TDM: An Acronym for Bike Shops to Learn and Love

July 19, 2017

Image: Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association

Want your shop to be top of mind when new bike riders enter the market? Start by learning three simple words: Transportation Demand Management (TDM).

TDM is the art and science and of changing how people commute to work. In particular, TDM aims to encourage solo drivers to shift to bike, bus, train, walking, or car-sharing. Motivation often comes from offering cash or other incentives to skip the solo trip. Sometimes the change can be accomplished by simply making it easier to choose differently. Some states and municipalities have enacted Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) laws that require companies to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips. But even where CTR is not mandated by law, TDM is a practical and attractive necessity for firms who want to minimize the high costs associated with parking. An entire industry, made up of Transportation Management Associations (TMA), has developed around helping firms with their TDM practices.

Ginny Politz owns Bikesport in Trappe, Pennsylvania. When the Greater Valley Forge TMA approached her seeking prizes to distribute to local winners of the National Bike Challenge, Politz’s enthusiasm was instant. “I said ‘Yes, and why don’t we host a wine and cheese event to kick off the competition?'”

Bikesport’s early buy-in has paid off. “We are the only bike shop member, so they send everything our way. If they have a corporation contact them and say ‘we’d like to do a Lunch and Learn bike program,’ I get an email introducing me as the solution.”

Here are a few key starting points for any bike shop to get started with TDM:

  • Connect. Locate your area’s TMA, which is best positioned to keep you informed of TDM opportunities at individual firms or with community-wide events.
  • Follow the money. Sonos gives $600 to new bike commuters, and contracts with four local shops to serve those riders. Sonos’ generous program is an outlier, but your TMA may be able to help you identify the many firms that offer more modest one-time or periodic cash rewards for staff to put toward the purchase of bike accessories.
  • Go mobile. Politz says that on-site events that attract people specifically interested in bike maintenance and repair education have produced the best returns for her shop. “It’s a way to reach a lot of people because if you don’t catch them while they are at work, you may not catch them. Broad-based events such as health fairs aren’t as effective,” says Politz.
  • Repeat. Stand-alone Bike to Work Month events are predictably popular times for bike-based TDM events. But some large firms have started offering ongoing mobile bike repair on site, a convenient option for commuters that allows them to drop off and hop back on their spruced up ride in time for the trip home.
  • Get listed. Many TMA and TDM programs produce resource pages on their sites, including “where to buy” information. Make a case for why your shop is a good resource for bike commuters and ask to be included.
  • Return the favor. Promote TDM on your site and in your store. You never know when that loyal weekend warrior is going to give weekday commuting a try.

Politz says her relationship with her local TMA ensures Bikesports get called first for any TDM needs. But she also emphasizes the harder-to-calculate dividends the partnership has yielded by strengthening her reputation and influence in the local community. “Everybody knows us as the bike shop that really cares about bike advocacy and safe biking.” As far as Politz is concerned, getting in on TDM is strategic. “My advice to other shops is to align themselves with organizations that promote safe cycling, so our industry can grow. TMAs do a great job of finding and providing alternative forms of transportation—one of them being cycling.”

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