City bikes paving the path to success

Oslo City Bikes are a vehicle for moving forward, not only for the people who ride them, but for those who repair them, too.

Through a collaboration between UIP and Red Cross Norway, jobs in bike sharing are helping some of society’s most vulnerable members get a fresh start in life. The initiative, called the “Post-Release Networking Service” (“Nettverk etter soning”) helps those returning from an incarceration period to reenter the workplace. Our flagship system, Oslo City Bike, first began the Red Cross collaboration in March 2017 and has since provided bicycle mechanic positions for nine different participants, three of whom were later offered jobs in the company.

While the Red Cross works with several different employers in Norway, working for Oslo City Bike has now become one of the most popular opportunities in the post-release assistance program. The reason? Our participants are integrated members of the city bike staff, included within the organization in the same way as every other employee. This unique kind of workplace integration provides valuable teamwork skills that can be taken to other employers as these workers rebuild their professional lives.

“Our team has really embraced the program and the values it represents, and we encourage everyone in the company to treat the Red Cross participants like any other team member as far as meeting expectations,” says Liisa Andersson, UIP’s COO. “It’s sometimes a challenge, but we really strive to provide real life work training for those who need it most, and also build that integrity into our work culture as whole.”

Oslo City Bike is a large scale operation that requires constant checks, maintenance, and repairs, and the day-to-day work performed by the Red Cross workers is important to the successful functioning of the system. Together the participants act as a mobile workshop, traveling around the city each day to perform on-site repairs on the bikes. Performing these maintenance procedures “in the field” rather than returning all damaged or malfunctioning hardware to the workshop is a more efficient way of keeping up with system demand. The quicker the bikes are repaired, the better the system can contribute to effective mobility in Oslo.

Having a workspace out in the city also allows these staff members to witness how their work has a tangible effect on peoples’ daily lives. The participants’ uniforms feature both the Oslo City Bike and Red Cross logos, making them representatives of both organizations And by engaging directly with the users they encounter around the city, there’s an added social element to the workday.

In addition to cultivating social and teamwork skills, the project helps these employees to re-establish a daily and weekly work routine — something many of us take for granted, but is a vital experience for someone transitioning to long-term employment. Since we’re a technology company, our participants also receive hands-on training with tools that they be unfamiliar with, such as modern workplace apps and systems.

“I think it’s incredibly nice that Oslo City Bike helps former addicts and those returning from prison to get back to a normal daily routine,” says Dag Otto André Petersen, one of the active participants in the program. “It’s a chance to thrive and learn new skills on the job, while also gaining trust and responsibility, and working on meaningful tasks. This collaboration is amazing — it helps people return to work and to a normal life.”

Our involvement in this project is about more than charity work; it’s about bringing to light the some of the great work that’s being done by the Red Cross, and helping both our company and the community in a healthy way.

“This collaboration is positive from both a business and community perspective,” says Andersson. “It connects with our company ideals, since giving back is in the spirit of what we’re providing: shared mobility that makes the city more accessible for everyone.”