They’re fun to use, cheap to run and super-good for the environment, but the humble bicycle isn’t the first thing you’d associate with zero emissions vehicular initiatives from Detroit giant General Motors.
Yet a quiet revolution in Warren, Michigan, where General Motors’ Warren Technical Centre is located is getting engineers out of their cars and onto two wheels in the name of environmental responsibility.
Like many large corporate campuses, the Warren Technical Centre consists of a large number of buildings — 61 in total — spread out over a 330 acre site. In order to move between buildings, employees have traditionally used their own vehicles or an on-site shuttle bus, but as General Motors explains in its press release, employees were rarely able to park exactly where they needed to.
The result? Employees spent a significant amount of time travelling in between meetings, burning both time and fossil fuels in the process.
Thanks to a new program by Zagster, a private bike sharing company that specialises in corporate bike share schemes, that is a problem of the past. Now, the 19,000 employees at the Warren Technical Centre can choose to take a bicycle instead of taking the car. What’s more, they can even take the bicycles off-campus if needed.
To take part, each employee simply has to register with the Zagster service online. After registering, they can reserve a bicycle on campus through text message or the Zagster smartphone app. When the booking is due to start, Zagster sends the employee an unlock code which they can use to remove the sturdy lock used to secure each bicycle when not in use.
Originally set up as a fifty-employee test program earlier this year, the project was so successful that GM has now opened up the bike share scheme to every one of the Warren Technical Centre employees, and hopes to expand it as the program becomes more popular. The only prerequisite is that employees wear a bicycle helmet while on the bicycle for their own and other road users’ safety.
In addition to cutting on-site pollution and traffic, the bicycle sharing scheme even cuts down journey times for employees, since bicycle lockers are located near to each door, eliminating the need to walk to and from the nearest shuttle stop or parking lot.
Of course, General Motors isn’t the first automaker to make use of bicycles to get around its buildings: both Tesla Motors and Volvo have company-owned bicycles which are used to get around the various facilities owned by each.
While the bicycles aren’t likely to inspire General Motors to design a new type of human-hybrid car like the Swiss-made Twike, they certainly reinforce the way that we use our cars is likely to change in the coming years. They might even perhaps influence GM’s designers and technicians to develop better ways of integrating multi-modal transportation solutions into our every day lives.
In a world where energy is precious and we need to learn how better to use it day to day, that’s a very important lesson to learn.