By ALWYN DIPPENAAR
Local residential and commercial cleaning service Maid to Clean has sought to be environmentally friendly since it began business in 1996. The small business is an award-winning green cleaning service that is located in Alexandria, Va., serving the Washington metropolitan area. Residents in Dupont Circle and Logan Circle often see a crew of three from the company on their modified three-wheel bicycles moving from one job to the other in bright green uniforms.
When not managing her business, lesbian owner Cindi Bermudez is also an avid cyclist. She recently discussed why she chose to nurture this special project and introduce three-wheel bicycles as a mode of transportation for some of her staff.
Washington Blade: What motivated Maid to Clean to use this unique form of transportation? Was it for marketing benefits or efficiency of moving between jobs?
Cindi Bermudez: I have ridden my bike to the office for years. And for years, the crew has been asking me, “Cindi, when are you going to get bikes for us?”
As I thought about maids on bikes, I came up with possible benefits: We could save money on vehicle operating costs, cut down on parking tickets, avoid traffic jams and generate a unique marketing buzz. Plus we could stay fit and have some fun!
Some decisions were spot on. The “advertising buzz” was great.
Others were a bit off. While we do save money on parking tickets and vehicle costs, more money is spent than expected on retrofitting the trikes and getting them repaired.
The right bicycle for our needs hasn’t been engineered yet, which is why we have only one cleaning team using the bikes at the moment. The trikes that we currently use were designed for indoor use, to help employees move around quickly in large warehouses. Ideally we’d like a different bike. Something that can stand up to our load requirements – maybe even a hybrid with an electric motor.
Blade: Did you get the reaction that you wanted from your staff when you announced making use of bicycles and what feedback have you received from the public?
Bermudez: The reaction to the trikes has been terrific from staff, clients and the public. The team was pretty excited about the trikes, especially members who have been with Maid to Clean for years. The routine definitely became more exiting.
Clients ask to pose with staff for pictures regularly. Even complete strangers seem interested. When the team is out riding, passers-by often wave, honk and take photos from their car windows. As much as the attention is fun for the staff it gives them a sense of pride.
By bringing trikes into our routine, I have a new way to reward loyal staff members. I can also boost our commitment to keeping the planet healthy. While we have always used eco-friendly products and equipment, we now also have a way to reduce our carbon footprint.
Blade: Do you think Washington is a bike-friendly city?
Bermudez: Having made significant strides in the last half-dozen years, D.C. now rates as a bike-friendly city in my estimation, particularly the D.C. and Arlington areas.
Bermudez raises awareness and promotes cycling both in her work and personal life whenever possible. She biked across the country on the “TransAmerica Bicycle Tour.” The tour covers 4,200 miles from Yorktown, Va., ending in Florence, Oregon. Bermudez has endured wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour and was chased by a pack of wild dogs. “The ride has been a great opportunity to test my mettle. … this has been the trip of a lifetime.”