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Seattle’s top bike commuting workplaces are all within 5 blocks of a protected bike lane or trail

New analysis from Commute Seattle found that the city’s large workplaces (100+ employees) with the highest bike commute rates all are within five blocks of a protected bike lane or trail and offer secure bike parking.

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Even more telling: The top seven workplaces were all within one block of a trail or protected bike lane. And the gap between these workplaces and the citywide bike commute average is astounding.

The Allen Institute tops the list with more than one in five employees biking to work. If every Seattle workplace had a bike commute rate as high as the Allen Institute, there would be 117,000 people biking to work every day in our city.

This in not pie-in-the-sky dreaming here. These are actual major employers getting huge bike commute rates today. And the path to building on these successes is clear: Build more safe and connected bike routes between more homes and workplaces.

And we should start by building the downtown Basic Bike Network now. The top seven workplaces are all on or connected to the Fremont Bridge and Burke-Gilman Trail. Several of them are even at the north end of South Lake Union, which is served well by Dexter and Westlake. But the lack of safe connections from the south end of Lake Union into downtown is holding back all the other center city workplaces.

There is a lot of pent-up demand waiting for a good bike lane network. With center city traffic only getting worse, a bike network is the fastest and cheapest way to provide people with another option for getting around. It’s also the fastest way to get major results.

The two outliers in the top 15 (K2 Corporation and Cascade Designs) are located deep in Sodo without many high quality bike route options, making their bike commute rates pretty remarkable. So a tip of my hat to their employees.

Commute Seattle released the latest analysis ahead of their annual Bikes & Bagels event scheduled for tomorrow (as advertised on Seattle Bike Blog). The organization will host two locations between 7 and 9 a.m. in Lake Union Park and Occidental Square. Bike by, get a free bagel, coffee and swag, and talk about how we can get more people biking to more workplaces in our city.

Here’s the press release from Commute Seattle:

In a city with wet weather, steep hills, and dark winters, perhaps it isn’t surprising that most people choose not to ride their bicycles to work. According to a Commute Seattle analysis of 2016 Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) data, three percent of a typical large company’s employees ride their bikes to work.

But some Seattle employers are achieving a bike to work rate more than triple that number, and a handful are seeing more than five times the typical bike rate. Based upon a Commute Seattle review of available data, all of the Top 15 bike-to-work sites share two common characteristics:

  1. All top workplaces are in very close proximity to safe bike paths that are separated from traffic. Eight of the top ten are within a block of such a facility. All of the top fifteen are within ⅓ of a mile.
  2. All top workplaces invest in low-cost on-site amenities and policies that make biking to work easy.

According to Commute Seattle Executive Director Jonathan Hopkins, this impact is striking. “These employers have invested in transportation freedom for their employees. As a result, their employees will be happier, healthier and more productive. They will also save money, the environment, and congestion on our roads. If all downtown companies performed as well as Seattle’s #1 Bike to Work company, we could take 50,000 cars off downtown Seattle streets. That would cut downtown car commutes by more than half!”

What is the #1 Bike to Work Company in Seattle?

The Allen Institute leads large Seattle workplaces with 21.3 percent of commute trips made by bicycle. Allen Institute is immediately adjacent to safe bike infrastructure, namely the award-winning Westlake cycle track that delivers thousands of riders into downtown Seattle. When the South Lake Union-based bioscience company planned its move from Fremont to its new building on Mercer Street in 2015, it ensured its new facility included secure bike storage, as well as lockers and showers for bike commuters. The company also has a Bike Committee that helps plan and coordinate bike commute events and promotions. According to Trygve Bakken, an Allen Institute scientist and Bike Committee co-chair, they will even help employees map out their bike commutes, showing the ideal route and which streets to avoid.  New employees are also given an orientation that includes a tour of the bike facilities.

Details on other Top Performers

Comcast Technology Solutions, a local online video subsidiary of Comcast, is located right on the 2nd Avenue Protected Bike Lane in downtown Seattle. The company allows its bike commuters to keep their bikes by their desks or on hanging bike racks located in hallways, and also provides showers and towel service for its employees. This has led to a bike rate of over 10 percent, or more than three times the city average. “Having leaders in our company as active bike commuters also helps employees feel comfortable coming in on a bike – even when the weather is miserable,” said bike commuter Brian Hanson, Executive Director of IT.  “It promotes a healthy environment, community, and company culture, and tends to draw in quite a diverse employee base.  I think it is a key to our company’s continued success in our Seattle outpost.”

For Tableau, whose Fremont campus is located along the Burke Gilman Trail, active commuting is a way of life for many employees.  On site amenities include secure, indoor bike storage, showers with towel service, lockers for bike commuters, and an indoor bike repair station. “The bike room is full most days,” says Workplace Specialist Andrea Watanabe. “Employees really like being able to roll right in, lock up their bike, and quickly shower and change for work.”

Seattle Children’s, with its main campus across the street from the Burke Gilman Trail, offers one of the city’s more innovative employee bike benefit packages. First, the company provides a daily commute bonus, which can total $1,000 per year, for not driving alone to work. Further, any employee who commits to riding a bike to work at least twice each week can receive a company-provided bicycle and necessary gear, including helmet, lights, and lock. Seattle Children’s also has a full-service bike shop on its main campus, providing free tune-ups to employees.

Joanne Simpson, a veteran Seattle Children’s employee who has been bike commuting for over 10 years, said that these investments and policies “helped get me riding and have helped me continue riding even through the winter months.” But mostly, she feels it’s important for Children’s employees not to drive to work so that the hospital can grow to serve more patients without needing to add more employee parking. More than 1,100 Children’s employees bike to work across its multiple locations. Its worksite with the highest share of bike riders is the Jack McDonald Building, located roughly five blocks from the Dexter Bike Lane in the Denny Triangle area.

Commute Seattle recognizes top bike to work companies for making investments in employee benefits and on-site amenities, and encourages local government and neighborhood groups to continue building a citywide network of safe bike lanes. With public and private sectors working together, Seattle can increase the number of bike commuters at low cost and help relieve pressure on our congested roadways.  

Commute Seattle is commissioned by the City of Seattle and King County Metro to help companies institute commuter-friendly policies, often at no cost to the company. Those interested in learning more can visit www.commuteseattle.com/go.

Bikes and Bagels Celebration Friday, May 12th

Celebrate biking at Commute Seattle’s Bikes and Bagels celebration Friday, May 12th from 7:00 – 9:00 a.m.  Free bagels and coffee are provided, visitors can enter to win raffle prizes and pick up bike related giveaways. Two locations: South Lake Union Park at the Westlake cycle track, and Occidental Square at S. Jackson Street.

At the South Lake Union location, representatives from several top bike commute companies will be available to speak with the press.

About Commute Seattle

Commute Seattle is a not-for-profit Transportation Management Association. Our mission is to foster mobility partnerships and services to keep Seattle moving and thriving for all. For more information about Commute Seattle, visit www.commuteseattle.com/go

UPDATE: Commute Seattle also put together this video:

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18 responses to “Seattle’s top bike commuting workplaces are all within 5 blocks of a protected bike lane or trail”

  1. Fish

    I work at #5 Brooks running. This is great news. Another thing worth mentioning is that in addition to offering incentives to bike to work, my office/neighborhood makes it very difficult to drive there. The on-site garage is very expensive and Wallingford is nearly all zoned/short term parking. Building safe, convenient bike routes is certainly objective #1 but offices also need incentivize biking/disincentivize driving at the same time. Our city as a whole could learn from this concept.

  2. Dave

    Apparently scientists bike a lot

  3. Ballard Biker

    I’d love to see a column that showed average income.

    1. Alistair Spence

      Indeed, that would be interesting.

  4. The two just south of the Spokane Street viaduct are interesting. They are just a few blocks from the popular bike-commuting corridor connecting downtown and West Seattle, but being in the middle of the industrial district means few employees have the kind of truly short commutes that are easiest to make on bike. It would be interesting to see where people ride in from.

    1. Fish

      It’s because they are both outdoor companies…they tend to attract employees that are also athletic, which tends to involve biking.

    2. JTinWS

      I would guess a lot of them are coming from West Seattle, but hard to say for sure! Sodo is a strange mixed bag for biking. Big plus throughout it: it’s flat! And a lot of streets are wide with sporadic parking on the “shoulder” so there’s a lot of asphalt real estate to explore into, and sidewalks are an OK fallback since you can see the few pedestrians using them from far away. Downsides: heavy truck traffic, often doing dangerous (though perfectly natural in an industrial zone) maneuvers like loading, backing in, parking in strange places, etc. And the asphalt is in pretty terrible shape, so you have to watch it constantly (silver lining is that this slows and deters many speeding drivers).

      K2’s location on 6th seems pretty uniquely hard to get to in Sodo though. Sixth’s curving path south from Spokane is pretty narrow in parts. Maybe high-speed riders feel cool taking the lane there. I’ve never tried that section myself. Maybe they go down 4th and then southeast on that diagonal way over to 6th, which is pretty slow.

      1. I ride that part of 6th every now and then, but not during rush hour. I’d much rather ride 6th south of Spokane Street than 1st or 4th. The through-traffic is off on roads that cross the railyard, so the feel is more like a local street with big rigs, where 1st, 4th, and Airport Way are more like highways. They may be making unusual parking maneuvers, but they’re doing so slowly, and it slows down the rest of traffic.

        This characteristic, of course, makes it hard to figure how you’d improve 6th for cycling. Any sort of bike facility would be regularly blocked by trucks’ parking maneuvers, which regularly take place on the street. On 1st, 4th, or Airport Way the more complicated truck maneuvers occur off-street; what happens in the road ROW is faster and more regular. For that reason, I think 6th is a better bike route today, but it’s reasonable to prefer other streets for future improvements.

  5. JTinWS

    I’m surprised UW did not make the list. I wonder if UW counts grad student employees (who do a huge share of teaching) in their tally? Although if they did it might bring their bike rate down. This study from 2015 shows that biking accounted for 12.5% of faculty trips to campus: https://www.washington.edu/facilities/transportation/files/reports/transportation-survey-report-2015-v2.pdf.

    Faculty biked and drove much more than other groups, while taking transit drastically less. It’s really disappointing to see only about 1/4 of UW faculty take transit, while 1/2 drive in. I wonder how much that would rise if they reduced the cost of U-Pass.

    The biking faculty/student gap is interesting (12.5 vs 4.9%). It could be that out of the faculty and students who are too far to walk, it’s disproportionately faculty who can afford to live along the Burke Gilman Trail?

    As for staff, they seem to live further from campus, over 10 miles on average vs. 7 for faculty, which helps explain their lower bike commute rate.

    1. Dave

      Wonder if the numbers have changed with light rail.

    2. Kevin

      Kevin from Commute Seattle here. UW deserves a ton of credit for their work to promote biking, for sure. Most recent CTR data we have shows UW as generating the largest number of commute bike trips in the city (they are the largest employer) but the modesplit is 8.12% for bikes–really high for a large employer but not quite high enough to make our top 15 list. The 12.5% figure in the survey you linked to is just for faculty; the all employee figure is 9.3%. Looks as though these figures capture commutes at all times of the day. CTR data is limited to peak commute hours.

  6. Adam

    K2 employee here. Is this last year’s data? K2’s office moved to downtown Seattle late last May. Anyway, I commuted from W. Seattle to SODO and Downtown without issue. I did avaoide 4th and 1st as much as possible when we were in SODO however.

  7. […] Biketown: Commute Seattle has released a survey showing Seattle’s most bikey companies. […]

  8. […] The basic bike network idea is pretty simple: get it done, fast, and cheaply. Connect the parts of the bike network that are already done or that are planned, by simply taking away the street space now. Concrete and permanent facilities can come later. Advocates rightly argue that bike commute rates will continue to stagnate at around 3% unless there’s a connected network for users to use, and the data backs that up. […]

  9. TOM

    I live Brooklyn and have never been to Seattle but even I can see through your phony baloney presentation here. First, most of your top work sites are 1-3 blocks from a bike lane. No, all your top work sites are at the water front–the coast–on flat terrain–and the bike lane can’t be anywhere else but out front or in the drink. All those work sites are right on the water. Nice spots to work; however, adjusting for the obvious educational(students and new grads) work sites you really have little to show. How long is the average daily commute? The sites all have covered bike storage–nice. No sites without in your study or they just didn’t fit your preconceived narrative?

  10. Michael

    Where was Amazon in the report or not included? They provide good bike infrastructure but workforce is huge. Curious if there is any numbers on people who walk too.

  11. […] reported this month by the Seattle Bike Blog and Seattle Times, the top seven workplaces on this list ? that is, all the ones with biking rates […]

  12. […] reported this month by the Seattle Bike Blog and Seattle Times, the top seven workplaces on this list — that is, all the ones with biking […]

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