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April 15, 2009

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How can you count employee commuting habits into the equation? Because if they were already commuting via bicycle by choice, there's really no offset at all. Commuting has nothing to do with offset unless you provide employees with an incentive to swich from driving to cycling (or unless you require they ride a bike, which I would imagine would be difficult to enforce). Also, in the Part II discussion, you wrote that only employees that bike to work at least 80% of the time will work on the earthday bike. Doesn't that only amount to shifting people around, which would be more logistically and intellectually consumptive than energy-saving?
It's an interesting discussion- I'm just trying to wrap my head around certain reasonings. Thanks.

Crasta: Thanks for reading and thinking about what I’m sharing. You’re bringing up some good questions. I’ll try to be brief in my answers without being too brief.

In fact, Typepad didn't let me post the entire note in one post. So' I'm splitting it into two comments...

We included employee bike commuting as a facet of the project because, for example, we could easily build a complete bike—from design through shipping—by Seven employees that don’t ride to work.

Additionally, not discussing commuting even though most employees do it at Seven seemed akin to not mentioning that the bike is titanium. Having the bike titanium—I argue—is better for the environment. At the same time, we build lots of titanium bikes so we could have not brought that up as a facet of the project.

I agree that not many people at Seven are going through hardship in order to commute by bike. I definitely wasn’t trying to suggest that it was a hardship. But the commute is still very relevant to this specific project. Conversely, prior to this project, we’ve never publicly mentioned that most of Seven’s employees commute by bike—so it’s not a marketing tool.

Final thought about why I think it’s important to include Seven’s bike commuting in this project: I’d wager that 99% of the bike frames sold in the US could not have been built 100% by people that commute by bike. So, even though we do it every day, it’s very unusual.

Crasta: I'm back again.

On the “shifting people around” front, we believed—and it’s proven out through feedback—that riders interested in this bike, and its mission, have a positive connection with the idea that it is built by bike commuters. It would have been a lot less interesting is we said something along the lines of, “…built, in part, by some people that ride, sometimes, but not always…” So, we decided to commit to 100% bike commuting so we could say with 100% certainty that it was true—not a middle ground “sort of” statement.

I could keep rambling on but I think that covers some of your questions.

Crasta, thank you again for thinking about this!

Thanks, Rob. I completely understand the 2nd part now, that people have a connection with an ideal and find that information of value. If customers find that valuable, it would be silly not to offer it if you are able.

But for the offset-edness of employee commuting, I think we just have a fundamental difference of opinion. You're assuming the default is that everyone drives, and anything less consumptive is a credit, or something you can take credit for. With your reasoning, you must also factor in the 25% (or whatever it is, I have no idea) of your employees that do drive a car, which should be considered a deficit. Or, taking it a step further, since walking generates the least environmental impact, cycling should count as a deficit too. It all depends on how you want to work the numbers, and you're definitely working them to your advantage.
I'd agree that 99% of the bike frames couldn't have been built 100% by people who commute...in fact, I'd be surprised if it were half that. I'm not saying employee commuting isn't honorable or valuable. I'm saying that your employees happen to commute. Surely they have all sorts of reasons. It works for them living in a metropolitan area, and perhaps wanting to live an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, or they like the cycling culture which might at its most fundamental core have nothing to do with the environment, or maybe they live a mile or two away and its faster than walking. It just seems a tad exploitative to take your employees commuting habits and transform their reasons into something they're probably not.
How your employees decide to get to work doesn't factor into making your bikes environmentally-friendly at all-the fact that so many of your employees ride bikes is wonderful but incidental, and irrelevant to the company proper's environmentality.
[I might also cheekily add that simply because you never used it as a marketing ploy in the past doesn't mean you aren't doing it now].
Thanks for the discourse. Good stuff!

Being a Seven commuter, I'd like to add that a big reason why so many Seven employees commute is Seven makes it EASY to commute. The following amenities are available to commuters:

1) generous indoor bike parking. Some employees (like me) leave 2-3 bikes here. This space takes up a good 10% off leased space.
2) shower
3) individual cubbies
4) stocked workshop with cables, housing, lube, good tools
5) Devoted time to making wholesale orders of gear, which happens to be mostly the tires, tubes, chains, cassettes, and clothing commuters use.
6) a culture where it's OK to show up sweaty, spandexed, and in cycling shoes

I've worked in bike shops that make commuting super unpleasant, and as a result I'd drive 1/2 the time. And forget about non-bike industry jobs...

Take what you will from my statement, but I think Seven is devoted to bike commuting. The Earth Day bike is a partial embodiment of it, not a result.

ah..see? This is what I was getting at. Surely there are more built-in incentives like this that I hadn't considered. Thanks, Neil.

It is great that people are thinking about the environment and working to make the world a safer place. Not only the materials that you are using on your home are safe for the environment but dump trucks have come a long way since the earlier models. We are learning and expanding and coming up with a wide range of safer more effective vehicles for the work force. I think it is great that many auto manufacturers are turning to hybrid vehicles to protect the environment and now they are even using hybrid dump trucks.

Creativity can do wonders to save a little electricity. On top of that you are machining for the noble cause of bikes which are a very green transporation source.

Great post! It is very informative. Outdoor biking would not just let you save more money but can also be your great daily exercise. However, it is not advisable to go biking during winter. So, it is quite nice to have an exercise bike stand at home.

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