Our Top 3 Businesses of 2015

We’re excited to announce our three Bike Friendly Business Award Winners for 2015. Since we started the awards in 2010, we’ve spoken with hundreds of great models for Bike Friendly Businesses. There are many things that have changed since then, but one thing has not; there will always be some businesses that go the extra mile to encourage more bicyclists within their employees and customer base. Together we are changing the way people travel and building a more bike-friendly East Bay for each other.

People’s Choice Award: Jay Marlette’s Home Inspection
Spirit Award: Rich City Rides
Large Employer Award: Alameda County General Services Agency

Jay Marlette’s Home Inspection - www.houseman.org

Jay Marlette started his “green days” endeavor back in 2007. As a home inspector, that meant trading in a work truck or van with a bike. What does a home inspector do? They’re the ones you call if you’re thinking of buying a house and want to “take a look under the hood.” Inspection gear includes flashlights, moisture meters, infrared cameras, respirators, electrical testers, gas detectors, the list is long. But even having to carry around a 24 foot ladder did not stop Marlette from his commitment to making biking part of his job.

“As a small business owner, I recommend it. It’s a stress reducer, and my business has become more marketable as a result. I’m more competitive in the green sector. And I’m happier.”

He says not all customers love it right off the bat. “Sometimes the first 20 minutes you can tell they’re wondering if they hired a quack or a loon” but most people find his example inspiring. “People have also gone out afterwards and bought an Xtracycle as a result of seeing how much it is possible to carry stuff on a bike,” said Marlette. “Jay rides miles on his bike with his ladder and tools to perform high quality home inspections for real estate buyers. The guy is the real deal,” wrote one his nominators, Patrick Leaper.

Marlette’s personal effort to making his small business bike friendly is a testament to his commitment to being bike-friendly, and hopefully a model that others will learn from.

Rich City Rides - www.richcityrides.org

Rich City Rides is a nonprofit organization founded to address issues of health, local economic development, and marginalization of minority communities in Richmond. The organization was founded in 2012 under the direction of Najari Smith, and its first project was offering Bike Fix-ins in public spaces, helping Richmond residents with broken bikes get rolling again. Last August, Rich City Rides opened a bike shop across the street from the Richmond BART station – currently the only bike shop in the city. It is staffed by local residents and supported by volunteers, who gain hands-on experience in running a small business. “One of our goals is to build employment in our community,” says mechanic Rafael Fernandez. “Lots of people feel good about supporting a Richmond business.”

Photo by Josue Hernandez. 

In addition to operating their Community Shop, Rich City Rides also nurtures bicycle skills with their Earn-A-Bike, Commuter Cyclist, and Bike Clinic programs, which have reached over a thousand participants.  “A lot of residents rely on bikes for transportation and there is also a very strong emerging bike culture in Richmond,” says Alicia Gallo of the nonprofit Richmond Main Street. “Rich City Rides is filling this need and they are doing a great job.”

A community-oriented approach is an integral part of their vision. “RCR’s focus on interdependence, rather than independence, peer to peer mentorship and relationship building sets us apart,” states their website. Rich City Rides “empowers youth to pedal, be healthy, learn to fix bikes and improve their self-esteem, becoming positive representatives of the local community,” wrote Heidi Demello in her nomination. It’s a small organization that does more than just be a part of the community; they are the bicycling community in Richmond.

Alameda County General Services Agency - www.acgov.org/gsa

The Alameda County General Services Agency has had meaningful impact improving adding free and secure bike parking throughout the county and encouraged their own employees to ride by providing a bike room, a maintenance station, and a fleet of bikes for their county. “County agencies are often hidden from the public’s view because they perform a lot of background work” wrote a nominator of the AC GSA, but that doesn’t mean they are not doing great things. Within the Clean Commute program, that work translates to actively improving the commute of over 9,000 county employees across 28 agencies.

In Oakland, the AC GSA took on bike parking in downtown Oakland, and went the extra mile. On Jackson in between 12th and 13th street in Oakland lies an iconic parking lot, “nine circular levels of midcentury bombast” (as described by Spur in an Urban Field Notes blog), named AlcoPark.

It may surprise some to hear that nestled off to the side of this car-centric construction is what local county employees call “AlcoBike” - a safe and secure bike parking room equipped with a fix-it station, lockers, and a fleet of employee bikes. Inaugurated just in time for Bike to Work Day 2014, the bike room is now getting good use and encouraging more county employees to ride their bikes to work and to meetings around town. It’s a model for others in its attention to design and focus on providing an attractive, useful and welcoming room for bike commuters. Erica Tan, a Sustainable Transportation Associate, was hired to the AC GSA through Climate Corps. “I bike to work every day, and can bring my bike into the office,” said Tan. “If that is not an option at one of the other campuses, we look for creative solution to allow for secure bike parking.”

Past Awards

Take a look at the Bike East Bay’s past Bike-Friendly Business Award winners, including Jamba Juice, Actual Cafe, and Sungevity.

Make your business Bike-Friendly!

More and more businesses are realizing that bicycling directly benefits their bottom line:

  • Employers benefit from employees showing up to work energized and productive;
  • Retail businesses benefit because customers who bicycle shop more often and always find a place to lock their bikes nearby;
  • And companies benefit because the growing workforce of younger workers are choosing to get around by bike and companies know this and seek locations where their staff have easy access to bike lanes and public transit.

Want to know more about bike-friendly businesses, and how to become one? Start here.