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Using Bikes To Compete for Tech Talent

February 27, 2012 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

One of the perks tech companies are using to lure talent is bikes and bike amenities — which inherently includes dignified bike access to where ever employees will be working every day. A quick 3-minute radio segment (the player starts at 19:07 automatically) from the uber-popular radio show Marketplace (wiki) tells us what companies like FourSquare (New York City) and Google (Mountain View) are doing to be bike-friendly:

Companies are in a race to outdo each other on bike friendliness. Google not only gives employees racks and lockers, the company will donate to charity if employees ride to work. Etsy‘s got an in-house bike mechanic. In New York, Foursquare just chose a new location for its headquarters, based on where biking would be easy.

To me, FourSquare’s move is the ultimate in bike-friendliness — we bikers don’t need showers and pumps and cheerleading (though all of that could be nice) — we just need the absolute bare minimum required to allow us to ride our bikes to the office: a safe, convenient, direct, dignified route to the office, and some place to lock our bike so it won’t be stolen — nothing ‘rocket-sciency’ about this formula, and not too much to expect from any and every company, and every city council, in my opinion.

Of course, FourSquare is a much newer company than Google, and has the advantage of being born just three years ago (wiki) — right when bicycling was starting to takeoff again in major, developed countries. And FourSquare has the advantage of being in urban New York City, where a major biking renaissance has been occurring, with cycletracks appearing all over the city. Google is ‘saddled’ with a zillion employees (to FourSquare’s 100) — the realities of the real estate market helped push Google onto the wrong side of Highway 101 in suburban Mountain View, CA.

We wrote just a couple of days ago about how Google needs to help achieve part one of the ‘bare minimum requirements’ that would allow employees to bike to work at Google — on-street cycletracks/bike lanes/etc.

One company not mentioned in the article was Facebook (wiki). Though they probably have a very young staff, generally speaking, they chose to move their corporate headquarters recently out to a place which makes Google’s location look like Times Square in Manhattan. This place is so desolate, so anti-human, so bike-unfriendly, one has to wonder if Facebook management didn’t have it out for cyclists and would-be cyclists. Yes, there is talk about improving bike and walk access to the Mars-like landscape that surrounds and protects the Facebook headquarters from non-motorized humans (look at the entrance — it’s literally a freeway) - you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

Finally, it’s been said that Apple could change the slave-labor conditions of its sweatshops “tomorrow” if Apple told them to do so. Similarly, Google could snap their fingers and have the Mountain View city council study then approve and implement bike infrastructure all throughout the local Googleplex street network — first bike lanes, then buffered bike lanes, then cycletracks — it’s so obvious and easy it’s hardly worth mentioning — only, it still hasn’t been done yet.

In other news:

  • Google’s bike directions now offers a legend to help differentiate between the Level of Service (LOS) of various streets/paths along your bike route: bike-friendly, bike lane, or separate trails/paths.
  • RideTheCity.com has launched in LA, and also launched an iPhone app update.
  • Big article on Google Transit, with info on real-time (NextBus-like functionality) API/feed format. Includes link to startup transit app-maker company, Embark (not the auto/bus PR firm, EMBARQ).
  • An interesting, if flawed, analysis of Google Maps Driving Directions vs. Transit vs. whatever functionality from the founder of the now-defunct WorldChanging.org (wiki).
  • Google Street View is moving into Botswana — it’s already got a bunch of cool street view imagery from South Africa, including photos of actual BRT stations.
  • SF Bay Area to get bike-sharing.
  • The hype on Long Beach is making it seem like the Portland of SoCal.
  • Gas prices soaring. In response, I think we bicycle advocates should pound on this refrain: “Let us ride (by building appropriate bike facilities).”
  • Even Hitler knows mandatory helmet laws are a bad idea (NSFW)
  • Ciclovia’s coming to Dallas. And Long Beach?
  • Santana Row is the best urban design I’ve seen anywhere in America
  • The true origin of PARK(ing) Day?
  • A few months ago there was talk of redefining LOS by defining it for walking and biking, but it seems to have slipped off the radar. It popped up again.
  • Paris starting to make sense - allows cyclists to run red lights
  • This would be awesome for getting up hills
  • The answer to transit-dependence is not more and faster bus service — it’s allowing people to go where they want to go when they want to go under their own power.
  • Truth about BRT systems is slowly slipping out into the light of day
  • I’ve been less of a fan of StreetFilms since they started pushing BRT so hard, but this film is great
  • Brad Pitt rips automobility while talking about baseball (tip)

 

9 Comments to “Using Bikes To Compete for Tech Talent”


  1. John Murphy says:

    How did you write this article without any reference to http://www.sf2g.com ?

    I ride through Google frequently and frankly it’s a pretty decent place to ride a bike. The Steven’s Creek Trail runs from pretty far South in Mountain View, past the MV Caltrain station, and directly to the South side of the Google Campus. I am typically riding South on that trail and there is always a train of commuters headed to Google on that trail. The Permanente Creek Trail is being improved and extended and will terminate smack dab in the center of the Googleplex.

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  2. John Murphy says:

    Here’s the *other* entrance to Facebook.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=willow+rd+menlo+park+ca&hl=en&ll=37.481482,-122.150245&spn=0.002873,0.006539&hnear=Willow+Rd,+Menlo+Park,+California&gl=us&t=m&z=18&layer=c&cbll=37.481635,-122.150239&panoid=MdlmM4spLm7Qx658prBivA&cbp=12,2.41,,0,0.52

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  3. John Murphy says:

    Oops. Fixed.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=willow+rd+menlo+park+ca&hl=en&ll=37.482231,-122.153957&spn=0.001681,0.005944&hnear=Willow+Rd,+Menlo+Park,+California&gl=us&t=m&layer=c&cbll=37.482232,-122.153958&panoid=XvNsAgnGA4XykhyonEK36A&cbp=11,98.79,,0,3.49&z=18

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  4. dave glasser says:

    Er, are you trying to imply that there are no Mountain View bike lanes near Google? http://www.mountainview.gov/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=7206 shows pretty clearly that all the major roads near Google have lanes (and small streets like Huff surely don’t need them).

    And while I’d love it if my employer was closer to my beloved city of SF, the distance doesn’t stop us all from riding: http://sf2g.com/

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  5. Indeed…bizarre to talk about Facebook and bikes with no mention of Bay Trail accessibility. It’s as if you chose to incorporate only the facts that helped your point while ignoring the inconvenient facts.

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  6. Peter Smith says:

    SF2G is a group that rides from SF to MV — 30+ miles, to work, on mornings (and sometimes going home) — more power to them, bless them, etc. However, I’m not all that concerned about the 5% of people already brave enough to ride to Google, either that distance or other distances — I’m concerned about the 95% of people who are _not_ riding to Google yet. John Forester/Vehicular Cycling have failed, and the status quo is not good enough — we need to allow ordinary, normal, everyday people — non-cyclists — the option to get from Pt A to Pt B in a safe, dignified fashion — bay trails and on-street, non-protected bike lanes on four-lane roadways with speed-inducing center medians and highway overpasses and getting passed by MASSIVEGOOGLEBUSES is not going to cut it. It really doesn’t matter that some people think that everyone should be comfortable riding the existing infrastructure — reality is dictating current mode shares — we can either upgrade infrastructure to be conducive to normal people cycling, or we’ll continue to suffer the indignity of a 5% mode share and every humiliation that implies.

    C’mon yall — a little less John Forester, a little more Gil Penalosa.

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  7. I used to work at Qualcomm, in an office park in a SoCal sprawl hellscape, not unlike Silicon Valley:
    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=morehouse+drive&hl=en&ll=32.896525,-117.209702&spn=0.024791,0.041928&sll=39.743796,-95.762479&sspn=46.016962,85.869141&hnear=Morehouse+Dr,+San+Diego,+California+92121&t=h&z=15

    They offered bike lockers (farther away than many parking spaces, however), showers, bike-to-work info sessions, and Qualcomm even offered bike commuter vouchers. Very few people rode to work because the bike route from many points south was Interstate 5, and other roads nearby were six lanes wide with 55 mph speed limits. There was, of course, endless seas of free parking ensuring the distances between buildings were twice as long as necessary.

    Now I work for Etsy, where the bike mechanic is not in-house but a guy we call in from Recycle-a-Bicycle. We can bring bikes into the office but there are no showers or bike commuter vouchers. However, there also isn’t free parking, and the office is close to two subway stations and a ferry landing. Very few people drive to work. Who’da thunk it?

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  8. Richard Masoner says:

    @Peter — you don’t have to ride 30 miles from San Francisco to use the Bayfront Trail. The trail extends from the other direction from East Palo Alto to the south as well. There’s about a half mile of discontinuity on residential streets and (admittedly yucky) University Avenue to connect the San Francisquito path to the Bayfront Trail.

    Google doesn’t quote have carte blanche to do whatever they want WRT the Mountain View city council, though they are influential. Google had to fight some NIMBYism (and God bless the NIMBYs for this) regarding their proposed greenfield development at NASA Ames.

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  9. Peter Smith says:

    @Richard — the ’30 miles’ remark was a rebuttal to the complaint that i did not explicitly mention the SF2G group — really had nothing directly to do w/ trail access.

    the funny part about the Googleplex expansion, imo, is if Google advocated for making the surface streets walk- and bike-friendly, pushing through their expansion plans would be _much_ easier. as it stands now, every existing MV resident knows that ‘expansion==tons more cars’ because there is no other way to get out to the Googleplex for most employees other than motorized transport, and there is no realistic way for most people to get into/out of/around MV. That has to change _even if_ Google does not want to grow in MV.

    Just the amount of car parking in and around the Googleplex is astounding, and importantly, it’s necessary because…so many people need to drive there.

    http://g.co/maps/ryabc

    Pretty typical traffic-inducing suburban development, but it doesn’t have to be. Just need some some cycletracks and a safe way to cross the 101 — on the street — and we’re golden.

    Google is not all-powerful, nor is the MV City Council — but sometimes, as is the case with walking and biking, there are win-win-win-win-win-win situations — this is one of them — we just need to allow people to walk and bike.

    There are vested interests who will battle to keep MV auto-centric, but it’s not written in stone that it has to remain that way. Realistically, we can’t take folks’ cars away from them — we have to give them a true alternative, and _then_ we can talk about hippie-dippy bike utopia. Bike-share is coming — let’s making biking in/around MV/Google possible/safe/pleasant/etc.

    p.s. and that map doesn’t include underground parking.

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