When machines break down at the sprawling Andersen Windows factory, maintenance electrician Rick Nelson, rather than hoofing it, jumps on a bright yellow Atlas Sun bicycle and speeds to the scene.
Supervisors who have urgent memos and runners who need to deliver parts swiftly to the assembly line use them, too. And even executives who need quick transportation to meetings hop on the two-wheelers and pedal their way across the Bayport campus.
Biking has been a part of the corporate culture at Andersen for as long as anybody can remember. But a health initiative at the plant has an increasing number of employees who are not just biking on the job, but to their jobs.
"The 40- to 45-minute ride really invigorates you," said David Nix, who last year started biking about twice a week from his home in Woodbury to his marketing job 13 miles away, in Andersen's Oak Park Heights location.
"You get a workout in. There is great physical benefits and stress release. When you get there, you are ready to roll," Nix said.
Annie Perkins, who now bikes many days the 8 miles from her home in St. Croix Beach to Bayport, has found another benefit. As one of 75 Andersen associates who will participate in MS 150 bike ride next weekend, she finds that the regular rides to work have helped her prepare for the ride from Duluth to the Twin Cities. She's also gone on training rides with co-workers and developed friendships with them.
"There is a lot of team-building, and you get to see people outside their regular work life," said Perkins, who works in Andersen's public relations division.
In support of its riders, Andersen is sponsoring all of the water stops on the ride.
Andersen's A+ Health Plan also promotes walking, swimming and other activities to boost the health of its 10,000 workers.
But many have taken up biking.
For Nelson, Andersen's fleet of 200 in-house bicycles allows him to kill two birds with one stone. He gets exercise while responding to machinery malfunctions or problems anywhere in the company's 2.7 million-square-foot facility along the St. Croix River.
"We have lots of ground to cover, and it's important to get there fast," said Nelson, of Ellsworth, Wis. "It would take forever to get there [walking], and it's important to get there fast."
Nelson puts on several miles a day responding to service requests.
Two- and three-wheel bicycles -- some with baskets and horns -- are as ubiquitous as forklifts and carts loaded with windows. They make up much of the traffic on what is called "the Highway," a long corridor connecting the north and south ends of the manufacturing facility. While some are dedicated to specific areas, by and large the bikes are available to any employee who needs transportation. The plant is bike-friendly, marked with special riding lanes replete with stop, caution and slow signs, as well as route markers.
"It's like MnDOT. It's our own traffic management," said Stacy Einck-Eckberg, public relations manager. "We want them to get exercise any way they can."
Tim Harlow • 651-735-1824 Twitter: @timstrib