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Architect of the Capitol – Bicycle Friendly Business

AOC at podiumWhen Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers spoke at the 2014 National Bike Summit, the office he’d led since 2010 was undergoing something of a revolution. The Architect of the Capitol office was becoming known for its bicycle-friendliness — having just received an honorable mention status from the League — and a number of employees had begun taking up the bike as their primary form of transportation. 

Those employees, including Jamie Herr, Sustainability Program Specialist with the Sustainability, Energy and Water Conservation Division in Planning and Project Management; Martin Shore, Architect with the Design Services Division; and Eric Goodman, Supervisory Mechanical Engineer with the Design Services Division had put together an office bike group, commuting together by bicycle through D.C. each morning.

“Part of the AOC strategic vision is to provide extraordinary service to all of our customers, both internal and external,” says Herr. “Many of our employees, clients and visitors already bike to campus, or are interested in biking more, so we want to make the U.S. Capitol campus a safe and welcoming place for biking commuters and the visiting public.”

The group had formed around the time of the 2014 Summit with a number of goals, including being a designated “Bicycle Friendly Business” by the League. Just a year later, it happened.

The Architect of the Capitol is a federal agency responsible for the maintenance and basic operations of the United States Capitol Complex. The complex includes more than 553 acres of land, the United States Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court; it includes 17.4 million square feet of buildings, which also includes the area between Union Station, D.C.’s major train station, and the Capitol Complex.

In recent years, though, the Architect of the Capitol has taken on additional roles, including forming a Bicycle Advisory Committee, consisting of a group of passionate employees who are focused on providing information and classes for employees and clients. They are working to make the complex more bicycle-friendly for anyone who wants to ride around or to it.

AOC group ride

“We have expanded our on-street and maintenance infrastructure throughout the campus. We have also worked with other federal partners to share best practices with the goal of making the Capitol campus a safe environment for all cyclists,” continues Herr.

Because of such practices and dedication, the Architect of the Capitol was named a Bicycle Friendly Business by the League just one year after Ayers spoke at the bike summit. In 2015, they were awarded the Bronze Level recognition from the League, joining more than 1,000 local businesses, government agencies and Fortune 500 companies across the U.S., as they seek to create a workplace that offers encouragement, education, planning and engineering for cyclists in their everyday activities. 

“The Bicycle Friendly Business designation inspires and assists workplaces to become more supportive of bicycling for the benefit of employees, guests, and the broader community. More BFBs get more people on bikes, and help more people to recognize and appreciate the value of bicycling even if they don’t ride,” notes Amelia Neptune, Program Manager, Bicycle Friendly Business and University, at the League of American Bicyclists. “For the Architect of the Capitol, the BFB designation is helping to build that kind of positive bike culture in a workplace where some of our country’s most important decision makers go to work. The AOC’s interest in the Bicycle Friendly Business designation is an exciting opportunity to influence the way over 40,000 people, including elected officials from every single state, see bicycling.”

Rayburn HOB maintenance class / bike parking

The AOC staff, adds Neptune, worked very hard to reach their Bronze status within a year of their Honorable Mention — and hope to reach Gold in 2017, a worthwhile goal that’s already gaining traction due to some of the engineering feats they’re pulling off in D.C. 

Last summer, the AOC and the District Department of Transportation helped create two bicycle lanes on the Capitol campus: one at 2nd Street east of the Thomas Jefferson Building; the other on E Street near Union Station. 

Also last year, the Architect of the Capitol expressed support of creating a protected bike lane along Louisiana Avenue connecting Union Station and the Capitol, after being contacted by D.C. Ward 6 Council Member Charles Allen, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C, and the Congressional Bike Caucus.

They joined with the DDOT again to look at the feasibility of such a protected bike lane on the Capitol grounds, despite the obvious political and economic constraints on bureaucratic projects both in D.C. and around the country. And as more bicycle infrastructure gets installed through the Capitol complex, it will continue to serve as an example for livable, bikeable communities and forward-looking businesses around the U.S.

AOC group ride with Capitol in background

“Despite a wide variety of fiscal, security and political constraints, the AOC has pushed through these limitations to identify and focus on the areas they can improve upon, and they still continue to strive to improve,” says Neptune. “The AOC’s continuing ambition to rise in the ranks of the Bicycle Friendly Business program sets a great example for public and private businesses all across the country.”

Randy LoBasso is a freelance writer and the Communications Manager at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.