Bike to Work Health Plan
The Stark Mountain Health Plan, created by company co-owner Skimmer Hellier one morning fresh from a bike to work, pays employees $500 up front to buy a bike and promises an additional $500 if they completed 650 miles by the end of the year. For each mile they fell short of the goal, employees have to pay the company $1.
All of the participants were on track to finish their 650 miles by the end of last week, Hellier said.
Its been great watching as people get in better shape, Hellier said. Its been wonderful to see them go up that hill in 12th gear rather than 2nd gear.
Hellier and his partner, Louis DuPont, started the Stark Mountain Health Program in early summer because they wanted to do something to help the environment and help employee health at the same time. The program has produced dividends they hadn’t necessarily expected.
Workers arrive at work with more energy and enthusiasm, DuPont said. They’ve grown to enjoy the exercise on the way to and from work. In addition, the program has been a team builder for the company.
The woodworkers are naturally intrigued by machinery and the bikes add a new dimension to that, DuPont said.
These are guys who love tools, DuPont said. The technology is very spiffy.
The program also attracted an employee to the company who used to work as a race technician for top mountain bike racers. He now serves as the informal in-house bike technician and has helped workers keep their bikes tuned and helped outfit them with lights as daylight has waned, Hellier said.
Alternative transportation enthusiast Chapin Spencer applauded Stark Mountains efforts.
At the end of the day providing financial incentives is the No. 1 way to change community habits, said Spencer, who is executive director of Local Motion, a nonprofit that promotes walking and biking.
Stark Mountain sets a good example for others, especially in a rural area where there arent typically bike paths or sidewalks to make commuting without a car easier, Spencer said. In Chittenden County about 6.5 percent bike to work. In Burlington 16.5 percent walk and 1.5 percent bike to work, Spencer said referring to 2000 U.S. Census data.
Spencer was excited to see such a small company offering a bike-to-work program. Two other organizations that offer cash incentives are much larger than Stark Mountain.
The Campus Area Transportation Management Association, or CATMA, an organization that provides bus service to 9,000 workers at Fletcher Allen Health Care, The University of Vermont, Champlain College and the American Red Cross, offers an incentive program called Bike Walk Bucks Reward Program. The program incents workers to leave their cars at home at least twice a week for four consecutive weeks. Participants get a $10 gift certificate good at downtown businesses.
An average of 200 workers participate, said Sandy Thibault, program manager.
Vermont Energy Investment Corp., a nonprofit that employs 105 and provides energy efficiency and renewable energy services, started a program last year that reimburses employees up to $300 a year for taking steps toward greater efficiency including biking to work, said Beth Sachs, executive director. The money can be used for anything from buying a bike to buying an energy efficient appliance, Sachs said.
At Stark Mountain cabinetmaker Sean Costello has become a fan of biking to work. He lives in Addison and drives to Vergennes where he leaves his car and hops on his bike for the seven mile trip to the woodworking shop. Costello, who didnt like biking before he got into the program, enjoys the commute except for one thing skunks. Hes out on the road in the pre-dawn hours and so are skunks. Other than, that hes a convert to two-wheeled transportation.
You get to work you have a lot more energy. At the end of the day you’re looking forward to the ride, Costello said.