WLSSD: Our Bike Friendly Workplace

It was Earth Day 2015 – just a year ago – that WLSSD was recognized with the Silver Award as a Bike Friendly Business (BFB) by the League of American Bicyclists. How, might you ask, can a place that cleans 40 million gallons of waste water daily, receives and manages household hazardous waste for thousands of residents, composts tons of yard and food waste weekly, and operates a transfer station receiving 100,000 tons each year of the region’s garbage be a bike friendly workplace?

It started several years ago when our wellness committee placed bike racks at each staffed building at our 40-acre Courtland Street location on the bay. Back then, a bike commute to WLSSD from any direction was tough – rough roads, heavy traffic, and an interstate exchange to navigate with lots of road grit and detritus from trucks hauling industrial materials and garbage. Today we have Duluth’s Cross City Trail that provides a safer commute for staff and customers. We still have the I-35 overpass we must traverse as we near the WLSSD campus, but the ride up to that point is much more bike and pedestrian-friendly now.

Summer morning commutes can be hot and sticky, but WLSSD’s locker rooms are equipped with showers. Biking staffers can start their work days well-exercised and fresh. Having on-site showering facilities is a big plus in the BFB realm.

We hosted a series of brown bag bike lunches offering instruction to employees on simple bike maintenance, way-finding, and techniques for safe biking in traffic. Organized, after-work bike rides on paved and natural surface trails reinforced the lessons, but the camaraderie is what really makes these rides memorable.

The most unusual aspect of our bike friendly business is our fleet of bikes available to staff for travel between buildings – above and below ground. Several bikes were obtained from the WLSSD Materials Recovery Center Re-use area a few years ago. Bike-savvy staff repaired and equipped the bikes for use on our extensive campus, labeling the bikes with the building names where they are housed. It’s a fact that a staffer can travel the distance between the yard waste compost site and a scheduled meeting in the WLSSD board room in under 2 minutes. Best of all is our underground fleet of bikes. WLSSD buildings are connected by an extensive tunnel system. On rainy days, a tunnel bike commute between buildings is the driest, speediest, and fun-nest route. Plus, encountering a hard-hat-wearing colleague furiously peddling underground next to giant sewer pipes is pretty darn funny. WLSSD – it’s a Bike Friendly, Bike Funny Biz!

By Susan Darley-Hill, Environmental Program Coordinator

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