By Cathy Lau
A Quebec firm used a clever approach to show companies the many advantages of using electric bikes and other green modes of transportation to get around for day-to-day business.
Electric Bikes: the new corporate vehicles!
Fauteux et associés, a landscape architecture firm in Montreal, Quebec, presented a playful display comparing its company bikes to company cars to capture the spirit of two concurrent events (Parking Day – an annual worldwide event where artists, designers, and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks, and “en ville sans ma voiture” – an event celebrating being “in the city without my car”).
“You can be green AND impress your clients with class!” was the message behind the theme of the display, which was “L’électro-vélo au boulot, super chic!’” (“Electro-bike to work, super chic!”).
The company easily squeezed their entire corporate fleet of five bikes into their designated plot of parking space, with five company representatives (including the president) on-hand to answer questions about the bikes, which each had descriptions identifying what each bike represented.
The black OHM Sport XS750 belonging to the company president was labeled “the president’s limousine” and described as, “Ultra chic, fully equipped, super comfortable, black of course… The symbol of success and prosperity. The company is here to stay.”
A silver OHM Urban XU700 ridden by the company’s project managers was given the title of “the partner’s sports car,” and described as, “Satiny silver,veryly chic (a tick less than the big boss, of course). With the times, modern, dynamic. It’s a strong partner!”
A company bike in the company colours and outfitted with a BionX motor (and oftentimes hitched to a Burley Travoy trailer) was labelled “an operator’s utility bike”. To round off the fleet, two non-electric bikes used by visitors and seasonal employees were described as “the employees’ vehicles”.
An accompanying description of the “exhibit” explained how the firm came to adopt electric bikes as their main mode of transportation:
The company designs bicycle lanes, paths, and green alleys as part of various urban design projects (including school campus and institutional grounds and public plazas and parks)..The company regularly visits clients that landscape as part of its operation.
It all started four years ago, when company president Marc Fauteux bartered his large family car for an electric bicycle to perform the majority of these business trips with. The company has since acquired two other e-bikes for its project managers, in addition to two regular bicycles for the employees to use.
For travel to destinations within 10km of the office and to the city center, the lightweight electric bikes enable spontaneous and efficient travel, get staff to their destinations quicker than by car, are ecologically-friendly, and are enjoyable for everyone, helping avoid perpetual traffic jams and the difficulty of finding a free parking spot. For longer distances, the firm also relies on car sharing and public transport.
Curious passersby stopped to ask questions about the e-bikes. Several commented on how cool they were and expressed an interest in introducing e-bikes into their workplaces.
The brain behind the interactive exhibit, Marc Fauteux, shared his personal reasons for and experience with making the switch to e-bike transportation. Marc lives within walking and biking distance of his office. However, in the past, he would have to drive his car to work and find parking every day, because of the off-chance that he might need to go to a meeting somewhere far away. His job requires him to make unexpected on-site visits at a moment’s notice.
He remembers days when he would bike to work instead of driving and then get called to a meeting, which meant that he would have to bike home to retrieve his car to transport him and his team. Or he would have to show up looking sweaty and unprofessional after biking laboriously over hills to visit his clients.
Though his clients wouldn’t actually comment on it, Marc could sense that they saw him as someone who couldn’t afford a fancy car, or who had the free time to bike to meet his clients (who were paying him by the hour).
Marc considered purchasing a motorcycle or scooter, but dismissed them because he did not want to have to deal with things like looking for parking, putting up with traffic, and paying for gas and maintenance.
Electric bikes were the obvious choice. After trying out many e-bikes at Vélo Branché, he settled on the OHM because he thought it looked great (providing the impressive, professional appearance he wanted to convey), he found it the most fun and effective to ride, and he loved the idea of supporting a Canadian company. “With a motor made in Québec and the bike designed and built in BC, the Canadian OHM felt like the closest to a local purchase, compared to much of the available Asian-made bikes.”
With his OHM, Marc has never again had to worry about the impressions he makes on his clients during his site visits. When he arrives in a suit atop his sleek OHM Sport XS750 without having even broken a sweat, his clients never question his professionalism. On the contrary, they are always impressed by his OHM’s high quality design and technology.
With three e-bikes and bike trailer in his corporate fleet, Marc is able to go on-site with up to two other company representatives and full gear, car-free.
Marc was thrilled to spread his enthusiasm for electric bikes: “The event was a great way to make us aware of the great use we make of public space just to park cars, when we don’t always need to use them.
The idea that we need a car to do business – to meet clients on time and to show up clean and presentable – is a false need. These are all non-issues with an electric bike.”