Cycling infrastructure

Community Profile: Silicon Valley

On a recent trip to the San Francisco Bay area, we were able to take a look at the flourishing bike scene that is present in Silicon Valley. There we saw how industry leaders are using bicycle facilities to attract employees and encourage bike commuting.

LinkedIn's campus bikes docked onto a Saris stadium bike rack outside their offices in Sunnyvale
LinkedIn's campus bikes docked onto a Saris Stadium Bike Rack outside their offices in Sunnyvale.

California's Silicon Valley has long been the heart of innovation in the tech industry both in the United States and abroad. In order to attract and retain top tier talent, leading companies like Google and Facebook have made news with their offerings of company perks.

Employees enjoy theme park-esque offices filled with nap-pods, masseuses, free meals and a bevy of other benefits. However, as cycling's popularity continues to grow, these companies are finding that offering first-rate bike facilities has become a top priority in their employee offerings. Bike rooms, repair service and campus bike share programs are now commonplace.

An array of Saris Bike Tracs mounted at the bus commuter pick up at Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters.
An array of Saris Bike Tracs mounted at the bus commuter pick up at Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters.

Many of these companies go beyond their campuses to support cycling by backing local advocacy groups. We had the opportunity to attend the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition's annual dinner which was sponsored by a number of the area's leading companies and included a Q&A with one of the cycling world's great characters, Jens Voigt.

The presenters bolstered support for a number of issues including campaign for Measure B which would increase the funding for bicycle infrastructure programs in Santa Clara County.Efforts like these allow companies to improve cycling beyond their own facilities and allow their employees to safely and comfortably commute.

Well-marked bike lanes on Facebook's new campus compliment their support for increased bike infrastructure across Silicon Valley
Well-marked bike lanes on Facebook's new campus compliment their support for increased bike infrastructure across Silicon Valley.

One of the cycling world's favorite characters, Jens Voigt, engages the crowd after speaking at the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition's annual dinner
One of the cycling world's favorite characters, Jens Voigt, engages the crowd after speaking at the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition's annual dinner.

We spoke with Anna Walters at Bikes Make Life Better, a company that helps businesses like Facebook and LinkedIn institute bicycle programs for the benefit of their employees. She was able to give us a better idea of how the bike culture here is evolving and what companies are doing to support cycling for their employees.

What changes have you seen regarding bike commuting in Silicon Valley in the last 5 years?

There are more people riding to work now than ever before, and employers are eager to support their current bike commuters and encourage others to ditch their cars. This means that architectural and space planning firms are thinking about how to cater to the future influx of bikers when building out new spaces for their tenants and employees.

What cycling amenities are leading companies now providing for their employees?

Forward-thinking companies are building high end "bike facilities," often referred to as "End of Trip Facilities." These are beautifully designed and carefully curated spaces inside buildings that offer racks or other secure bike parking, showers, lockers, and sometimes other nice-to-haves, like towel service or complimentary shower items.

Some Silicon Valley employers are so dedicated to sustaining a bike culture, that they've built campus bike shops. Others offer loaner bicycles to employees for commuting.

A secured and video monitored bike parking and storage area at Facebook's new campus allows employees peace of mind while storing their bicycles during the workday
A secured and video monitored bike parking and storage area at Facebook's new campus allows employees peace of mind while storing their bicycles during the workday.

Why are bike facilities important to Silicon Valley businesses?

Heavy Bay Area traffic, a lack of parking near work, and limits on the number cars coming into company lots per day has employers looking for new ways to get people to work. As a result, bike facilities are starting to become a standard workplace feature in Silicon Valley. Top notch bike facilities and amenities have the added bonus of helping companies attract talented employees. Everything counts in the hyper-competitive Silicon Valley market, and offering secure bike parking, a hassle-free place to store gear, and access to showers can often make or break whether a candidate accepts a job offer. We also know that engineers are more likely to be bike commuters, so it makes sense that Silicon Valley tech companies would be investing more in bike resources for their employees.

Bike racks on the private commuter shuttles provided by tech companies are a common sight across Silicon Valley
Bike racks on the private commuter shuttles provided by tech companies are a common sight across Silicon Valley.

Are there any new or emerging trends that have you excited about cycling in the valley?

We've begun to see more and more e-bikes both on the Peninsula trails and in bike rooms. This is exciting because we now have a brand new crop of cyclists! Those that would have never considered saddling up before—due to long-distance commutes or hilly terrain—are now buying e-bikes and joining the biker ranks. Employers are now thinking about how to best support this new type of commuter, for instance by building bike rooms with conveniently-placed outlets and ensuring racks can accommodate some the heavier e-bike models.

A Google employee pedals between buildings at their Mountain View campus
A Google employee pedals between buildings at their Mountain View campus.