Many bicycle advocacy organizations will point out that 40 percent of trips in urban areas areas are 2 miles or less, the perfect distance for bicycling, yet nearly all of those trips are taken by car. Couple that with the environmental costs to the planet of oil consumption, the expenses accrued with driving, including rising fuel prices, and the epidemic of obesity, increased rates of diabetes, asthma and heart disease, particularly acute in cities, and it makes sense on so many levels to encourage physical activity as part of daily mobility.
To this end, CLIF BAR and Co., based in Berkeley (soon to relocate to Emeryville), has joined the Alliance for Biking and Walking  to promote the 2-Mile Challenge , a campaign that raises awareness about how many of the short trips we take by car could be replaced by walking and biking.
Starting this week, participants can sign up and pledge support for one of three teams benefiting three non-profits, including The Alliance for Biking and Walking, Trips for Kids , and the Alliance for Climate Education . CLIF BAR is donating $25,000 to each of the non-profits and then putting another $25,000 down to the team that gets the most points based on participation by the public at the end of October.
Points can also be earned by registering for a team and linking personal Facebook accounts to the 2 Mile Challenge site, issuing bike-riding challenges for yourself and friends, logging each trip completed, and tracking trips for consecutive weeks.
"What I like about the program is that it makes it accessible for everyone, that everyone can do it, and educate people on what the issue is, as well as gives them a vehicle for tracking their own miles," said Kevin Cleary, President and COO of CLIF BAR, who noted that he used to drive one mile to the grocery store near his home before the company started promoting the program.
The Alliance said in a press release that it will use the $25,000 grant from CLIF BAR to support its Winning Campaigns Trainings to train campaigners for biking and walking. The grant will also assist in the development and launch of the Guide to Funding Biking and Walking Projects, an upcoming Alliance publication.
"Replacing even short car trips with bike travel can jump-start big changes for individuals and their communities," said Jeff Miller, Executive Director for the Alliance. "The 2 Mile Challenge adds to the enjoyment and excitement of cycling."
Clif Bar Encourages Cycling and Physical Fitness for Employees
The commitment to cycling at CLIF BAR starts at the top with Cleary. The company's communications team invited me to ride to work last week with Cleary, who commutes one to two days a week by bicycle from Novato to Berkeley, 50 miles round trip. Cleary has been commuting consistently by bicycle for the past four years, since his company started a Cool Commute program to offer employees various incentives to get to work by transit, bicycling and walking.
As part of the program, employees get $500 every three years for their bicycles, up to $960 a year in rewards for non-automobile trips, and a
one-time payment of $6,500 toward a hybrid car. The company also offers
$1,000 every year for employees to weatherize their homes or convert to
more energy efficient appliances.
Cleary said he supports bicycle access on the Richmond Bridge, but until that happens, he's been fairly happy with Golden Gate Transit and their 40/42 service. "It would be nice to have a little more flexibility," he said, and not have to rely on the half-hour service, though he noted that the agency had responded to his and other riders' concerns about using buses with the maximum bike racks during the heavy commute hours.
"They responded to that real quickly," he said, putting buses with three racks into service during the busy hours and allowing two bikes on board.
Cleary said CLIF BAR employees are given numerous incentives not to drive, but it wouldn't mean as much if he didn't try to lead by example
"It's the right thing from any angle, whether it's health, the environment, or setting the right tone for the company," he said of riding.
On a tour of the company facility with Communications Director, Kate Torgerson, I saw some of the many ways the company encourages fitness, from a huge gym and rock climbing wall, to a yoga room, massage rooms, community bikes and a custom Xtracycle with sound system used for events and parties. In addition to 2 1/2 hours of paid exercise time each week, employees who ride their bikes, take transit or walk to work earn points through the Cool Commute program to discount the costs of massages and hair cuts in a company salon on-site.
As Torgerson led me past the row of employee bike racks, Carly Lutz, Brand Director for CLIF Brands, overheard us talking about Cool Commute and blurted out that she had used some of her recent $500 to buy a child seat attachment to take her daughter on rides. Though her daughter attends pre-school on Spruce Street near the top of the Berkeley hills, Lutz said she planned to ride her to school for Bike to Work Day.
She said she would likely be dripping wet from the exercise, but said her daughter loved the new set-up and wanted to go everywhere in the bike seat.
"There's no excuse not to ride in," said Lutz.