When the new Walmart campus opens, roughly half its employees will live within 5 miles of their work. The plan is for every employee to have easy access to bike parking, showers and lockers. At the outset, Marsiglio says, there will probably be more spots than bikers, but the company is betting on reaching its 10% target. That confidence has allowed it to cut back on space allocated to cars. “I was able to not build an entire parking garage,” she says.“Walmart Is Changing the Way Its Employees Get to Work” – Bloomberg Businessweek, March 27, 2023
This story is great and unexpected on so many levels, but my urban planner/bike commuter heart sings especially for why Walmart is doing this from a business perspective: recruitment.
The push toward biking and other forms of micromobility, Marsiglio says, is meant to help Walmart not only cut carbon emissions but also make employees healthier, happier and more productive, and alleviate congestion in Bentonville. It’s also, like the new campus itself, part of an effort to make sure Walmart attracts the best talent with a lifestyle to match what tech companies on the coasts can offer. The idea is to make the surrounding Ozark countryside—what Marsiglio calls “big nature”—more a part of the daily lives of employees and to show potential employees that thriving outdoor culture.
In between the coasts, America is filled with countless small towns and cities with underutilized downtowns, cheap housing, and proximity to nature. This presents a huge opportunity for these places to attract newcomers who can’t afford — or don’t want to live in — California or New York but still want urbanist amenities like reduced car dependency, a healthy lifestyle, and social opportunities. Bike-friendly communities offer all three and I hope we see more of them in flyover country.