How one business is making it easier to bike — and get a bike!
Since the Bicycle Friendly America program began, we’ve seen so many amazing applications come our way from communities, businesses, and universities across the country. On our map, you can find every current award we’ve bestowed, but what’s a little harder to capture are the creative and unique efforts that make each business or community or university so inspiring. So, we set up a way for the advocates behind the awards to tell us more about the people on the ground building a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone.
Today, meet Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) Air Alliance Houston (AAH) in Houston, Texas. AAH is a nonprofit that supports and strengthens communities of color and lower-income residents disproportionately harmed by transportation emissions and regional transportation policies such as disinvestment in multimodal transportation.
Aligned with their advocacy for environmental justice is AAH’s belief that every employee and every resident of the community should be able to bike to work, for recreation, for exercise, or for simple enjoyment with their families, friends, and coworkers. That belief, and their efforts to make more trips bike-possible, earned the organization a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Business award as a new BFB applicant in our Fall 2022 round.
Did you know? Houston is a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community! Read about the city of Houston’s stand-out efforts for better bicycling.
Making more trips bike-possible is a collaborative effort. It takes building off one another’s efforts to improve bicycling and boost the number of places in the community where traveling by bike is not only possible for employees but encouraged for all. AAH recognizes this by helping to build the capacity of other organizations run by and for communities of color to promote multi-modal transportation in their neighborhoods. The organization partners with and supports Our Afrikan Family (OAF) in Fifth Ward, Houston, which organizes monthly educational community bike rides for a historically Black community facing severe economic isolation due to a proposed freeway expansion. Read more about Air Alliance Houston’s stand-out bicycling efforts below.
What are the biggest advancements your business has made towards better bicycling?
The most significant investment has been updating our employee transportation policy to provide a $500 one-time stipend to subsidize the cost of buying a bicycle, bicycle maintenance, bike accessories, or gear to support bike commuting. Several of our staff did not own a bicycle or needed substantial repairs to begin riding regularly. Because of this policy, those staff were able to buy a high-quality bicycle or pay for necessary maintenance to begin commuting by bike and/or participate in staff rides.
In February, we organized our second Office Bike Ride. This was a 4-mile fun ride on a Friday in chilly-but sunny-Houston spring weather – a perfect way to close off the week! February also marked our first quarterly “Bike Brag,” a meeting for staff to share their experiences, successes, challenges, and questions about biking for transportation or recreation. Our ‘Bike Brag’ meetings are timed to closely follow the Office Bike Rides.
We have also invested in a full-time position dedicated to achieving equitable and sustainable transportation planning and policy in the Houston Area. Our first-ever Transportation Justice Coordinator, hired in March 2022, has a personal and professional passion for multi-modal transportation, so we further empowered her to be our on-staff cycling champion as part of her assigned duties. In fact, her vision led us to the policies and practices we have today.
Finally, we are glad to report that we have received permission to install an outdoor bike rack on our building owner’s private property. An outdoor bike rack will allow more convenient and spacious bike parking for staff and guests compared to our current indoor bike rack.
What is the most positive outcome of your BFB’s support for bicycling?
We have seen a notable increase in staff riding their bikes to the office, including those who did not often commute by bike in the past. More conversations and encouragement around biking, the ability to safely park your bike at the office, and supportive policies have all certainly played a role in that increase. In fact, buddy bike rides have naturally formed through some staff who live near each other and have commuted to work by bike and public transit together.
Anything you’re looking forward to in 2023?
Over half of our team and some family members of staff are registered to attend a Smart Cycling Class (to be taught by a female League Cycling Instructor) in April. The team looks forward to strengthening their essential riding and bike care skills and understanding of Texas traffic laws through the course!
If you would like to see your Bicycle Friendly Business on our blog or on our social media, share your journey to being better for people who bike with us now. If you would like to see your business earn the League’s Bicycle Friendly Business designation, apply today at apply.bikeleague.org or learn more at bikeleague.org/business. Applications for our summer round of BFB awards are due by June 15, 2023, at 11:59 pm PT.