As the weather warms up and the days get longer, the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition and its partner organizations encourage professionals to ditch the car and use a healthier and more eco-friendly method to get to work during the inaugural Active Commute Week this May.
Running from May 14-18, Active Commute Week aims to increase awareness about alternative forms of transportation and educate employees about the benefits of an active commute. The week-long event is organized by the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition partnering with area businesses and universities, including Steelcase Inc., Priority Health, Metro Health, Meijer Inc., Grand Valley State University and Calvin College, among others.
Although the Active Commute Week deliberately coincides with National Bike to Work Week, event organizer Lindsey DesArmo of GVSU said the focus is on all kinds of active, sustainable methods of transport.
“We want to raise awareness for support for other types of active commuting, not just biking,” said DesArmo, citing other popular forms of non-auto commuting, such as walking, running, taking the bus and even riding a longboard. The effort also supports the use of carpooling.
“Not everyone can practically bike to work, but there are other ways to actively commute,” DesArmo said. “Some places don’t have shoulders or bike lanes yet.”
While the “obvious” benefit to the community is the improved health of employees, DesArmo points out that active commutes can lead to improvement to infrastructure and more progress toward community sustainability.
“The question for us [organizers] was how can we make this have a bigger impact and bring it all together in a West Michigan context,” DesArmo asked. “There are some limitations, but how can we support and encourage (active commuting) more?”
Companies can get involved by offering educational workshops on such active commute topics as bicycle safety and rules of the road, offering discounts or coupons to promote the week, organizing a group ride or hosting a “rally point” for commuters at their organization or on a main commuting artery. The rally points will provide morning commuters with support from 7-9 a.m. on Thursday and Friday along key commuter routes such as Lake Drive. Amway Corp. and Meijer are already onboard to give out water and other refreshments.
Companies can also sign up at no cost for the Active Commute Week Corporate Challenge, a five-day online challenge hosted on the GGRBC website and aimed at increasing employee involvement and support of the active commute effort. Employees will be able to submit their names, organization and types of transportation for each trip they take. Submissions will be entered into a raffle drawing, and the individual with the most trips logged and the organization with the highest trip average will each win the Active Commute Week Corporate Challenge Trophy.
The week’s events will culminate on May 18, beginning with Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell’s “Mayor’s Bike to Work Day” followed by a celebration at The Rapid Central Station in the evening featuring live music, bike tune-ups and the announcement of the corporate challenge winners.
Active Commute Week