Bike Commute Challenge participants toast 1.2 million miles ridden in September

railing

People wait for awards to
be presented to workplaces with
the most dedicated bike commuters.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Well over a hundred biking fans packed City Hall’s courtyard with their vehicles and stepped inside for beer and pizza Thursday night to celebrate the end of the annual Bike Commute Challenge.

The event run by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance drew 10,350 participants this year from 1,190 workplaces in a friendly competition that saw the most dedicated commuters logging more than 1,000 miles during September. In all, participants logged 1,212,271 miles of bike commuting this year.

“At the same time as you saved money on gas, you saved our communities money on road maintenance,” BTA Deputy Director Steph Noll said.

Here are the winners of the month-long event:

Businesses and nonprofits, 1 employee:
all at 100 percent bike commuting for the month

    – Boont Rocks!
    – Diablo
    – Axoplasm
    – Dr. Jeffrey D. Sher
    – Oregon Walks
    – The People’s Accountant
    – WS-PS
    – P-Town Design
    – Jeffrey Trull

Businesses and nonprofits, 2-4 employees:

    – Pedal PT, 100%

Businesses and nonprofits, 5-24 employees:

    – Cast Iron Coding, 100%

Businesses and nonprofits, 25-99 employees:

    – Alta Planning + Design, 78%

Businesses and nonprofits, 100-499 employees:

    – Quantum Spacial, 54%

Businesses and nonprofits, 500+ employees:

    – Reed College, 10%

Public agencies, 1-24 employees:

    – OHSU Pharmacy, 77%

Public agencies, 25-99 employees:

    – Multnomah County Lincoln Building, 42%

Public agencies, 100-499 employees:

    – City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, 33%

Public agencies, 500+ employees:

    – Portland State Office Building, 11%

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Bike shops, 1-8 employees:

    – Sugar Wheel Works, 97%

Bike shops, 9-15 employees:

    – Bike Gallery downtown, 90%

Bike shops, 16+ employees:

    – Citybikes, 43%

Team with most new riders:

    – Nike, 49 new riders

Team with most mileage:

    – Daimler Trucks North America, 27,108 miles
overhead

Three stories of bike fans looked down on the award presentation.

Individual with the most miles:

    – Kyle Carlson, Daimler Trucks North America, 1,144 miles (that’s 52 per weekday)

The BTA also honored Will Cortez of Vernier Software and Technology with its “Brad Buchanan Team Captain of the Year Award.”

In preparation for the party, the BTA needed to haul in six kegs of beer from Hopworks Urban Brewery. BTA volunteer Joel Finkelstein coordinated a team of volunteers to bring it in by cargo bike and trailer — and, in the case of Northwest Skate Coalition founder Cory Poole, one longboard cargo trailer:

beer team

The party’s six kegs were delivered by bike (of course).
(Photo: Sarah Newsum/Bicycle Transportation Alliance)

But one less happy trend showed up in the night’s numbers that’s worth noting: like so many things in the world of Portland biking, the Bike Commute Challenge has stopped growing. In fact, the number of participants is down 14 percent from its 2011 peak, the number of workplaces down 18 percent.

bcc participants

bcc workplaces

Noll said the same factors that have caused a “plateau” in city bike counts were leading to a plateau in BCC participation and that “investment in bike infrastructure and programs” would be needed to increase BCC participation.

“That’s beyond the ability of this program to change,” she said.

Another factor, Noll said, could be the BTA’s donation solicitation when people sign up for the challenge, which requires people to either contribute to the BTA or enter “$0” in the “other amount” box in order to participate. That was added in 2012 after the state eliminated transportation programs from the Business Energy Tax Credit. Noll said participants use that opportunity to contribute thousands of dollars each year that are needed to make the challenge possible in its current form.

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9watts
9watts
7 years ago

1,144 miles, eh? Very inspiring. Might we get a report on that feat?

Eric
Eric
7 years ago
Reply to  9watts

I work with Kyle. Dedicated is the only word. He kicked some serious butt.

Mossby Pomegranate
Mossby Pomegranate
7 years ago
Reply to  Eric

I think some of these guys ride electric bikes don’t they?

John Lascurettes
7 years ago

As a team captain, every year, I send an email asking for some PDF or digitally ready pages to print out and promote the BCC postering our bike locker and shower rooms – every year it is answered by silence. Nor is it ever provided on the BCC website the following year. We always have to piece together the media ourselves on top of our already busy schedules. This year we put together handlebar tags that we put on every bike in the bike locker encouraging people to sign up. * side note: we now see definitively which bikes are the neglected steeds that seem to be using the locker for pure stowage.

Give the team captains the tools they need to help promote the Challenge from within their own companies. It would be minimal effort for the organizers to put together media that would make the captains’ jobs easier.

At my company my co-captain rallied me and we went to HR to get some extra prize incentives offered to the top riders and also one for the top new rider. That garnered a lot of excitement and got some of the daily commuters that weren’t logging miles to do so. Still, that was going way above and beyond what I’d expect a team captain to do.

All that said, our participation matched the downward stats in the article. We have many more employees than we did last year and our ride rate went down slightly. And even with fewer riders we had more total rides and miles in 2013 than we did in 2014.

Matt M.
Matt M.
7 years ago

I couldn’t agree more. Pretty disappointed.

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger
7 years ago

Assuming that the last decade trend lines had continued (with more local bike infra investment and energy etc.) BTA might have seen:
– 15,000 participants (vs 10,350), and
– 1,700 participating employers (vs 1,190)…

rainbike
rainbike
7 years ago

I was much more excited about participating in the BCC when I was transitioning from bus to occasional-bike to everyday-bike commutes. Now that I’m solidly in the everyday column, the BCC lost its power as a motivator and the competitive aspect doesn’t do much for me. I didn’t join a team or log any rides this year. I just rode every day.

F.W. de Klerk
F.W. de Klerk
7 years ago

Are these really “commute” miles or are people just throwing any and all ride mileage on their logs? They seem awfully high in some cases for a bike commute.

Mike Untz
Mike Untz
7 years ago
Reply to  F.W. de Klerk

I feel the same way: http://bikecommutechallenge.com/profile/213/

“I’m a Category 2 Track Racer that due to having a house and 2 kids don’t get to train any other time then during my morning commute.”

This is a *commute* challenge, not a training challenge.

John Lascurettes
7 years ago
Reply to  Mike Untz

Nobody said the line between home and work had to be straight.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
7 years ago

Heh. It is if I drive. If I had a bunch of extra time on my hands, I might like to extend my commute route, but I usually just stick to the extra two miles staying off the freeway adds.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
7 years ago

On that same note of car vs. bike routes, it would be interesting to collect data on the difference between routes that people would drive rather than ride. I know in my case, I must ride an extra two miles on the way in, and three on the way out, for a total of 5 extra miles a day over driving. So I’m not “saving” anything like gas or CO2 emissions for those extra 5 miles, since I wouldn’t have driven them in the first place. I’d like to see how much more could be “saved” if bike routes were as convenient and direct (or more so) than motor routes. When we talk about CO2 emissions saved in the context of the BCC, is there just an assumption that as many folks’ bike routes will be shorter as longer?

Mark Allyn
7 years ago
Reply to  F.W. de Klerk

I am logging my commute miles; I ride from SE Portland to Intel at Jones Farm in Hillsboro. I estimate it’s a 44 mile round trip on average. I have three possible routes; going up burnside and skyline to cornell; going through washington park and catching the sr 26 trail and finally going up vista and crossing council crest and joining the 26 trail.

People at work ask if I pad the miles because of the 1000 foot hill that I have to climb over in both directions. I don’t. I use actual mileage.

To me, numbers on a paper do not mean anything. What is important to me is my waistline and my overall health.

kvothe
kvothe
7 years ago

The register for the first timer is confusing. It asks how many miles you commute. Many people naturally put in the total miles instead of bike to commute miles.

Wcor7ez
Wcor7ez
7 years ago

It really feels like some of you are just here to diminish the accomplishments of other cyclists. Can’t you be happy people are riding their bikes?

Honestly, every comment on here should have been congratulatory. If you had a grievance with the BTA, then tell them.

Sho
Sho
7 years ago

I wish they would change the awards ceremony location as the acoustics and circulation in the city hall are horrible, was much better near the moda center a couple years ago. Overall though the month went well and we actually got our company numbers up from last year, sadly getting people to register/log is the biggest hurdle.

Mossby Pomegranate
Mossby Pomegranate
7 years ago

Damn those are some crazy miles. People gotta be throwing in a few here and there.

gumby
gumby
7 years ago

The BCC is not really for the people who are already daily bike commuters, it’s for the occasional rider or the people who have thought about it, but haven’t pulled the trigger.

F.W. de Klerk
F.W. de Klerk
7 years ago
Reply to  gumby

I imagine 1100 mile months look kinda intimidating to new riders.

John Landolfe
7 years ago

Perhaps we’ve reached Peak Trip Log. The increasing ubiquity of online trip log applications is probably causing some people to taper off.

My team OHSU All Stars logged as many miles as Daimler (photo finish, people) and OHSU logged some 40,000 total miles. But even then, that accounts for less than a quarter of the total miles logged by OHSU riders in September (#humblebrag). In theory, a rider could log on both sites at no personal cost except a few minutes a month. But psychologically, BCC competes directly with our internal trip log application–which is tied directly to cash incentive.

In addition to, ya know, getting more people on bikes in Portland, the way to move these numbers in a way that more truly captures the number of people commuting in Portland by bike is by diversifying the way these numbers are captured.

Data sharing from internal employer trip logging applications and electronic tags on bikes linked to monitoring sensors (RFID and/or smartphone tech) would provide a huge boost. We chat about this every year. Unfortunately, I’m no programming wizard and Bike Commute Challenge already accomplishes a remarkable amount of scope for relying on a very slim staff, volunteers and interns.

John Landolfe
7 years ago

Well now I’m just spit balling off nothing but my gut, but I’d guess that the novelty wears off if you’re not actually claiming a title, winning a prize, etc.

I may have to revise my theory on trip log fatigue too, however. Now that BTA has sent over all team results for OHSU, we’re actually at 49,109 miles total–so we’ve had a significant gain in ridership every year for 5 years.

I’m not sure the workplaces count is really possible to unpack. When you scan the team names, you start to realize that “workplace,” “team,” and “organization” are open wide to interpretation. At some point, we had 40+ OHSU “teams” that were counted as workplaces 3 years ago. Now it’s all one organization. I don’t know if that’s being accounted for or not in the numbers.

This is why I’m preoccupied with miles. It is the only measurement we all agree on. Also, it makes OHSU look good 😉

Fourknees
Fourknees
7 years ago

1100 miles isn’t far fetched. My round trip between Beaverton and downtown is 25 miles. If I had a 100% rate I would end up about 525miles. I made it just over 200 for the month. There will always be super commuters. Some people drive 4 hrs each way in their car. 1000+ miles is impressive regardless. Looking forward to reading the “ride a long” post.

Tresa
Tresa
7 years ago

This is sooo great!

Congratulations to the BTA for outstanding promotion and organization of this year’s challenge and to all the bike commuters who participated this year, new and old.

Julia
Julia
7 years ago

A disincentive for my workplace this year (and maybe in year’s past as well, but I was more aware this year as team captain), is that the 1st week of the challenge coincided with back to school. A big noticeable difference in road traffic, and more importantly, an increase in frenzied, hurried, unsafe driving behaviors. As a long time biker, it even made me uncomfortable, especially in the areas near our workplace. To try and buoy participation, especially with new bike commuters, it pretty much was the worst week of the year from my perspective to kick off the Challenge…..