With recent rain, I have heard people wondering about the drought situation in Wichita. Have we had enough rain to lessen the threat of running out of water? According to the National Weather Service, short-term drought conditions have improved with the rain we received over the past few months. This affects shallow soil, which benefits crops. However, we are still facing the consequences of a long-term drought that began in 2011. The long-term drought is evidenced by low reservoir and aquifer levels. It would take 8-15 inches of rain in excess of the normal amounts to replenish reservoirs, aquifers, and deep soil moisture levels. Not only is the amount of rain important, but also the way in which it falls. Heavy rains sometimes accumulate too quickly and run off without soaking into the ground. We are in need of intermittent rains falling over a period of weeks. This will allow the moisture to soak in and ease the long-term drought.

 Whether the drought ends within months or years, we must learn to conserve. Many newer homes have efficient fixtures. However, if you have an older home, you may need to install low-flow faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads. states that we use 75% of our household water in the bathroom, and 28% in flushing toilets.

What is one thing you can do to conserve water in your home or office bathrooms?

Last week I heard about bicycle commuting reimbursement. This made me wonder, “Could I safely ride my bike to work? Would the reimbursement benefit make it worthwhile?” Fortunately, I can use bike trails for about two-thirds of my commute. Thus, I could ride safely to work; however, there is no shower at my workplace, so that is a deterrent.

I did some research on the League of American Bicyclists website to find out how the reimbursement program works. The website defines a qualified bicycle commuting month as any month in which an employee regularly uses a bicycle for a substantial portion of their commute.  Some companies document this by having participating employees sign a monthly pledge card stating that they have ridden their bicycle to work at least three days per week (if fulltime) during a particular month. For each month that the employee completes a pledge card, they are eligible to receive, from their employer, up to $20 reimbursement for normal expenses related to the use of a bicycle for commuting . The reimbursement is exempt from taxation. Examples of eligible expenses could include cost of bicycle service, repair or storage, or purchase of cycling equipment. The employee must submit receipts for qualifying expenses. The details can be found in the Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits For use in 2013.
During my research on the Bicycle Commuter Act, I discovered the national list of Bicycle Friendly Businesses on the Kansas Cyclist website. Unfortunately there were no Wichita businesses on the list. What does it mean to be a bicycle friendly business? It means that the business actively supports cycling and encourages employees to ride a bicycle for commuting as well as for fun and fitness. According to the application description, a bicycle friendly business encourages employees to ride a bicycle to and from work and on errands. A bicycle friendly business engineers an environment that is conducive to cycling (including bike racks and shower facilities). A bicycle friendly business educates people about bike safety and bike maintenance. A bicycle friendly business evaluates its current bicycle programs and sets goals for improvement. 

What would be one simple step you could take to make your business more bicycle friendly? And what do you see as the greatest obstacle to being a bicycle friendly business?