Last night at the Horseshoe, the Bicycle Friendly Business Awards were handed out to local companies who best promote a two-wheeled lifestyle.
While Toronto lags behind other international cities in cycling-infrastructure development, some local businesses go above and beyond in promoting cycling as an attractive commuting alternative for their staff. Their efforts were recognized at last night’s beer-filled Bicycle Friendly Business Awards at the Horseshoe Tavern, where six awards were handed out to Toronto’s most pro-cycling establishments.
The awards have been held every year since 1994 as part of the City’s Bike Plan; councillor Mike Layton hosted this year’s event with Tanya Smith, executive director of Bikes Without Borders. Restaurant gift certificates, a Linus bike, and cycling accessories were up for grabs at a silent auction, and Chocosol had a table set up at the back where a dreadlocked chef fried organic tortillas.
“It’s become such a dynamic, friendly, and welcoming community, and it’s growing,” Layton remarked. “It’s growing so quickly that it’s important that we recognize what folks are doing. It keeps people doing innovative stuff; it keeps people’s energy high.”
Layton kicked off the evening with his Top 10 reasons why City Council decided to get rid of the Jarvis bike lanes. After this bit of comedic relief, they played a video on a projection screen of Layton in his childhood years learning to ride a bike, his late father on the other side of the camera. “If you believe in yourself, you can learn to ride a bike!” the young Layton cheered.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong announced the winners and presented the awards in rapid succession; each received a framed certificate signed by Mayor Rob Ford (ironic, no?) and a trophy of a man holding a bike wheel. The winners of the Best Overall Award took home an extra large trophy of a bike popping a wheelie on top of an oblong triangle.
These official awards weren’t the only honours being doled out last night. Members of Toronto Bike Polo crowded the stage to present their cheeky awards, including Best Polo ‘Stache, Cutest Sweat Marks, and Player Who Gives the Least Fucks. The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, Bike Pirates, Bike Sauce, and ARC also took turns on the mic, presenting accolades to important players in the local two-wheeled scene.
“I like to think of it as a night that brings the entire cycling community together to celebrate in a positive way,” said Smith. “I think we really achieved that.”
And the winners are…
Best Bike Parking
Awarded to: The company that offers the most accessible and secure bike parking for its employees.
Winner: Intelliware Development Inc.
Intelliware was recognized for the lock-up zones found near the reception desk at both of their Toronto locations; the zones are under 24-hour surveillance and, to date, no employee has had their bike stolen from work. On top of all this, Intelliware also boasts shower and change-room facilities so the office isn’t full of sweaty workers.
Awarded to: The company that makes an outstanding effort to promote cycling as a means of getting to work.
Winner: Patagonia Toronto
Patagonia Toronto employees participate in the Drive-less program, which urges them to use non-automotive methods to commute. They log their travel method into a computer system every morning and earn $2 each way for using their bike, up to a maximum of $500 per year; the money is added on to their paycheques. The program even tracks CO2 reduction and money saved.
Best Small Business
Awarded to: Bike-friendly companies of less than 100 people.
Winner: Not Far From the Tree
Not Far From the Tree took this year’s title because their entire business is bicycle-based. The company collects fruit from trees in backyards and gardens across the city and delivers them to food banks and community kitchens. Pick up, transport, and delivery of the fallen fruit is all done with a fleet of 14 custom-built cargo bikes.
Best Large Business
Awarded to: Bike-friendly companies with over 100 employees.
Winner: ING Direct Canada
Over the past year, ING Direct Canada put 40 new bikes on the road with the help of Curbside Cycle and Cycle Solutions in the Friends of Savers program; donated 20 bikes to Culture Link’s Bike Host program; helped teach over 40 youth mechanic skills with Evergreen Bike Works and Bikes Without Borders; and hosted repair workshops in front of their head office.
Best Skills Development
Awarded to: The company who promotes cycling through education in safety, maintenance, and riding skills.
Winner: Evergreen Bike Works
Evergreen Bike Works emerged victorious this year thanks to the wide range of programs they offer, ranging from safe-riding for youth to day rentals for visitors. Their courses in bike repair create a welcoming environment for novice riders to learn the basics. Over the past year, 600 kids have graduated from their Bike Works Safety Training program, and staff members collaborated with the public to build more than 50 bikes from scratch. Bike Works actively engage the community through initiatives such as Ride the Ravines, and with DIY workshops at their Brick Works facility.
Awarded to: The company that goes above and beyond to promote cycling.
Energy@Work won in large part due to their company Bixi memberships, which employees are free to use any time. Together, they used over 200 Bixi bikes throughout the year and saved an estimated 38 litres of gas. The office also has two in-house bikes available for staff, all of whom are cyclists. Energy@Work received a 100 per cent participation award in the 2012 Clean Air Commute and, as they do every year, Energy@Work raised money for Ride for Heart; this year’s fundraising effort totalled $2,500.