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Houston oil companies encouraging commutes by bicycle


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Rolling in on two wheels

Oil companies are among the Houston-area employers encouraging workers to make their commutes by bicycle


2007 Houston Chronicle

Some of the world's biggest gas peddlers are encouraging their workers to pump the pedal.

Exxon Mobil, BP and ConocoPhillips are among the Houston-area employers trying to make it easier for employees to bike to work.

Workers already have enough excuses: potholes, impatient drivers and the Houston heat.

But some businesses are easing the commute for those who decide the exercise and reduced emissions make biking worthwhile. They're giving them locker rooms, shower areas and safe places to park their bikes.

"I figure I save $3 a day every time I commute," said Dave Ivy, a projects manager at Exxon Mobil, who's been biking 14 miles from his home in Katy to Exxon Mobil offices in Westlake three to four times a week for the last few years.

"I enjoy the exercise, and I save on gasoline."

Many companies also offer flex schedules, although most cyclists are on the road before the morning rush hour, said Lilibeth Andre, the bicycle-pedestrian coordinator for the city of Houston's Bikeway Program.

"We just kicked off an employee ... project and will track health, air and cost benefits," she said.

The city's also creating an employee bicycle fleet that workers can sign up to use.

And now that the Metropolitan Transit Authority is installing bike racks on its buses and allowing commuters on some to store bikes in luggage compartments, she said, longer bike commutes are possible. It's also an option in case a biker gets a flat or wants a break from the heat.

Beyond the basics

Some companies go beyond offering the basic rack and shower.

Houston-based Kirksey Architecture, for example, gives those who bike, car-pool or bus to work a free lunch for every five trips they make. It's also considering buying a hybrid vehicle that employees using alternative transportation can sign up to use during work hours in case they need to go to a doctor's appointment, run an errand or meet a client during the day.

"We're talking about getting a Prius," said Brian Malarkey, vice president of Kirksey Architecture. "In Houston, everything's so spread out."

Clark Martinson, general manager of the Energy Corridor District, encourages his employees on an individual basis. He gave one a helmet and helped him find a safe route. He invited another who lives downtown to park her car at his house and bike to work with him.

He also tries to hook up bike commuters with others riding similar routes so they don't have to pedal alone.

Working in bike attire

Horizon Wind Energy offers bus and Metro rail passes to employees as well as allowing employees to work in their bike attire, spokeswoman Sarah Bray said. The company's downtown offices also have showers and a locked room where employees can store bikes.

Of its 72 employees, 19 ride the bus to work, 10 ride their bikes and two walk, she said.

Some employers don't have facilities such as showers and bike racks but try to be accommodating.

Sorcha Landau, who bikes two miles from her Heights home to her downtown job as an assistant federal public defender, said her boss lets her keep her bike in her office.

But she has to use the freight elevator to get her bike to and from the office.

"You leave for the day and you get in with all this stinky garbage," she said.

It's a small inconvenience that lets her fulfill a promise to herself: "I vowed to myself one of the things about starting a new job two years ago was trying to bike to work."


"Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

"...for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process."

US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX)

Testimony to the House Immigration Subcommittee, February 24, 1995

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I ride my bike to work most days, and this is in car-loving LA. It is quite honestly one of the best things I do for myself considering I don't even have to think about doing additional exercise and I save money on gas. Plus, I usually get to work faster.

Gas prices is something I don't really complain about.


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