On your bike: How and why businesses should be doing more to encourage cycling
This Bike Week, we celebrate the humble bike and look at what adjustments businesses could make to encourage more budding cyclists.
Both a socially distanced exercise and a method of transport, the bike has been the saviour of many people looking to get around in lockdown. Cycling also goes some way to easing the physical and mental strain that the effects of the pandemic have had on us. The sale of bikes is booming: Brompton, the UK’s largest bike manufacturer, has seen a fivefold increase in online sales since the start of April, and Halfords has reported a “strong performance” and a 23% increase in share price.
There has been a sharp and welcome drop in air pollution due to the lockdown that has had many people notice the positive effects. Two million people in the UK with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, have experienced reduced symptoms and increased health. All of us will want to ensure we keep the unexpected green benefits that we have experienced through a change in lifestyle.
With social distancing on public transport proving almost impossible, the Government has introduced many incentives to encourage us all to take up cycling and enable a green and safe transition out of lockdown.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed that it is a key Government priority and said that a £50 ‘fix your bike’ voucher will be introduced later this month to encourage more people to make their old bikes roadworthy.
Local authorities have been given new tools and resources this week to create pop up cycle lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and bike and bus-only corridors. Highways England has also announced the opening of new paths and funding for the creation of cycle routes in the South East and South West of England, linking villages, towns and cities.
In London, TFL has said that it will create 14 new docking stations and more than 1,700 new Santander bikes to keep up with the high demand. The scheme has broken several records in recent weeks, with 1.12 million hires in May.
Our Prime Minister himself is a well-known convert to cycling, has said he believes that cycling is the answer to fighting obesity and that now is a “good moment to get Britain on its bike”. The Government will be spending £2 billion on encouraging people to commute by bike and will be looking to the private sector to help deliver these ambitions.
The benefits of commuting by bike
And as lockdown eases and some of us begin returning to our workplaces, those of us who previously relied on public transport in big cities will face a problem. Cycling may provide the ideal solution to businesses looking at gently easing their employees back.
This will have the added bonus of creating a healthier, more productive workforce. Regular cycling halves the number of sick days taken by staff: the average UK worker misses 4.5 days a year due to illness, whereas the average cyclist misses just 2.4 days.
Those who commute by bike have additionally been found to be more motivated. When GlaxoSmithKline surveyed staff who had obtained a bike through Cyclescheme, 73% said they were more motivated and 74% thought they were more productive.
Encouraging a proportion of staff to cycle can also help a company meet its environmental targets and become a more responsible business.
So what should businesses be doing?
To see a wide behaviour shift, businesses must do more than simply provide a bike loan scheme.
They can begin by making the transition easier and more comfortable once colleagues have arrived at work by providing places to store cycles, as well as lockers and changing rooms so staff can freshen up afterwards.
Rolls Royce, for example, is proud of recently opening a secure cycle shed with space for 200 bikes, new shower and changing facilities, and of working with South Gloucestershire City Council to raise the concerns their staff have about the roads they use to get to work.
Employers can go further by being more flexible, both in start times and in dress code, to enable staff to fit the their cycling around the work-day. They could even provide a pool of company bikes for use.
If faced with low take-up of ‘cycle to work’ schemes, businesses may have to look more closely at the underlying causes. Fear is a major demotivator, and companies could provide lessons in road safety and training to encourage higher take-up among those who might be intimated by busy city roads.
Whatever measures they decide to take, there’s never been a better time to tell employees to get on their bikes.
If you would like more information on how your business can improve its sustainability practices, please email Responsible Business Director Alice Wood on firstname.lastname@example.org