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Street party caps Bike Commute Challenge, BTA says event will move to May

Posted by on October 8th, 2015 at 11:15 am

bcc awards drawing

Eagerly awaiting awards for the most dedicated bike commuters.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

More than 200 people came to the parking lot of Portland Design Works Wednesday to celebrate the 2015 Bike Commute Challenge — which may also be the last one to be held in September.

In 2016, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance announced, the BTA will move its annual friendly competition to May to coincide with National Bike Month.

“This year’s Challenge included more than 1,300 riders who identified as new bike commuters.”
— Steph Noll, BTA Deputy Director

“This year’s Challenge included more than 1,300 riders who identified as new bike commuters,” BTA Deputy Director Steph Noll said in an email Thursday. “By moving the Challenge to May, these new riders will have months of warmer, drier weather ahead of them to build the bike commuting habit and maybe even make the choice to invest in some rain gear and fenders to continue to have an enjoyable bike commute through the rainy season. We’re also hoping that with the attention on May as National Bike Month, the message of the Challenge will be further amplified through other channels beyond what we can reach with our very limited marketing budget.”

This year’s event drew 10,772 participants from 1,152 workplaces, including 3,954 first-time BCC participants. In all, participants logged 1,247,886 miles of bike commuting.

Below are a few more photos from the event followed by a list of the winners:

serabcc

The team from SERA Architects was 1st in the 100-499 employee category.
(Photo: SERA Architects)
bcc-daimler

bcc-ohsu-mostwomenriders

The team from OHSU had the most women riders with 90 (out of 297 total riders).
bcc-pedalpt

Team Pedal PT had another 100% bike trip month.
Daimler

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

    – Airlineinfo
    – Axoplasm
    – Bikes4Peace
    – Boont rocks!
    – Dr. Jeffrey D. Sher
    – ESC Sports
    – Evolv Fitness
    – Kohles Bioengineering
    – P-Town Prints + Designs
    – Whelton Architecture

Businesses and nonprofits, 2-4 employees:

    – Pedal PT, 100%

Businesses and nonprofits, 5-24 employees:

    – Cast Iron Coding, 89%

Businesses and nonprofits, 25-99 employees:

    – Community Cycling Center, 90%

Businesses and nonprofits, 100-499 employees:

    – SERA Architects, 64%

Businesses and nonprofits, 500+ employees:

    – Reed College, 10%

Public agencies, 1-24 employees:

    – East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, 44%

Public agencies, 25-99 employees:

    – Environmental Protection Agency Region 10, 40%

Public agencies, 100-499 employees:

    – City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, 35%

Public agencies, 500+ employees:

    – Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, 12%

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Bike shops, 1-8 employees:

    – Islabikes , 100%

Bike shops, 9-15 employees:

    – Bike Gallery downtown, 97%

Bike shops, 16+ employees:

    – Citybikes, 44%

Team with most new riders:

    – Nike, 69 new riders

Team with most mileage:

    – Daimler Trucks North America, 28,293.9 miles

New female rider with the most miles:

    – Kelly Boag, Portland General Electric, 371 miles

New male rider with the most miles:

    – Bill Blackwell, Leatherman Tool Group, 520 miles

Female rider with the most miles:

    – Colette Marthaller, Daimler Trucks North America, 682 miles (that’s 31 per weekday)

Male rider with the most miles:

    – Dave Weber, Northwest Natural, 1,644 miles (that’s 75 per weekday)

The BTA also honored Jordan Folk of Research Into Action, Inc., with its “Brad Buchanan Team Captain of the Year Award.”

The switch to May will be a significant change to next year’s challenge. In the Portland area, May tends to have about twice as many rainy days as September (13.6 compared to 6.7) and its average nightly lows are a few degrees cooler (48 degrees compared to 53).

However, as Noll points out, new riders activated by the challenge each May will be headed into a few months of dry weather rather than a few months of rainy weather. Hopefully that’ll make the challenge even better at getting more people used to bike commuting.

Some sort of change to the challenge seems to be needed. This year was the fourth in a row to see declining BCC participation among Portland-area workplaces; it’s down 20 percent since 2011. However, 2015 saw an uptick in the number of riders logging at least one trip in the challenge. That’s the first increase since 2011.

bcc workplaces

bcc participants

As we wrote when it launched, the Bike Commute Challenge is not only a great Portland tradition, it’s part of a scientifically proven strategy for getting people to start thinking seriously about bikes. Two weeks ago, I had a beer with a former co-worker who was lured into a bike commute for the first time in many years thanks to this year’s BCC. Though he’s worked in downtown Portland for five years now, he spoke with awe about how easy and intuitive it was to follow the growing river of bike commuters across the Interstate Bridge, down Interstate Avenue and across the Steel Bridge.

“Portland has hit this critical mass where it’s really possible,” he said.

Yep. Here’s to continuing to spread that message.

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19 Comments
  • Avatar
    canuck October 8, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    May makes better sense. People new to bike commuting get enticed to start at the beginning of the summer season with better weather. Easier to continue to commute by bike through the summer and get more comfortable with doing so. The odds of them becoming year round bike commuters is probably better when they have 5 months under their belts and see the benefits well before the weather becomes a factor. Add to that the longer day light hours over summer allowing for travel to and from work without the need for lights. New comers starting in September can be turned off to the prospect of commuting when 5 weeks into it they start to have to deal with the weather and the prospect of riding in the dark.

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      Chris I October 8, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      We’ve always held a more informal commute challenge during May for businesses and organizations out here in Gresham. It’s a great way to start the fair-weather season.

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    • Adam Herstein
      Adam Herstein October 8, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      Agreed; the beginning of summer is the best time to get new people riding to work. Once they get a few months of dry weather riding under their belts, maybe they’ll realize that riding in the rain isn’t so bad after all.

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        Jeff J. October 8, 2015 at 3:52 pm

        And September includes the first week of school. Tough for someone with kids to get started biking while at the same time dealing with the transition out of summer vacation. And anecdotally, that’s the week I see more distracted, aggro, and otherwise just flat dangerous driving than any other (again, I attribute to the schedule transition.) In May, everyone’s in a groove.

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    Steve October 8, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Color me dubious, I agree that any new riders will be more likely to stick with it, I worry that if we get typical May weather, there just won’t be many new riders. I can definitely appreciate the need to shake things up a bit though.

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    Pedal PT October 8, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    We had a great time at the event- I really like the outdoor street-party style this year- Much improved from years past in the packed, hot, tight space at City Hall. Huge thanks BTA and Portland Design Works! . . Looking forwards to doing it again come May!

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  • Adam Herstein
    Adam Herstein October 8, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Stop calling it a challenge. That word conjures up images of Tour de France roadies pushing themselves to the limit, not everyday people enjoying a better way to get to work. Maybe just call it “Bike to Work Month”.

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    Mark October 8, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Filmed by Bike is also the first weekend in May. So….maybe coordinate?

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    Eric Leifsdad October 8, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Every day is “ride your bike day.” But sure, have a party about it whenever it’s convenient.

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    • Adam Herstein
      Adam Herstein October 8, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      Paid for by generous donors!

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      • Avatar
        Eric Leifsdad October 8, 2015 at 4:19 pm

        Yes, that’s usually a convenient reason for a party.

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    Todd Boulanger October 8, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    The proposed change to May is so wrong for the local climate. Not sure this is going to be the “silver” bullet that BTA might be thinking for reversing the stagnation trend.

    When I was helping market BCC back during its peak I was soooo happy it was not during May, even with the national focus and buzz on May as Bike to Work week/ month. It is going to be a harder sell to get newbie folks enthused to plan and prep when its grey wet March/ April.

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    pdx2wheeler October 8, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    The bike chop shops should see an early up-tick in business next year!

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    B. Carfree October 8, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    “… the Bike Commute Challenge is not only a great Portland tradition, it’s part of a scientifically proven strategy for getting people to start thinking seriously about bikes.”

    I guess thinking seriously about bikes isn’t related to actually riding them. Note that the participation levels dropped every year from 2011-2014. However, bike commuting in PDX, at least according to the US Census ACS, was flat up to 2014 where it bumped up measurably.

    The Bike Commute Challenge appears to be negatively correlated with getting people to commute by bicycle. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but let’s not continually oversell things.

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      BeavertonRider October 8, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      Absent an email my the BCC coordinator at my employer, I would have had no idea it was even happening. Quite frankly, between last year and this, I simply forgot about it. I am a hard core commuter, too, racking up 500+ miles per month riding all year round.

      I guess this is a way of saying…BCC is poorly marketed.

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    Starfishgirl October 8, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    It would be great if BTA could promote bicycle commuting for both May and September. The focus for May could be adults commuting to work, and September’s program could focus on encouraging children to bike to school.

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    BeavertonRider October 8, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    Bad move to shift to May simply to align with National Bike Month.

    “However, as Noll points out, new riders activated by the challenge each May will be headed into a few months of dry weather rather than a few months of rainy weather. Hopefully that’ll make the challenge even better at getting more people used to bike commuting.”

    Huh? What is the association between riding in a wet month to get used to riding during the next three dry months?

    Additionally, people are not going to rush out to buy hundreds of dollars in new equipment and clothing to ride in a wetter month, not to mention that not many riders have facilities at their worksite in which to shower and dry their clothes.

    I ride all year round and can only do so because my employer has a locker area with showers and a place to hang out wet clothing. How many marginal commuters are going to ride in May without appropriate clothing or locker areas?

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    Ann October 9, 2015 at 12:48 am

    It worked for me. I’ve been at my new job since January. Didn’t ride my bike once until the week before the challenge (to practice my route). Rode 64% of the time during September, and plan to keep it up on dry days.

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      Carl October 9, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Glad to hear it. New riders, like you, are the program’s primary reason for existence.

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