Local businesses recognized for programs promoting bicycle friendliness, biking to work
League of American Bicyclists announced 45 spring Bicycle Friendly Business Awards May 16 "to kick off Bike to Work Week with a bang," said Amelia Neptune, LAB's Bicycle Friendly America program director.
Two of 23 businesses nationwide achieving Bicycle Friendly Business status on the first attempt were Chicago's Milhouse Engineering and Construction Inc. at bronze level and Elgin Community Bikes, instantly earning gold.
Bartlett's Spin Doctor Cyclewerks bike shop advanced from silver to gold.
Nationally, 1,494 total BFBs are part of the Bicycle Friendly America program. Started in 1995 with Bicycle Friendly Communities, the BFA program now recognizes businesses, universities and all 50 states for, you guessed it, bicycle friendliness.
Five criteria are considered: Engineering, education, encouragement, evaluation and equity.
Beyond just ranking, Bicycle Friendly America "provides a practical blueprint, hands-on assistance, and resources to help make places better for bicycling," per LAB's website.
"The BFB application is designed to work for a wide variety of organizations, and to meet businesses at any stage of becoming bicycle-friendly" Neptune said.
"Our review process considers each applicant's size, type, and location. By design, there's no one-size-fits-all for a Bicycle Friendly Business."
Those making the cut must renew every four years to maintain status. All Bicycle Friendly Business applicants, whether receiving an award or not, receive specific feedback on how to improve. Summer applications are due June 15.
"Every business can be recognized for its bicycle-friendly efforts," said Bartlett's Terry Witt, Spin Doctor Cyclewerks' former ride leader and advocacy director. "In Illinois, only four are bike shops. First step is to apply. The League will help everyone in the process."
Hired in 2006 by owner Greg Anderson, Witt submitted their first application in 2009, achieving bronze level, later earning silver (2011, 2016). Witt said attaining gold now signifies "just a wow recognition from a great organization, validating our efforts for bicycling and community.
"Greg is dedicated to bicycling and community, making the BFA program a natural for us," Witt added. "Youth to retirees are hired, many kids getting their first job. They learn to build and repair bikes and assist customers. Once we applied, League feedback was invaluable in guiding our growth."
'Healthier, more equitable Elgin'
Parker Thompson, Elgin Community Bikes founder, was "a bit surprised and very grateful to receive this recognition, particularly in our first application. Our robust team of volunteers help with all aspects of our nonprofit projects, including community rides, education, and the shop's repair services and sales."
Thompson credits Tom Armstrong, ECB board member and longtime community bicycle activist, who proposed and completed the application as primary author. Armstrong had previously contributed to Elgin's Bicycle Friendly Community application.
Per Thompson, Elgin Community Bikes' mission uses bicycles "to make Elgin a healthier, happier, more equitable city. While generating some earned revenue through sales/service, we opened the community bike shop and run our community programs to reduce barriers, both material and cultural, to using bicycles for transportation or recreation. This resonates very well with BFB values."
$1 per bike mile
Perspiration anxiety, a common excuse for not biking to work, inspired the bike-to-work program she initiated last June. At least that's how civil engineer Kaela Worman of Milhouse Engineering and Construction Inc. explains it.
"I started dreaming up ways to mitigate all the hurdles a bike commuter would face choosing biking over other transportation," Worman said. "I brought my ideas to Wilbur C. Milhouse III, our chairman and CEO, and the executive team. They were completely on board."
Solutions include free gym access in Milhouse's building, free annual Divvy bike share membership for non-bike owners, in-office bike storage for safekeeping, and a network of teammates for practical support and encouragement.
Worman's company, however, went beyond that.
"In our program, team members get reimbursed $1 for every bike mile they commute. The cyclist with the top mileage at year-end wins a prize bike."
Of 182 headquarters office employees, more than 40 have already logged bike-to-work miles.
"At Milhouse, our vision is to 'Be a Positive Impact.' By increasing our program's visibility, we hope to encourage other companies in our field and community to support active transportation," Worman said.
"As an engineer involved with bike lane design myself, being a cyclist makes me a better designer of bicycle-friendly infrastructure. We hope to encourage more players in the transportation space to walk the walk when it comes to bike infrastructure."
I think she means, "bike the bike."
Best workplace for commuters
Founded in 1986, Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd., (CBBEL) became Illinois' first engineering firm to earn BFB status (silver) in 2010, upgrading to gold (2012) and platinum (2014, 2018), one level away from diamond. The firm is up for renewal again this fall.
More than 180 cycling employees have taken advantage of its 75-cent mileage reimbursement, changing/showering facilities, bicycle storage and bike shares for riding to/from commuter stations. Participants have cycled more than 400,000 miles, averaging 38 miles per week and a 13-mile commute.
Christopher B. Burke Engineering is also known for its biking infrastructure projects, including the 0.6 mile shared-use path on Harper College's west campus in Palatine, 1.3 mile path between Burnham Greenway and Sand Ridge Nature Center in Calumet City and the two 150-foot long spans of the Bryn Mawr pedestrian bridge in Rosemont, which allow access to Cook County Forest Preserve trails.
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