The Council of Economic Advisors estimates 700,000 green jobs will be created this year from federal stimulus funds. That's encouraging, but here's something even better - a man with a plan who decided to create his own green job and business after he and his fellow training team were laid off from Target Corporation earlier this year. Meet Bill Delano, bike commuter guide extraordinaire, who is just starting a company called "Bike With Bill" in Minneapolis/St. Paul, which Delano says is a "paradise for cyclists" (sorry, Portland).Bike passion to bike business
It was Delano's wife that first pointed out to him the strange fact that while his office building was in a lush park-like setting with easy on/off access to two bike trails, not more than 10 of 1,000 employees were biking to work. (U.S. national statistics show that 488,000 or .38% of commuters get to work and back by bike, though some cities have a remarkably better ratio).
Delano was one of only a small number of commuters that also continued to use the bike once Minneapolis winters set in. But having put, he estimates, a total of 35,000 miles on his bike (a 1993 Bridgestone XO-3), he realized that what most people needed to get them bike commuting was a mentor.
"This isn't Europe where most people already see the bicycle as a tool. In spite of the many great organizations here in the Twin Cities of Minnesota that provide encouragement and support to bicycle commuters such as the League of American Bicyclists and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, most people aren't heeding the call," Delano said.
Reaching the (heretofore) unreachable
Delano used a group of his friends (read one story here) as guinea pigs for his business idea. For those friends, he created customized bicycle routes, then tested the route himself, and finally escorted the 'newbies' on the route, pointing out landscape features and safety tips along the way. Delano also plans to offer a 'ride home' option, as reverse commutes can offer different challenges to new riders. In fact, Delano believes that cycling an entire route is sometimes not the best option, and adding a piece of public transport can make a commute most enjoyable.
Result: biking joy
Delano uses online tools such as those from Bicycling Magazine, Google Maps, and Cyclopath (a service from the University of Minnesota) to set up the best routes. With a background in occupational safety, he emphasizes that others wishing to turn their skills toward being a bike commuter guide need to put safety first, and consider the abilities of clients.
Delano's guinea pigs were all pleased with the service, and all surprised at how biking to work got them to their jobs with a bit more joy than their previous methods. He generally spent between 4 to 6 hours working on the route and direct client contact, and he is still trying to figure out exactly how much he will charge for the package of commuter services he provides. But he says clients' money will be well spent.
"Considering that according to the AAA the cost to operate the typical mid-size car in the U.S. is over $7,000 per year, I'd be really pleased to help clients recoup part or all of those costs by introducing them to bicycle commuting."
And don't forget that bike commuter benefit!
Read more about urban cycling at TreeHugger
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