Monday, June 1, 2009

Personal hygiene an issue for those who bike to work (and those around them)

From the NY Times:

Short of installing showers or locker rooms, Mr. Norvell said, employers can designate a space as a changing room and provide space for clothing storage (his own office’s changing room consists of a five-by-five area cordoned off by a curtain). Employers are increasingly receptive to such suggestions, Mr. Norvell said. Also important, he said, has been the gradual erosion of what he described as the city’s “1960s Madison Avenue decorum,” where casual clothes and sweaty bodies were looked at disapprovingly in office situations.

Sorry, but most people will still be offended if your sweaty ass sat next to them all day long at work. And in this economy, you should be happy you have a job, not demand that your employer give you extra perks because you choose not to take the mass transit that everyone else in the office does.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Poor personal hygiene will get most people fired. I also think we need to go back to dressing appropriately for work. Flip flops were meant for poolside use, not office wear.

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you were so desperate to do this, couldn't you spring for a health club membership and use their showers before starting work? Keep a change of clean clothing around also?(if you don't work ultra corporate.)

If it's your thing, it's up to you to try to make it work without inconveniencing others unncessarily.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the money they save by not paying into the mass transit system or for gas could be put toward a NYHC membership. Oh, wait, what if they bike because they are too cheap to go to the gym?

Anonymous said...

Oh please, like you don't sweat while waiting on a subway platform in your work clothes on hot days.

Anonymous said...

Sure I sweat a little. But it's not like I am showing up to work in totally drenched clothes.

Anonymous said...

On hot days, yes. On mild days, no. And these folks will be showing up to work this way year round...

Anonymous said...

yay an article attacking cyclists again. much better than focusing on over development. what has happened to this blog?

Anonymous said...

Where were bicyclists "attacked" in this post? Criticized, perhaps. They have no problem doing that to people who own cars. I guess they can dish it out but can't take it. This blog has never been 100% posts against overdevelopment, but allowing bigger buildings in exchange for more bike parking is certainly an overdevelopment issue that cyclists are involved with.

Anonymous said...

On mild days, cyclists wouldn't show up in drenced clothes either.
If you are so for mass transit, I assume that you are now in favor of tolling the bridges? Oh no, you don't like that either. You just want to drive all over and pollute as much as you can and tell others who want to ride bicycles, or do things to fund mass transit, to just go away.

Anonymous said...

On mild days, yes they would, because they are doing aerobic exercise.

Anonymous said...

"not demand that your employer give you extra perks because you choose not to take the mass transit that everyone else in the office does."

Oh so now we are pro-mass transit now. Great! Let's bring on the east river tolls then!

Queens Crapper said...

Who said that? You wouldn't sweat if you drove to work, either.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it ironic that the biggest cheerleaders for congestion pricing, bikers, using the argument that drivers use East River bridges and therefore should pay for them, use not having to pay the MTA as a talking point on why New Yorkers should ride bikes instead?

Erik Baard said...

This is a letter I wrote to the DOT commissioner in September:

Dear Commissioner Sadik-Khan,

It was great meeting you at Summer Streets! Looking forward to Autumn Avenues!

The chief unaddressed obstacle to greater bicycle usage in New York City is that people are concerned about their professional appearance. Rumpled and sweaty doesn't sell. With your support, the Arrive Clean program will spur even greater ridership.

Imagine a swipe card available for purchase through Transportation Alternatives, Bike NY, and other recognized bicycle groups that would allow riders to enter health and fitness clubs through the city to shower and change. One swipe would allow a user 30 minutes inside the club for this purpose. The user would swipe out when leaving and pay penalties for overtime, to curtail abuse.

Gyms tend to run under capacity, and if the recession deepens, they will seek new sources of revenue. This program requires no significant new infrastructure (only some card swipe hardware), is simply scalable, and could begin in a few key neighborhoods: Penn Station (near the proposed bike parking lot), midtown east (for bridge proximity), Chelsea, and Battery Park City, for example. Summer 2009 is a realistic target.

Of course, the World Trade Center and Queens Plaza are two places where bike stations (http://www.chicagobikestation.com/) could be built.

I first proposed the Arrive Clean program several years ago, when I managed the short-lived environmental program at Citizens Committee for NYC. I was told by Transportation Alternatives and others that a strong focus had to be placed on bicycle security. With more bike racks and soon-to-come increased access to office buildings, the municipal government and bicycle community have made great strides toward safe parking.

Riding safety will forever remain the top priority, and we're so grateful for your work on this front too.

I think we have enough success and growth to now justify the Arrive Clean program. Would you be kind enough to lead or encourage this solution?

Sincerely,

Erik Baard

(Journalist, bike commuter, and founder of the LIC Community Boathouse)

Queens Crapper said...

Why didn't they go for it?

Anonymous said...

Subway platforms are considerably hotter than outside streets. On warm days, you may sweat more on a subway platform than you would riding a bicycle outdoors.

Anonymous said...

Which is why it's better to wait on the concourse until the train arrives.

Erik Baard said...

@ QC: I didn't get a reply and TA said this would be a private sector undertaking, not a nonprofit. I think both DOT and TA were shortsighted to not even discuss the matter or explore potential private partners.

Anonymous said...

"...allowing bigger buildings in exchange for more bike parking is certainly an overdevelopment issue that cyclists are involved with."

Here we go again, blaming the sneeze for the cold.

Ridgewoodian said...

Me, I'm lucky - my employer has its own gym right around the corner from my building, which I have acceass to for about $100 a year, so I can shower after riding in in the morning. (Now if I can just keep my tires from going flat on Metropolitan, which happened today...)

I like Eric's idea. Too bad the DOT hasn't picked up on it.


Here's the question I have: how is the sweat problem addressed in other cites that encourage biking? What do they do in Seattle and Amsterdam. I know this is the greatest city in the world but maybe we can learn just a little from others.

Erik Baard said...

Amsterdam is very flat and typically commutes are shorter than many of our outer-borough to Manhattan routes. That and it's cooler (temperature, not hipper!), so there's less sweating. Bikes tend to be upright seated (by cultural norm, not law), so less speed can be attained anyway.

Chicago has bike stations with showers and coffee! Here's the biggest, sponsored by McDonald's:

http://www.chicagobikestation.com/

Erik

Erik Baard said...

QC: "Choose not to take the mass transit."

TA has shirts that read, "ONE LESS CAR." I always say that beyond correcting grammar to "ONE FEWER CAR," the group should print some that read "ONE MORE SUBWAY SEAT."

Bikes can relieve overcrowding on buses and subways and fight the obesity-related illnesses that cost us all through taxes and insurance rates. Besides that, I do much more local shopping when I travel by bike than subway.

Regarding the anonymous "flip flop" comment, I'm guilty of wearing strap-secured sandals sometimes, but all riders should wear solid shoes/sneakers for protection.

georgetheatheist said...

OK, let's say showers are available at your work destination. When you ride home, all shvitzy again, you take another shower?

italian girl said...

Employers should not have to provide showers or even a changing room for that matter. You are there to WORK and not clean yourself up. That's what home is for. Remember?

People should have the decency to be clean if not for themselves, then at least for their coworkers. So if that means NOT riding your bike to work, so be it. No one wants to smell your b.o. all day. Trust me, it's downright offensive.

Ride your bike after you get home. Bike riding should be considered more of a recreation anyway.

Ridgewoodian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ridgewoodian said...

georgetheatheist: OK, let's say showers are available at your work destination. When you ride home, all shvitzy again, you take another shower?

Well I don’t. But that’s because my sweat is nectar and much sought after for its marvelous medicinal properties; I bottle it and FedEx it all over the world to cure the afflicted. I imagine, though, that most bikers not so blessed take wonderfully refreshing showers upon returning home.

italian girl: People should have the decency to be clean if not for themselves, then at least for their coworkers.

I agree with you on that. However one gets to work - whether by subway, car, bike, or bus - it’s one responsibility to make every effort to arrive in as presentable and hygienic a state as possible. If you're going to bike to work you HAVE to figure out how you're going to fight the B.O. Myself, I wouldn’t consider biking in at all if I didn’t have access to a shower near my workplace. Even in the cold of winter (and my first time riding in was during the transit strike) I can tell you one can still work up a pretty good sweat on the Williamsburg Bridge.

italian girl:Employers should not have to provide showers or even a changing room for that matter.

Maybe they shouldn’t have to provide indoor plumbing, either. After all, it’s expensive to install and maintain and you’re there to WORK and not to urinate or defecate. Water coolers - same thing. Snack machines - ban ‘em outright.

No, employers probably shouldn’t be MANDATED to provide showers, etc. But I have absolutely no problem with them being ENCOURAGED to do so. Some of the commentators on the Times article mentioned the possibility of providing tax breaks to shower-providing companies. I think that’s a great idea. I also like Erik’s idea of using underutilized gym facilities, for a nominal fee. There are Golds and Crunches all over the place; I bet there are a lot of companies that would find it prohibitively expensive to provide their own showers but that could enter into agreements with them to provide such services for their employees - and probably at a very reasonable rate. That Chicago bike station looks amazing. According to its web site it only cost about $3 million to build - most of which came from the Feds - and McDonald’s (!) has provided a $5 million grant to help keep it running for the next FIFTY years. We need a few places like that here in New York. The problem of stink and B.O. is real, no doubt, but there are a lot of ways it can be overcome.

italian girl:Bike riding should be considered more of a recreation anyway.

Says who? I’ve read my Bible - Jesus never said that. Can’t find a hadith on the subject. The Sages have not ruled to that effect. It’s nowhere in the Constitution. The best scientific minds have not discovered it to be a physical law. Experience abroad and at home shows us otherwise. On what authority does this “should” rest?

Erik Baard said...

@ Italian girl: And employers shouldn't provide car parking spaces.

;)

georgetheatheist said...

Ridgewoodian, I would have thought your preferred mode of ablution would be an aromatic bubble bath.

"...I bottle it [Ridgewoodian sweat] and FedEx it all over the world to cure the afflicted." Seriously folks, this correspondent has a Jesus complex, no?

italian girl said...

ridgewoodian:
"Maybe they shouldn’t have to provide indoor plumbing, either. After all, it’s expensive to install and maintain and you’re there to WORK and not to urinate or defecate. Water coolers - same thing. Snack machines - ban ‘em outright."

That whole argument is ridiculous. People should be focused on the JOB they have to do and not get cleaned up from what ever activities they were doing prior. Showertime probably means cutting into to worktime. If I was the boss, there would be no showers. Period.

"Says who?"

Says ME! Biking-riding as a means of transportation is for 12 year olds. Get a car already or take a train. Get your exercise after work and sweat all you want.

Erik:
"@ Italian girl: And employers shouldn't provide car parking spaces.

;)"

That one went totally over my head.
:(

Anonymous said...

Oh great, more twisted logic from Ms. Italy. In her world, everyone should guzzle gas and pollute the environment by driving everywhere, instead of riding a bicycle, because SHE says it should only be for recreation. Maybe cars should only be for long trips in the suburbs and should not be allowed in cities. For someone who flaunts another country, have you even been to Europe? Go tell people in London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, etc. that their bicycles should only be for recreation.
Great idea that employers should not provide parking spots for employees in urban areas.

italian girl said...

I told you before what you need to do. You obviously haven't done it.
Sucka.

georgetheatheist said...

"...London, Amsterdam, Paris Rome..."

These cities have medieval street grids - extremely narrow, twisting, thoroughfares where motor vehicles have an impossible time navigating through.

The NYS Commissioners' Plan of 1811which made for an east-west & north-south Manhattan grid makes for ideal motoring. Plus the Grand Concourse, Ocean Parkway, and Queens Boulevard are quite nifty too.

I bicycled to work 2x in the Summer of 1967 (Astoria to Union Square), sweated bullets (both from the humidity and dodging the taxis) and swore never to do that again. My clothes stuck to my body the entire day.

And what about showers at work? You have to spend about a extra half-hour douching and drying and grooming. And don't forget the ride home where at journey's end you're all sweated up again. Another half-hour douching and drying and grooming?

Personally, I do all my bicycling in my spare time. I load the bikes into the van and use them for recreation. (There's a great bike trail along the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania. The Hudson Valley Rail Trail is wonderful. And nice spots even in NYC. My lady friend lives in Flushing and the 34th Avenue bike lane through north FMCP is as straight as an arrow. But you definitely need a shower on arrival.)

Anonymous said...

Ride your bike after you get home. Bike riding should be considered more of a recreation anyway.


Yeah, that's what they used to say about cars.

...Paris... These cities have medieval street grid...


Paris? Medieval street grid? You've obviously never heard of Baron Haussmann.

Anonymous said...

goddamnit i was almost knocked off my feet yesterday afternoon because some selfish cunt on a bicycle was riding on the [very narrow] sidewalk instead of in the street where she belonged. i do so hope that one day she has her lame ass knocked to the ground by some other asshole bicyclist.

Ridgewoodian said...

georgetheatheist: Ridgewoodian, I would have thought your preferred mode of ablution would be an aromatic bubble bath.



Actually, I prefer to bathe in the tears of virgins and the mother’s milk of fallen French nuns.



georgetheatheist: Seriously folks, this correspondent has a Jesus complex, no?



I laugh at your Jesus and punk him daily.



georgetheatheist: And what about showers at work? You have to spend about a extra half-hour douching and drying and grooming. And don't forget the ride home where at journey's end you're all sweated up again. Another half-hour douching and drying and grooming?



Granted, that’s possibly a problem for the filthy among us. But for those of us who don’t mind being clean it’s not really a hardship.



georgetheatheist: These cities [London, Amsterdam, Paris Rome] have medieval street grids - extremely narrow, twisting, thoroughfares where motor vehicles have an impossible time navigating through.



Can’t speak about Paris or Amsterdam from personal experience, alas. London, it’s been a long time so I don’t know about current conditions. But Rome - yes, they do have narrow, twisty, impossible to navigate streets. (In addition to many numerous wide boulevards.) Which doesn’t stop the Romans from driving down them, often at high speeds, late at night, after drinking, while giving terrified Americans a lift to Termini Station. If there’s more biking in Rome (and I honestly don’t remember how many bikes I saw, although the city was full of its famous scooters) I doubt it’s because it’s safer.



georgetheatheist: I bicycled to work 2x in the Summer of 1967 (Astoria to Union Square), sweated bullets (both from the humidity and dodging the taxis) and swore never to do that again. My clothes stuck to my body the entire day.



You know that the Summer of Love was 42 years ago, right? Lots of advances in bike technology since then. Lighter. More gears. And now there are all these hated bike routes, with more to come. Take a look at a map. I bet you could ride a fairly convenient route from Astoria to Union Square and only really have to work it on the Feelin’ Groovy Bridge.



georgetheatheist: My lady friend lives in Flushing and the 34th Avenue bike lane through north FMCP is as straight as an arrow. But you definitely need a shower on arrival.



I rode the 34th Street lane for the first time this past weekend and it was quite nice, a good ride. (And for those who say the bike lanes aren’t wanted or used I was far from alone.) As for needing a shower when you get to the S.O.’s crib - well, that’s a win however you look at it. Say the S.O. has a Napoleon thing going on (Napoleon, who once wrote to Josephine, “returning in three days: don’t wash!”), well - indulge them. Say they’re a clean freak. Well, you can’t get REALLY clean without them scrubbing you down in the shower. So, you see, biking is good for recreation, good for the environment, good for your health, and, most importantly, good for your sex life.

Ridgewoodian said...

italian girl: That whole argument is ridiculous. People should be focused on the JOB they have to do and not get cleaned up from what ever activities they were doing prior.



Why is it ridiculous? If people should be focused on their JOB then they should not be focused on biological necessities like pissing and shitting. After all, they take time away from work. (And you know that if there wasn’t a law requiring employers to provide toilets there would be plenty that wouldn’t.)



Showertime probably means cutting into to worktime. If I was the boss, there would be no showers. Period.



Well, no one is saying that shower facilities should be made mandatory, only that they should be encouraged. In either case this is an easily solved problem: don’t shower on work time. Leave yourself enough time so that you can clean up before you start your shift.



Of course, it occurs to me, lots of companies do have showers, but only for upper management. Executives in their executive washrooms. I guess the people who do the work don’t need to be clean.



italian girl: Says ME!



Are you that wise that we should defer to your judgement in the absence of compelling arguments?



italian girl: Biking-riding as a means of transportation is for 12 year olds.



And your proof of this is what? Are European cities full of nothing but 12 year olds? Are the bike commuters we have in this country nothing but a bunch of pre-teens? This sound more like an expression of prejudice than a statement of fact.



italian girl: Get a car already or take a train.



Let’s see, what are the problems with cars? 1) They spew out poison from their tailpipes. 2) They’re powered by dead dinosaurs that we have to pay people who want to kill us to dig out of the ground. 3) In a city like New York, which doesn’t have a lot of wide open space, they take up incredible amounts of public space. 4) In a city like New York they’re not very good at getting you where you want to go rapidly, especially in the central business districts. 5) Car payment, insurance, taxes, gas, upkeep, parking - that adds up to some serious money. No, I’m very happy that I don’t have to own one and if I absolutely need one they’re easily hirable. As for trains, I love the trains, I take them all the time, I wish there were MORE. But every time I ride my bike to work I do some good for my own health and I free up a space for someone else in a rather overcrowded transit system. And if I do it often enough I can even save myself a few dollars. Seems like a good deal all around to me.