Shift Happens! - A corporate story
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On May 6, 2019, I had the honour of being one of the four speakers in the City Symposium Series - Sustainable Cities and Communities. It was a great experience where I had the opportunity to connect with many like-minded people. My 12-minute presentation sparked a lot of interest, maybe not as much as the presentation from my co-presenters, but while we wait for the official recording of the event, I’d like to share the presentation and the transcribed notes of my talk entitled Shift Happens!

The talk had four stories and I will share one story at a time here with you. Last week, I shared the first story and here is the second one.

A Corporate Story

Speaking of money, some people might say, “All those individual stories about people driving less are great, but it would be bad for business if we had less cars.” Well, let me tell you a personal story about a corporate story.

In 2006, a guy is going to work. He is 1 of 3 employees who bike to work in a company of 900 people. One day he was locking his bike in a dark corner of the underground parking lot when one of his co-workers comes up to him and says, “Good for you”. The next week someone asks, “How do you do that? Bike in the city!?”

That initial interest motivates him to suggest a bike-to-work day in his company. But the company says, “Nope, no bike-to-work day, but maybe you can show a movie about that.” He is disappointed, but it turns out that it was the best thing that could have happened. Many of his co-workers weren’t actually ready to bike.

And the movie was a great way to start a decade long conversation. After the movie, there is a little bit more interest, so they keep organizing events like that to engage more people: Q&A support groups, bike-related art shows, more movies. Then social bike rides, one-on-one mentorship. Slowly, instead of three people, there are 5, then 12, then 50.

Running a bike to work program is a two-way street, both with employees (sharing information and listening to what they needed) and with management (showing the benefits and listening to their concerns). Little by little, they change the corporate culture.  From the CEO to the intern, they all started seeing people who biked to work in a different way. Whether they biked or not. And unintentionally, at least in the beginning, the program employed a psychological model that recognizes that people go through different stages of behaviour change and each stage has its own needs and strategies. Meaning, not everyone is ready to jump on a bicycle, and that is okay. Change means progress, not action.

In 2016 there were over a hundred regular cyclists. In a city where only 2-3% of trips are made by bike, more than 10% of the employees were cycling! This is a huge difference. That year alone, it prevented 20 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, and 6-digit personal savings in parking, gas and bus tickets. And for the company, savings were even higher with increased productivity, talent retention, reduced absenteeism and lower maintenance costs with the parking lot.

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The program won a National Award for Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility. To understand what that award means, some of the competitors were companies like Volvo, Kraft and the Bank of Brazil - big players. The city where the program was implemented is Curitiba, Brazil. Three months later, after winning that prize, that same guy who started the program quit his job and the program and moved to Canada. His name is Luis Patricio. In the following year, the bike-to-work program was presented at the ACT Canada Sustainable Mobility Summit 2017.

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Other examples

Any company that promotes a sustainable commute can benefit. And there are a lot of companies doing that. In the United States, the 2019 list of employers, organized by the Best workplaces for commuters program, receive national recognition for offering exceptional commuter benefits to more than 1 million employees.

Do you want to know an institution that has great potential to make the number of bike commuters skyrocket? Universities! A significant portion of the population they serve have many of the conditions conducive to cycling: many university students are new to the city and significant life events like that motivates new travel behaviour. Young adults tend to have fewer family obligations; somewhat flexible schedules; limited incomes; and are generally fit enough for cycling. I am super excited to see what the Western Active Transportation Society will accomplish in the coming years.

Besides employees and students, customers and businesses can also benefit. Every street that implements a safe cycling infrastructure witnesses a boost in sales.


Next story - A community story

Luis PatricioComment
Shift Happens! - An individual story

On May 6, 2019, I had the honour of being one of the four speakers in the City Symposium Series - Sustainable Cities and Communities. It was a great experience where I had the opportunity to connect with many like-minded people.

 
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My 12-minute presentation sparked a lot of interest, maybe not as much as the presentation from my co-presenters, but while we wait for the official recording of the event, I’d like to share the presentation and the transcribed notes of my talk entitled Shift Happens!

The talk had four stories and I will share one story at a time here with you.

Citizen Story

Kathryn wakes up at 5 a.m. every day. She is super tired, and her 5-year-old daughter is tired too, You see, Kathryn got this great job, it pays really well, she loves what she does, and her co-workers are great. But there’s a catch. It is almost 160km from her home. It’s a 2 hour commute. So they have to leave home extra early and poor Jane - Kathryn’s daughter - is the first to arrive and the last one to leave school every day.

One day, Kathryn got a call from Jane’s school in the middle of the day. Not a good sign. “Your daughter is very sick, she passed out and now she is throwing up.  We already called an ambulance. Is she allergic to anything?”. Kathryn replies with a broken voice “No, not that I know of.” The reply from the school “Ok, you should come to see her as soon as possible.” Rushing to the door Kathryn just says “I’m coming.” Her computer is still on and nobody even knows that she left or where she went. She just left.

But Kathryn and Jane still have  160km between them. And during those 2 hours (well it was more like an hour and a half, and $1,000 in speeding tickets) the commute never felt so long, and she never felt so helpless. She started thinking she wouldn’t see Jane again. When she arrived at the kindergarten, Kathryn was crying so much that Jane got scared and worried. “Are you ok mommy?” Kathryn hugs her tight and says, “Yes baby. Now everything is fine.”

Kathryn quits her job on that same day. She struggles for a while to find another job. Eventually she finds one. It is a good job, although it doesn’t pay as much as the first one. But it’s within walking distance from their house and school, and she now has 4 extra hours every day to spend with her daughter. (based on a story of the book Happy City, Charles Montgomery)

Even though this is a real story - and we all know this situation is pretty believable - some of us might think, “Thank god I don’t have this problem.” However, when we are talking about sustainability, we are trying to design our future based on our current lifestyles. Our choices today bring us closer to the first (long car commutes) or the second scenario (walking to work)? Put it simply: “What moves you?”

Other examples

There are thousands of stories of people like Kathryn, who live in car-centric cities, who have made the intentional choice of not driving a car every day. You can listen to those stories in Podcasts like Family Pedals, read about them in books like Happy City or witness them at events like Bike minds. But you don’t have to go that far. Here in London, we have many of these stories. People who raised their kids without a car. People in their fifties who’ve never had a driver’s licence. Do you know people like that? In my case, I stopped driving because I was just a little lost in a new city and I wanted to save some money, but this is a story for another day.

Late Intro

By the way, my name is Luis Patricio, I’m 41 years old. I have 3 beautiful kids. For more than 15 years I have been using a bike as my main mode of transportation. I haven’t owned a car since 2007, and two years ago I chose to become a Londoner. I wear a few different hats, like many of you here, but tonight I am going to wear my London Cycle Link hat. We want to make cycling a natural choice in every neighbourhood of our forest city, and cycling is a key ingredient for any sustainable city.


Next story: A Community Story

Meet our summer employee Hayden!
Hayden Newman-Robinson, pictured right, is a philosophy student at the University of Guelph who grew up riding bikes with his dad, but really learnt to love cycling in first year of university where it was both the most environmentally conscious and fun way to get around town.  Hayden hopes to become a writer to advocate for a humanist approach to development - both local and global. Cycling happened to fit this drive better than he could have expected and continues to offer exciting possibilities. Going forward, Hayden hopes to bring a love for cycling and passion for the future to writing as well as community and advocacy work.  Hayden has been working with us since late May and will be with us for most of July. Say hi if you run into him at Squeaky Wheel!

Hayden Newman-Robinson, pictured right, is a philosophy student at the University of Guelph who grew up riding bikes with his dad, but really learnt to love cycling in first year of university where it was both the most environmentally conscious and fun way to get around town.

Hayden hopes to become a writer to advocate for a humanist approach to development - both local and global. Cycling happened to fit this drive better than he could have expected and continues to offer exciting possibilities. Going forward, Hayden hopes to bring a love for cycling and passion for the future to writing as well as community and advocacy work.

Hayden has been working with us since late May and will be with us for most of July. Say hi if you run into him at Squeaky Wheel!

Daniel HallComment