycle parts as part of their incentives to participate. Dearing says that their insistance on using the freight elevator for their building has led to many other firms using the elevator for biking as well, and a quick look at the Bike Commute Challenge website reveals at least six other US Bancorp building tenants who have registered for the BTA’s autumnal classic.
One of New Relic’s first-time bicycle commuters is Nick Floyd, who recently moved to Milwaukie after living in Texas. While he “never even considered” riding a bike as a transportation in his previous hometown, Nick told me that the encouragement he received at the office made all the difference; ”I guarantee I wouldn’t do it without [my coworkers]; they make it fun and easy to do. They even helped me fix a corked chain last week.” Floyd told me that a coworker spent a Sunday afternoon biking down to Milwaukie and showing Floyd the easiest route into town, a route that Floyd is now riding on a bicycle for over 95% of his trips to work. During my visit, I talked to numerous New Relic employees who explicitly stated that they “never would have tried bike commuting” without the bike amenities, friendly encouragement of coworkers and overall bike-commuting culture that New Relic has cultivated and supported.
As Dearing said, “Every one of our New Relic offices has a different ‘thing,’ and here in Portland, we went with biking.” It’s inspiring to see businesses flourish in Portland by using biking as a tool to keep health care costs down, lure prospective employees, and boost office morale through friendly competitions like the Commute Challenge. Amazing to see what a few motivated employees, a little investment in bicycle parking and some prizes for participation in the Bike Commute Challenge can do to help brand your office as a progressive, innovative, and desirable place to work!
Thanks for the tour, New Relic, and best of luck logging those trips with the Bike Commute Challenge this month! (Have you logged your trips this month? Still need to register a team? There’s still time!) Does your office have any great success stories with building space for new bike parking, creating internal programs to promote bicycling, or supporting organized bike rides after hours? Let us know! We here at the BTA would love to hear your story about how bicycles mean business, how biking fits into your health and wellness programs, and how your office is encouraging its employees to #bikemore.