Speaking for those of us who toil away in the real world, where employers don’t much care how you get to work as long as you get there on time, it was with no small amount of glee that I discovered the memo from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Regular commenter Murphstahoe provided the following link: http://bikescape.blogspot.com/2007/11/what-were-up-against.html.
It provides a copy of a human resources memo to the employees of the air district, which is in the business of promoting alternatives to the automobile in the name of clean air, to wit:
It has come to the attention of the human resources office that some employees may be riding their bicycles in the course of their work duties. While biking to work is an option that the district supports, employees are not to ride their bikes in the course of their work duties.
The potential for serious injury is much greater riding a bicycle than driving a car in the event of an accident. Until further notice, employees are not to ride their bikes in the course of their work duties.
I could comment here, but nothing I could come up would match one of the comments on the blog:
“By the grace of God, tell me this was a prank. A sick joke perhaps? A late April Fool’s joke?”
I had similar thoughts, especially considering that this very morning I was on my bike, staring down tractor-trailer rigs on the West Grand Avenue viaduct over the Port of Oakland rail yard on my way to the Caltrans Bay Bridge public information office.
Even Caltrans, widely regarded as more of a highway department than anything else, has a fleet of “CT” logo bikes upon which the engineers tool about the bridge project campus.
Knowing there must be a logical explanation, I called Karen Schkolnick, spokeswoman for the air district.
Basically, it boils down to a lack of insurance for someone getting hit on a bike in the course of their air district duties.
“Our office is committed to green practices and we are a green-certified business,” she explained, but I knew all that stuff.
OK, so I made up the last bit, but Schkolnick said they have hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and a bunch of other alt-fuel vehicles for their inspectors to run around saving the world in.
“We have an insurance policy for when employees drive vehicles at work, but we don’t have one for employees who ride bicycles at work,” she told me, promising that within a month or so, such a policy would be in place.
Part of the problem is that the air district office sits between two freeways in San Francisco, which can be a dodgy place to pedal around in.
“We’re not in Santa Cruz, we’re not in Berkeley,” she said.
I must say that there are some scary places to bike in Berkeley, too.
As part of the more bike-friendly effort, the district is retaining a company that will maintain a fleet of company bikes for the district, so proper bike maintenance is assured, she added.
The funniest part of this was that I called Robert Raburn, executive director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, and he was neither outraged nor terribly surprised. As a journalist, I really hate it when people aren’t outraged or surprised.
Turns out, the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition, which runs Bike-to-Work Day in the spring for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, recently had to secure a $20,000 insurance policy for its Team Bike Challenge. The Challenge pits teams from various companies and other entities against each other to see how many days their members bike to work.
“To have an agency like that come up with a policy that’s the antithesis of what the district should be doing is ludicrous,” Raburn said. “It’s disturbing and certainly is costly and it adds a real hurdle to the promotion and the utility of bicycling.”
He wasn’t just talking about the air district. His concern is that putting an extra insurance requirement on employers could spawn similar policies throughout the working world.
“Let’s look under the carpet here,” Raburn urged. “Is somebody’s relative in the insurance business?”