Puppet Labs Founder and CEO Luke Kanies takes to the streets of Portland on his bike to get to work and to get his identical twin girls around – and on a cargo bike to boot! Three cheers from PPP! We were delighted and honored to have the opportunity to sit down with Luke and members of the Puppet Labs team to discuss his entry into transportation cycling, as well as Puppet Labs’ goals relating to cycling and sustainability.
Luke’s first real use of a bike was to go to school for driver education classes. Later, he biked to school while attending Reed College and then tackled a 45 minute one-way commute to his job on Marine Drive. He became completely hooked on a beautiful summer day in 1995 when he was crossing over I-84. He remembers looking down at the traffic-filled highway and thinking 1) all of those drivers are completely miserable, and 2) they do this every damn day! From then on it was a done deal. Biking to work became the way to go for him.
When asked how he came to be the owner of a front loader Bullitt cargo bike, Luke explains that he never much enjoyed towing a trailer. “It always feels like someone is kicking the back tire,” he says. He rented a Bakfiets (Dutch for “box bike”) from Clever Cycles last year for Providence Bridge Pedal and enjoyed it so much, he ended up buying the Bullitt. In using a cargo bike as his main source of transportation, Luke saw an opportunity to improve the cover design for the wooden cargo box on his Bullitt bike to protect not only his stuff, but his most precious cargo – his daughters. He designed a new cover that secures tightly and also folds forward just enough to allow his passengers to sit in the box, but still keeps them warm and dry. He worked with Splendid Cycles, one of Portland’s cargo bike shops — and sellers of the Bullitt, to design the wooden box because he needed one that was wider than standard to accommodate his two girls sitting side-by-side. That box design has since evolved and is now a standard product option for the Bullitt. Luke’s next design challenge is to figure out a clean way to mount his road bike on his Bullitt for transport to work.
Luke is a true transportation cyclist. He’s strictly a bike commuter at this point, due to the pressures of running a company and raising two kids, but he’s hard to miss when he’s on the road, as his customized cargo bike is branded with Puppet Labs’ Erlenmeyer Flask logo. His daily commute takes him across the Broadway Bridge, but you might also see him braving the St. John’s Bridge, which he calls “a death-defying experience” that is a mix of beauty and fear. If you ride Bridge Pedal, you may see him enjoying the view from the middle of his favorite bridge, the Fremont.
Like every cyclist, Luke has his list of dream bikes, with each of them serving a well-defined purpose. He endeavors to have the perfect mix of bikes: a commuter, a road bike, a good off-roader, another “that’s good at hauling crap”, one that’s too good to ride and one that’s good to ride in the rain. A sensible stable of six steeds! During our time at Puppet Labs, Luke showed us his other baby – a single speed Serotta that was designed and built for the 1984 Olympics. Once his commuter bike, sporting 24″ wheels and an all aerodynamic frame, the Serotta now hangs in Puppet Labs’ open work area, and speaks to the rich bike commute culture at the company.
Puppet Labs employees are encouraged to ride to work, and their efforts are well-supported by the company. Employees receive a $20/month bike commuting expense reimbursement and the office is equipped with showers, lockers and indoor bike storage facilities, along with a kitchen stocked with snacks and drinks. Puppet Labs also provides subsidized customs bike fittings and participates in local cycling events, including the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s Bike Commute Challenge, as they do their part to encourage bicycle commuting.
Jenny Mahmoudi and Max Martin (pictured at right), Puppet Labs’ Bike Commute Challenge co-captains, report that they are at a 20% employee commute rate and have 66 people signed up for the commute challenge this year. That’s over a third of the company’s 190 people. An impressive turnout!
We want to take this opportunity to thank Luke and the entire Puppet Labs team for being awesome customers of PPP’s lunch delivery service. You guys rock! When asked why it’s important for Puppet Lab’s to work with PPP, Puppet Labs Office Manager Char Moe says, “The number one reason is that we love Jenn and the people who deliver our food. PPP cares about Puppet Labs and its employees. We love that they deliver great local food to us by bicycle, which aligns with our sustainability goals. Fewer cars equals a smaller carbon footprint.”
Our thanks again to Luke for sharing his cycling story, to Charlotte Caswell for showing us around the Puppet Labs workspace, to Jenny and Max for encouraging their coworkers to bike to work, and to Char for working with us on an almost daily basis. Thanks Puppet Labs! We’ll see you soon!