In June, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition presented our first Bike Friendly Business Award to Jackson Family Wines (JFW). The company engages in a number of activities and programs that promote both bicycle commuting and cycling for recreation. Their “Live Well” wellness program offers a variety of incentives for physical activity: first prize is a Peloton indoor bicycle and second prize is a mountain or road bike.
JFW has participated in Bike to Work Day and Bike to Work Month for many years, sponsoring an Energizer Station and encouraging employees to participate. (Like many companies, JFW gives staff two paid days per year to volunteer; one is usually done as part of the JFW team and frequently involves cycling!)
Gwen Tunzini has been working in IT at JFW for twenty years…and has been cycling to work for nineteen of them! Her introduction to cycling began with Bike to Work Day and she just never stopped. Her current one-way commute is just a mile these days, but she also cycles between the company’s different Sonoma County locations. She’s also gotten heavily involved with the Santa Rosa Cycling Club and spent her most recent vacation cycling in France. She takes time to encourage and mentor coworkers who are new to cycling, leading short and easy rides to help get them started.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LEADERSHIP
Four years ago, CEO Rick Tigner started Saturday “Rides with Rick,” open to any JFW employee. There are also frequent “vineyard tour” lunchtime rides during the work day. Employees enjoy sharing the camaraderie of the road and getting to know folks from different departments; the fresh air and exercise ensures they come back to work refreshed. New ideas are generated from these cross-team collaborations, and employees all have equal opportunities to chat with the CEO. Several members of the Jackson family are also avid cyclists.
Kendall Jackson Winery hosts the Tour de Fox Wine Country, a benefit for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. (This was recently featured in a Press Democrat article.) JFW pays registration fees for employees who participate in this and other rides. The company also sponsors participants in the Climate Ride and the Tuesday night criterium race at the Fairgrounds.
“It’s the little things,” says winemaker Fritz Meier. “Besides paying for our ride registrations, the company got JFW branded jerseys for us. Wearing them makes you feel proud to be part of the team.”
The main office has showers and dedicated lockers, so folks can clean up if needed. While there isn’t a whole lot of “official” bicycle parking, workers are free to bring their bikes inside and stash them in their own cubicle or commandeer an empty one. The company participates in the city of Santa Rosa’s Free Ride Home program, so folks can get home quickly in the event of an emergency.
Sustainability Specialist Aaron Schreiber-Stainthorp commutes by bike 6-7 miles per day. “It takes me about the same amount of time it would take me to drive,” he says, “And it is so much more pleasant – it’s a great way to start and end the work day.” He’s in charge of promoting other alternative transportation as well: JFW encourages carpooling and has free charging stations for electric vehicles. The company also uses 100% renewable power. Future bike-friendly improvements include improved staff training and more bicycle resources for both staff and customers.
BENEFITS TO INDIVIDUALS, COMPANY
- The company’s bike culture makes it more likely that people will ride, which is good for their long-term health. (Meier shared that before he started cycling he was overweight, pre-diabetic, and had high blood pressure. After his first Bike to Work Day, he started participating in Rides with Rick to train for the Tour de Fox and has been riding ever since. He’s lost weight, and his blood sugar and blood pressure readings are normal.)
- There is also the short term benefit of coming back to work after a ride with a fresh focus.
- Riding together creates connections across departments, fostering cohesion, collegiality, and new ideas.
- Healthy employees are more productive and take less sick time.
- Happy and engaged employees are more productive and loyal to the company.
Creating a bike-friendly culture “doesn’t have to take a lot of capital or staff,” says Meier. “It does help to have a small, dedicated core group. You can’t let it get too competitive – you have to reach out to newbies and make it easy for them to get started. Cycling comes with its own rewards, but it doesn’t hurt to add some financial incentives.”