Peabody award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
For the Tech Sector, Bikes are the New Cars
Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 01:39 PM
On the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. there's a strange kind of meeting space: a seven person bicycle.
"Imagine one person facing forward and then the other six people around a circle," explains Google's Brendon Harrington. "And the way the bike is manufactured and constructed everyone can actually peddle each other all contributing to propel the bike forward. But since they’re facing each other, they can chat with each other, they can share ideas, they can have a team meeting if they’d like."
Pandora, in Oakland, organizes employee bike rides. Foursquare encourages employees to bike to meetings. Etsy's got an in-house bike mechanic.
That's pretty much the way it is in the tech sector these days: companies are in a race to outdo each other on bike-friendliness.
"Biking has become the mode of choice for the educated high-tech worker," says Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at NYU. "The modern office today is not really jsut a work place. It's a play place. If you go to Mozilla they have pool tables."
At Foursquare's new offices in SoHo, New York (conveniently located on a major East-West bike lane) -- there's a ping pong table and a dart board.
Biking is so-ingrained in the paradigm, that when I asked Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley whether he thought his brand new bike-rack would help attract talent, he didn't understand the question. "It was not an option to be in a building where people would have to leave their bikes outside," Crowley told me.
For him, and other tech CEO's, NOT having a place to store bikes in the office would be like building a suburban campus without a parking lot.
"We talk about Foursquare as being -- as creating software that helps people change the way they experience or use cities. I think bikes do the same thing."
For an audio version of this story, click here.
Here's Google's video on green transportation, with a cameo of the conference bike: