The Utah Department of Technology Services encourages the use of alternative transportation as one tool to motivate employees to improve our air quality. Below is an example of the Automated Geographic Reference Center, a division of the department, and what they do to help keep our air clean while staying healthy and active. Their story proves that making changes to your daily routine doesn’t have to be difficult, in fact making choices to improve air quality can be fun when you get your coworkers involved.

The Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC) is the State of Utah’s map technology office and is located in the north office building of the State Capitol. For reasons of time efficiency, general fitness, and personal preference, on a typical day, 3 to 6 of the 13 staff members make the commute to work by bicycle. Throw in 3 staff who commute by bus and train daily, and AGRC has a low parked-car-to-employee ratio.

Bikes and maps go together as ‘bike maps’. AGRC has been asked to advise the Governor’s Outdoor Recreation Director on working with local government and other trail stewards, to compile a statewide map layer of bike trails and routes. Bert Granberg, AGRC’s Director said, “Oddly enough, some of the best ideas for work have come when the pedals are turning and we’re trying to get to or from work in one piece.”

Proximity is a huge advantage for bike commuting and the AGRC biking crew live between 2 and 7 miles from the Capitol. For most of AGRC’s bike commuters, riding adds on only a few extra minutes compared to driving. If you ride 25 minutes each way and the round trip drive would take 30, that’s like getting a 50-minute workout that costs only 20 minutes of your day.

The Capitol has a secure, weather-proof bike storage locker and has showers and low-fee gym lockers. The state health insurance options, like many others, offer a small incentive for those who exercise regularly and stay fit which is enough to cover the cost of a bike tune or two every year.

Here are some fun facts about AGRC’s bike commuters:

  • One AGRC staffer added bike commuting to his daily routine and subtracted car ownership as a part of a lifestyle change that led to losing 80 pounds in just over 6 months.
  • Knee-high wool socks and battery-powered, frame-wrapped Christmas lights are signature winter riding gear for one AGRC commuter.
  • Long before working at AGRC, one staffer attended a single Salt Lake City Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting and penciled in the 2nd and 3rd Avenue bike lanes as a suggested addition to the master plan. Despite moving several times and changing jobs, he’s still using these lanes on almost every commute.
  • One AGRC staffer has a very limited selection at the bike stores as he’s over 6′ 8″ tall.
  • Bike commuting wasn’t enough for one staff member who took a week off to do a self-supported bike trip to Yellowstone National Park and back. He was an object of curiosity for several State Capitol commuters who recognized him as he pulled his trailer through Bountiful in driving rain during morning rush hour.
  • To date, AGRC bike commuters have, knock on wood, no major accidents or moving violations on their records.

Story provided by Stephanie Weteling at the State of Utah Department of Technology Services.