BOULDER, CO (Sept. 24, 2020) — PeopleForBikes announced a five-year program to help Benton County, Arkansas businesses become national leaders in bicycling, realize the return on investment from an active workforce that embraces bicycling, both for transportation and recreation, and position Northwest Arkansas as the national model for getting more people riding bikes through broad-scale cultural change. The program is supported by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation at the recommendation of Steuart Walton and Tom Walton.
While the region is already well known for its world-class mountain biking and growing network of nearly 500 miles of trails and paved paths, this collaborative effort will help Benton County businesses, both large and small, realize the benefits of bicycling as a whole to create a better, healthier community. It is hoped that the effects of the grant will be felt throughout Northwest Arkansas and that the measurements and lessons learned can scale not only to the region but around the country, in time.
“We know that healthy workers enjoy a higher quality of life,” said Jenn Dice, PeopleForBikes’ president, and CEO. “They weather fewer sick days and are more productive. These are just a few of the many benefits that bicycling and walking provide. PeopleForBikes will amplify the success stories and lessons learned from this local journey to help other businesses nationwide better realize the benefits and ROI of bikes.”
Many of the critical components to help corporate leaders recognize that encouraging, incentivizing, and measuring bicycling helps create a more productive workforce are already in place thanks to the work of the region’s municipalities, local bicycling advocacy groups, and the Walton Family Foundation. PeopleForBikes will build upon this momentum to help foster a new business culture around bicycling through riding incentive programs, bike network improvements, peer support, lunch and post-work group rides, workplace enhancements, and academic-based approaches to understanding and changing transportation behaviors.
Recent research has shown that bicycling contributed $137 million worth of benefits to the Northwest Arkansas regional economy in 2017, including $86 million in health benefits and $51 million in business benefits. This study was also done in partnership with the Walton Family Foundation, Bike NWA, and PeopleForBikes.
An additional, important component of this work will be positioning Northwest Arkansas as an incubator for best practices in incentivizing biking at a corporate level. PeopleForBikes will measure the successes of this partnership, in terms of healthcare and productivity benefits, to use as a template to share with other corporations, vendors, and retailers to help implement better business cultures for bicycling in communities nationwide.
PeopleForBikes’ national Ride Spot program will also be used to help direct employees to the best local bike routes while also addressing common barriers to riding such as knowing where to ride and how to ride safely. The program will pilot workplace challenges and incentives to get and keep employees moving.
The grant from the Walton Family Foundation will support a team of two new full-time PeopleForBikes staff in Benton County, as well as PeopleForBikes’ existing Boulder, Colorado-based innovation and policy experts, who will serve as a resource for Benton County employers to implement these workplace-based incentive programs.
The new Arkansas-based team will consist of John Paul Shaffer and Kristie Holt, who will fully integrate with the Northwest Arkansas cycling community in order to leverage existing resources and initiatives. Holt owned a bike shop in Dallas for five years with a focus on attracting new riders and understands the challenges of introducing biking and marketing to new riders. Shaffer joins PeopleForBikes after leaving his position as the BLDG Memphis executive director, where he worked to increase the quality of life and opportunities for all Memphians through affordable and healthy housing, equitable access to safe transportation options, and community-based economic development.
Together, the two bring a wealth of community outreach and engagement, digital marketing, and bike planning experience that they will draw upon to work with large, medium, and small employers to get their teams riding to work, for short trips, recreationally before and after work and on the weekends with families.