Ready to Roll: 5 Tips to Prepare for Bike to Work Day

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Friday, May 20, is Bike to Work Day. It is a chance to showcase the many benefits of cycling—and encourage more folks to give biking a try. The annual event, celebrated coast to coast, has become a soapbox for increased interest in cycling. In the metropolitan Washington region, participation in Bike to Work Day has increased every year since its inception, beginning with only a few hundred registrants and swelling to more than 17,500 in 2015.

Celebrated in May each year, the event supports cycling as a healthy commuting option that saves money, reduces traffic congestion and improves air quality. Here are tips to help you prepare and make the most of Bike to Work Day in your area:

1) Get involved.

More than half of the largest US cities host Bike to Work Day events. It’s a once-a-year opportunity to measure the level of ridership in the region, data that can be used throughout the year to advocate for better bicycling and bicycling infrastructure. So make sure you’re counted by registering for your local event. If there are no events in your community, promote your support for bike commuting by posting on social media using #BikeToWorkDay2016.

2) Plan your route.

Make sure you know the best way to get to work and how long it will take to get there. Google Maps‘ handy bicycling directions tool allows you to plug in your beginning and ending locations as well as any pit stops you might want to hit up on the way to work.

3) Check your bike.

Get your bike in tip-top shape before you take to the streets. Check air pressure, brakes, chains and cranks. An easy way to make sure your bike is in good working order is to do an ABC Quick Check.

4) Dress for success.

Wear what makes you comfortable and visible to traffic. If that’s not your business clothes, fold them into your backpack or bike rack and change before going to your desk. If rain’s in the forecast protect yourself with a rain jacket or poncho and clear-lens glasses to shield your eyes from heavy rain and help with visibility.

5) Ride with a buddy or join a convoy.

Biking to work can be intimidating for a novice. Ask a friend, neighbor or co-worker to ride together, or consider joining a convoy to ride in a larger group. That way you have someone to help navigate and enjoy the journey.

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Got a plan to save the planet?

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We know that actions—big and small—can make a difference in the health of our environment. That’s why ASC has put in place in-house procedures to reduce waste, improve air quality and keep us thinking green:

By doing much of our work using online webinar and screen-sharing programs, we have dramatically reduced the amount of travel time to client locations—saving gas and reducing carbon emissions.

With the advent of digital technology and cell phones, printing is becoming a thing of the past. We have dramatically reduced the amount of ink and paper used over the past five years.

60% of ASC’s staff uses alternatives to driving to work, including public transit, walking and teleworking.

We recycle daily, and when we relocated last year to our new location in White Plains, NY, we donated to individuals and local charities countless items that were put to good re-use and thus did not end up in a landfill.

We are also proud of the work we do every day to support the success of our clients’ programs in reducing emissions that harm the environment. We’ve helped boost participation in Commuter Connections’ Bike to Work Day in metro DC to a record 17,500 in 2015. Our work with the Federal Highway Administration’s It All Adds Up to Cleaner Air national air quality awareness campaign increased community partners from 14 to more than 100. And for the New York State Department of Transportation’s Go Smart NYC alternative travel pilot program we secured dozens of sponsors, surpassing goals by 440%.

When you work for a company that cares about the environment as much as ASC, every day is Earth Day. Spread the word!

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The Many Advantages of Commuter Benefit Programs

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This year, there’s big news for employers who offer—and employees who receive—pre-tax commuter benefits. On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law a year-end transportation package that included a provision to increase commute benefits. The maximum pre-tax benefit allowance rose to $255 per month in 2016—a modest increase from $250 for parking but a substantial increase for transit, up from $130! Can you say cha-ching?

An estimated 2.7 million employees nationwide currently receive pre-tax commuter benefits, and that number is expected to jump in 2016 as major cities hop on the mandated commuter benefit program train.

As of January 1, 2016, employers located in New York City and Washington, D.C., with 20 employees or more, are required to offer a commuter benefit program. This mandate follows in the footsteps of San Francisco, which began its program in 2009 and expanded in 2014 to include Bay Area employers.

To comply, employers must offer at least one of the following transportation benefits, with requirements varying by city:

   Employee-paid pre-tax transit benefit: Employees use pre-tax funds for transit fares (NYC, DC, San Francisco, and Bay Area)

•   Employer-paid direct benefit: Employers subsidize transit and vanpool fares for commuting (DC, San Francisco, and Bay Area)

   Employer-provided transit: Provide complimentary shuttle or vanpool services to employees (DC, San Francisco, and Bay Area)

•   Combination of options above or equally effective employer provided benefit (San Francisco and Bay Area)

 Employees Benefit

Robust commuter benefit programs impact employees’ daily travel decisions by making alternative transportation options, such as public transit, carpool, vanpool, bicycling, easy and affordable. With the money employees save on commuting costs, employees see an increase in disposable income.

Utilizing alternative commute modes is physically and mentally healthy. Individuals who commute via alternative modes are typically more active and less stressed than those who travel in single-occupancy vehicles.

 Employers Benefit

According to a study by the TransitCenter, a non-profit mass transit advocacy group, employers who have implemented commuter programs have experienced an increase in employee job satisfaction, employee retention, and recruiting success.

The pre-tax commuter benefit saves the employer money because they don’t have to outlay payroll taxes of 7.65% on every dollar set aside by employees pre-tax. With decreases in payroll taxes, employers may see up to 9% savings for each employee participating in the program.

 Mother Earth Benefits

Mandated commuter benefit programs encourage employees to ditch their car and take transit, bike, walk, or join a car/van pool to get to work, helping to reduce rush hour demands on congested roadways and harmful emissions.

Approximately 90,000 commuters participated in San Francisco’s commuter benefits program in 2013.  The program resulted in a reduction of CO2 emissions by an estimated 290,000 metric tons, with an average of 123,538 gallons of gas saved, and a daily average vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction of 2,903,136 miles. You can find out your company’s reduced VMT the free calculator offered by Commuter Connections, a regional network of transportation organizations coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

At ASC, however we go, we like to go green and save green. With more than half of our staff utilizing alternative commute modes, we know first-hand how beneficial it can be. How do you travel to and from the office?

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The Holy Grail of Commuter Benefits: 5 Tips to Make Teleworking Work for You

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ASC client, Commuter Connections, sponsors Car Free Day each year on September 22 in the metropolitan Washington region to encourage drive-alone commuters to try another way, here’s a take on telecommuting:

In the world of commuter benefits programs, telecommuting is a potential rock star for improving air quality, reducing traffic congestion, decreasing commute-related employee stress, and improving work/life balance. It sounds like a sure winner, but for employees and employers alike, the challenges of teleworking often make it at best a hard sell, and often a non-starter.

ASC helps transportation agencies promote teleworking—and its cousin, telecommuting—as part of emissions reduction initiatives, but it’s only in the last couple years that we walked the walk and implemented teleworking for our own employees. Below are a few tips for fellow teleworkers on how to make working remotely a win-win for you and your employer.

Here’s what I’ve learned in two years of teleworking:

1 – Walk away from your computer! With no coffee pot to gather round, I often find myself at my desk for hours at a time with no break.  I’ve learned to force a stop—it makes me happier, and more productive. Get a drink, let the dog out, and take a real lunch break.

2 – Call your office, even if it’s just to say hi. I can guarantee you they haven’t forgotten about you but hearing their voices and finding out what is going on, work-wise or personally, goes a long way in bridging you from the island to the main land.

3 – Get dressed. Don’t wear your pajamas to “work.” While I don’t wear my dress clothes and high heels, I do put on something nice, including make-up, and I do my hair. I feel professional and ready to start the day, even if I’m walking to my table or desk to log on.

4 – Appreciate your company’s victories from afar and come to terms with not being there to participate. It is not a slight, even if it’s your project they are celebrating. Working from home is a luxury and missing out on the action is the trade-off. Send your co-workers off with a happy email.

5 – Keep your “work” category out of your “life” category. You can become stressed quickly with access to emails and company servers at your fingertips. So proceed with caution, remain cognizant of your own schedule and remember to enjoy your life outside the house.

With smartphones, laptops, and VPNs, an office can be anywhere. Mine is in my home. Why? Because I work for a company that learned the lessons from the commuter benefits programs it promotes year after year, appreciates its team, and looks ahead to what’s next, and says, “I’ve got this!”

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