Why General Motors wants to put 19,000 tech employees on bicycles
Faced with a serious transportation problem on its sprawling technical center campus in a Detroit suburb, General Motors Co. has turned to a solution that predates cars – bicycles.
GM has launched a bike share program for 19,000 employees at its Warren Technical Center. It will help them navigate the 61 buildings on the 330-acre campus and provide convenient transportation for errands in the surrounding community.
The company said the bike share program is a first for a U.S. automaker. It will be managed by Zagster, a private bike sharing company that has developed similar programs for other businesses.
“GM is investing not only in the long-term health and productivity of its workforce, but sending a strong message to other employers around the country that bike sharing is a mainstream transportation option for employees,” said Timothy Ericson, Zagster chief executive.
Employees at the tech center might think using bikes to get around is a foreign concept, but they appear game.
“This is good for exercise, good for on-campus mobility and a nice way to actually learn more about non-auto transportation,” said John Waechter, designing engineer at the Tech Center.
The bikes will compete with walking, a shuttle bus system and cars. Waechter said he thinks cycling will be quicker than walking and have one advantage over driving because he won’t have to search for a parking place.
Employees who sign up for the program will reserve a bike through text message or a smartphone app that provides an access code to unlock the lock box mounted on the bike. Each bike comes equipped with a basket to safely transport a laptop, notebook and other small belongings. Riders must wear helmets and use bells to alert pedestrians when they are approaching.
GM isn’t the only U.S. automaker starting to think about bicycles.
Ford Motor Co. has signed a deal with Irvine-based Pedego Electric Bikes to offer a Ford-branded electric bicycle at Pedego shops and Ford dealers.
The bike can reach 20 mph using a drive train of a 600-watt motor and a 48-volt battery. It also is equipped with seven-speed hub to allow for human-powered pedaling. The gear shifter is on the left end of the handlebar while the electronic throttle is on the right.
Electric bikes are just catching on in the U.S. but are popular with urban commuters in Europe and Asia.