Bicycling to Google

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 6.02.36 AMIn my work as a recruiter, I typically ask new candidates to name the three companies they most admire and respect.  It’s a great way for me to understand their values and what’s important to them.  A large percentage name Google due to the company’s innovative spirit.

Google is innovative and not just in their approach to designing the products we use online and, increasingly, in other parts of our lives.  Take transportation, for example.  According to a recent story in Citylab, Google people are far more likely to commute by bicycle than employees at other companies.  In fact, 9% of the company’s employees and a whopping 21% of those who live within five miles (Bike Five, anyone?) of the company’s Mountain View (CA) headquarters travel to and from work by bicycle.

This is significant for a couple of reasons.  First, Google people are really smart.  They don’t follow trends.  They create trends.  That these numbers are significantly higher than at most companies suggests that maybe this is what the future looks like…not just their future, but your future and my future.

Second, these folks have figured it out pretty much on their own.  Google has done very little as a company to encourage commuting by bicycle.  That’s about to change.  Google has developed a corporate bike plan and is working with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and Alta Planning and Design to make it easier for more people to commute by bicycle.  Their goal is to get 40% of the North Bayshore workforce out of their cars and onto bicycles.  You go, Google.

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Current stress a cyclist is likely to encounter while commuting to Google’s North Bayshore campus. Photo: Google

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Google’s vision. Photo: Google

Transportation is a hot button issue in Silicon Valley, a collection of dynamic, vibrant communities without a unified central core or cohesive transit.  As employees pour in by the tens of thousands from nearby San Francisco, many on corporate buses and shuttles, traffic problems have become nightmarish.  There’s a lot of brainpower in the Valley, though, and it’s the kind of brainpower that doesn’t sit back and wait for someone else to solve problems.

Google’s plan is to Copenhagenize the Valley.  Their data shows that far more people would commute via bicycle if grade separated infrastructure was in place, so the plan is long on protected bicycle lanes and routes.  Google’s has donated $5 million to jumpstart the process.  Look for other Valley firms to pitch in.  Collaboration is what built the Valley, and it remains a key component of the region’s success.

All around us, it seems, the brightest and the best are figuring this out.  America’s transportation problems are not going to be solved by building more highways.  As our nation becomes more crowded, the ways in which we move around have to change.  For trips of five miles or less, bicycles are best.

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